In Exodus 13, the very first thing God commanded the Israelites to do after leaving Egypt was to consecrate every firstborn son, saying: “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel… it belongs to Me.” (Exodus 13:2)


Why was consecrating the firstborn God’s most immediate priority? This passage emphasizes perhaps the single most important truth of Christian parenting: Our children do not belong to us. They belong to God and we are only temporary stewards.


It can be tempting to hold a child back from God if letting go feels risky in some way. When God gave this command, the Israelite firstborn males were soon going to face the prospect of war with giants and seasoned warriors who occupied the Promise Land. They needed to be fully resolved to obey God to the point of literally laying down their lives. This was the only way they would fulfill God’s purpose for their generation. This would be a difficult or impossible task to complete if their families tried to deter them out of fear for their safety.


Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened. Even though the Israelites symbolically consecrated their children to the Lord that day, they apparently took them back in their hearts. Not five years later when they stood at the edge of the Promise Land, the Israeli parents rebelled against God for fear that their children would become prey to their enemies (Numbers 14:31). In so doing, they disqualified themselves from their inheritance and delayed their children’s inheritances for 40 years.


Is God’s command to consecrate our children any less critical today than it was for Israel? Absolutely not. The spiritual war our children live in the midst of is no less real or dangerous than the physical war the Israelites were facing. In today’s war, the very safest thing a son or daughter can do (speaking of eternal safety, rather than temporal safety) is to follow God’s lead into battle rather than holding back for fear of the cost.


There are no guarantees of physical safety, comfort, wealth, or respectability in this life. In fact, we are told to expect the opposite – suffering and tribulation (ex. Acts 14:22, Romans 8:17). However, one thing we are promised if we walk with God is His presence in our lives. His presence is worth far more than safety, wealth, or respectability, but only if we learn to see from an eternal perspective. Teaching our children to view life in this way is a far greater inheritance than anything else we could give them.

America could soon be at a crossroads similar to the one Israel faced. Our nation won’t survive much longer without turning back to God. We are coming under noticeably heavier bondage every few years. We are overdue for revival. But if a revival comes, what will prevent us from going right back into bondage after it subsides? Only one thing: Consecrating our children to the Lord. Without this, even the greatest revival in history can only last a single generation… and then die.   


Further Instructions to the Israelites Upon Leaving Egypt

After God commanded the Israelites to consecrate every firstborn, He further instructed the fathers to tell their sons:


“It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt… With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” (vs. 8, 14)


Notice how God personalizes it, saying, “…what the Lord did for me…” There is only one way a parent can even have the ability to consecrate his child: He must consecrate himself first.


One of the reasons many young Christians fall away upon entering adulthood is because their parents, in a sense, went back to Egypt instead of entering the Promise Land.


The Promise Land represents continuing to surrender our lives to God and walking closely with Him after being saved. Egypt represents going back to seeking affirmation and fulfillment from the world, which is idolatry. Our culture in America has become so saturated with idolatry that many Christians have been seduced by it. We prefer the slavery of Egypt over waiting with God in the wilderness or fighting for our Promise Land. We’ve lost our vision.


The Mark of God

The Lord also commanded the fathers to put a sign “on your hand” and “on your forehead” in front of their children as a reminder of how He delivered them from slavery (vs. 9, 16). This mark, which is analogous to the marks seen in Ezekiel 9:4 and Revelation 7:3, is “God’s mark”, which Satan will counterfeit with the mark of the beast in the last days.


In Revelation 13:16, the mark of the beast symbolizes allegiance to Satan. It authorizes a person to participate (economically and otherwise) in his kingdom. God’s mark works similarly. When we take God’s mark, it means we trust more in Him than in the systems of the world. We trust Him to provide for us, protect us, guide us, and impart value and identity to our lives.


This is another important facet of the Christian life parents can model to their children. Every system in this world that is not aligned with God’s kingdom (including systems of government, economics, religion, family, business, science, entertainment, etc.…) is guaranteed to be shaken and destroyed eventually (Hebrews 12:26-28). It is only a matter of when. If this happens in our lifetimes, even in part, how traumatic it is for each of us will depend on the extent to which we have put our trust in God’s kingdom rather than in the world’s systems. This does not mean we never participate in the world’s systems, but it means we don’t depend on them for our sense of security because we have entrusted ourselves to God. 


Curses and Blessings

Let’s look at just one more parenting lesson from one of the most well-known passages in the book of Exodus – when the Lord passed by in front of Moses on Mount Sinai and declared His nature.


Before looking at what He declared, it is important to understand that God holds each person responsible for his own choices. A child is not responsible for his parents’ choices. For example, Ezekiel 18:20 says:


“The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”

However, the Bible also consistently teaches that children are deeply affected by their parents’ choices. Fathers or mothers can actually bring a curse upon their children that remains for generations unless it is broken by the power of the cross. This reality is so basic to God’s design for family that it is a key aspect of how He declared himself when He passed before Moses. He said in Exodus 34:6-8:


“The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”


In effect, God was saying this: “Because of how I created the family to work, with children so utterly dependent and so easily shaped by their parents, a parent’s sin will profoundly affect a child’s spiritual development and potentially echo through multiple generations.”

The opposite is also true. When parents pursue righteousness, God visits a blessing on the children and grandchildren and beyond. Whether positive or negative, the choices we make in our homes today continue to impact our descendants decades or even centuries into the future.


Another example of this principle can be found in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:23-35. When a slave (which represents a believer) has an enormous debt (of sin) he cannot repay, the king (God) commands that he be sold along with his wife and family, illustrating how a father’s sin can bring his whole family under bondage.


Because of this principle, one of the most powerful ways to break free from demonic oppression passed down from previous generations is to confess sinful patterns passed down to us by our parents. This does not mean taking responsibility for their choices, but it does mean acknowledging that we have a free will and at some point we became willing participants in following after their example. Examples of this can be found in Ezra 9:7, Nehemiah 9:2, and Daniel 9:5-16.


2 Corinthians 6:17-18 says that when we part ways with sinful patterns from our past, including those we received from our families, God says: “…I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me.” No matter what we received from our human parents, the most loving Father in the universe is ready to welcome us into His family. He can re-parent us, heal us, and redeem broken areas of our lives that the enemy once cursed.



Spiritual fathers and mothers are a gift from God. However, it is important for children to guard their hearts against turning their parents into idols. I learned this the hard way. I’ll share more in the next chapter.