by Greg Watt

In Exodus 20:12 we are told to, “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” God’s view on this subject is so important to Him that He made it the first of the commandments which teach us how to deal with each other. it is only preceded in importance by the first four commandments which teach us how to obey and honour God.

To illustrate how important the application of this commandment is to God we refer to an account from the Old Testament story of David and Saul. In 1 Samuel 24 we read the account of Saul entering the cave where David and his men were hiding. Whilst Saul was attending to his needs, David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. But David had immediate regrets.

 “And he said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.” So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way. David also arose afterward, went out of the cave, and called out to Saul, saying, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down. And David said to Saul: “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Indeed David seeks your harm’? Look, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and someone urged me to kill you. But my eye spared you, and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed.’ Moreover, my father, see! Yes, see the corner of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the corner of your robe, and did not kill you, know and see that there is neither evil nor rebellion in my hand, and I have not sinned against you. Yet you hunt my life to take it. Let the LORD judge between you and me, and let the LORD avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you” (1 Samuel 24:6-12).


We see here that David who was also God’s anointed, honoured Saul even addressing him as “father”. The Hebrew word used here is “ab” which does literally mean father, or chief, or clan head. It is clear that David knew the fifth commandment and was applying it in this instance in its fullest sense. David recognised that Saul was God’s anointed, and that God had placed him in the leadership position. In recognising this, David regarded Saul as God’s ordained leader, in essence the father of the various tribes of Israel subject to him.

David and Saul both committed many sins but there is a key difference in how they acted when it really mattered. David looked to God and His commandments and obeyed them (he also repented when he sinned) whereas Saul looked to his own situation and did what he considered was right for himself. David respected God’s anointed whereas Saul did not.

Reading on from verse 16, “So it was, when David had finished speaking these words to Saul, that Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. Then he said to David: “You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil…And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand” ( 1 Samuel 24:16-17 & 20).

This account illustrates why God places so much importance on men occupying leadership roles who are obedient to His laws. Notice verse 20, “And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.” By saying this Saul knew that under King David, the divided houses of Israel would be unified and this is an important point to understand.

Honouring our fathers and all leaders whom God has placed in authority creates unity. Unity in the family, unity in our society and eventually, unity throughout the entire world. Failure to do so, produces division, disharmony and discord. Is this not what we see in our society and in the world today?

Let’s look forward to Tomorrow’s World when the whole world will learn to honour leadership under Jesus Christ and our ultimate Father, God Himself.

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