What Mean Ye By This Service?

“And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.” (Exodus 12:26-27)

It has been observed that the Christian Faith is always one generation away from total extinction. If the adult members of the Body of Christ fail to teach the children and youth of today about the Lord, then an entire generation will grow up knowing nothing about Him. Sometimes we forget how powerful of an influence we can have on young and impressionable minds, both positive and negative, by what we do and what we say.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

An often repeated theme in the Bible is the importance of raising our children in a godly way. Throughout the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) we see that the building blocks of the Nation of Israel were the tribes that it was divided into. The building blocks of the tribes were the families that comprised those tribes. From the very beginning, God has emphasized the role of the family and has highlighted the part that parents play in shaping the character of their children. Here, in the Book of Exodus, right before God is about to institute the Passover and deliver the Hebrews out of slavery, He stops to instruct the people to make sure that they pass down the heritage that they have in the Lord to each new generation.

I recently came across the writings of a preacher who lamented about how busy parents were spending less and less time teaching their children about the Bible, praying with their kids, or instructing them about the Lord. He commented that busy schedules and more time spent working left little time for families to come together at the end of the day to talk about the things of God. He remarked that it seemed that a lot of Christian parents were just leaving their children’s entire Christian education to the one hour of Sunday School class each week. The article I was reading was written in the 1880’s. I wonder what that minister would think today!

There are a few things that we should observe from this passage:

Anticipate The Questions

“And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?” (Exodus 12:26, emphasis added)

It is not a matter of if the children would ask the significance of the observance of Passover, it was a matter of when. When we are faithful to the Lord and diligent in our worship of Him; when we are unashamed and unafraid to openly express our devotion to God, our kids are going to ask questions. My 5 year old son is absolutely blown away and in awe of the fact that Jesus lives in his heart. He constantly asks me questions related to that phenomena. I try very hard to anticipate the questions that he will ask, but it is certainly not always easy. Not long ago, he asked me if Jesus would have to find a new place to live in the event that he were to die. I admit, that was a question I definitely did not anticipate!

Give Honest Answers

Sometimes, as parents of small children, we tend to be wary of giving answers that are over our kid’s heads. We also want to protect our children by not giving them too many gruesome or gory details. One area I struggle with is talking about the Crucifixion with my little ones. How do you explain to small children that mankind is so depraved that they would brutally kill an innocent Man, much less the perfect Son of God? Obviously, going into too much detail would be inappropriate, but completely glossing over the topic is also improper. However, I have been amazed by the level of understanding that children really have and what things they can comprehend and accept when we are honest with them. The Lord Jesus surely understood the mind of a child when He said that we all must have their kind of faith (Matthew 18:3).

Give Complete Explanations

“That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.” (Exodus 12:27)

Another areas that we neglect is giving our kids complete answers and explanations. Sure, the story of David and Goliath is a wonderful illustration of how the little man can slay a giant, but the real moral behind the story is that any of us are equipped to defeat any giant when we are trusting God. It wasn’t really David’s slingshot that overcame Goliath, it was the power of the Lord working through David.

It is, of course, important to keep the child’s age and maturity level in mind when we are teaching them about the Word of God, but it is even more important that we are not “watering down” the message to the point that its meaning is lost or utterly misunderstood. Telling toddlers about the Passover and the death of all the first-born of Egypt might not be what popular child psychologists would consider the basis for a “nurturing story”, but the Hebrews were instructed by the Lord to tell their children completely and honestly what the Lord had done to deliver their people.

Raising our children with an honest and accurate view of God and His Word is absolutely crucial to setting them on the right path and a solid foundation for a lifetime of faith. When it comes down to it, God did not ultimately put the teaching of His Word to our children in the hands of Sunday School teachers, preachers, or Christian educators. These are all wonderful additional resources that can supplement what our kids are learning at home, but the primary responsibility lies in the hands of the parents. When our own children begin to ask us, “What mean ye by this service?”, let us be prepared to give them an answer.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,


5 thoughts on “What Mean Ye By This Service?”

  1. Thanks so much Loren! I loved your 5 year old’s question . . .and that heart and mind that would be thinking about Jesus and ask that!
    My children are mostly grown, and sometimes I look back and cringe. But then I pray that He cover what I’ve done wrong and give me more chances yet! He is good at that!
    My youngest is 19, but like a little child in many ways. She may not be able to grasp a lot, but she knows about Jesus dying for her/us. She talks about it nearly everyday. She tells inanimate objects about it. ha! (sharing her faith!)
    God bless you, Loren, as you teach His children, young and old!


    1. Thanks, Deb 🙂

      Yes, all three of my kids amaze me with the things they say, but I guess that’s true with all kids.

      My kids are still very young, but I look back already and cringe at times! Praise God that He is faithful to fix the things where I have messed up.

      That is awesome about your daughter and her love for Jesus 🙂 Sometimes I think some of the most inspirational people, people with such a pure love for the Lord, are the children and the child-like. Margaret wrote a very touching tribute to a young man with Down’s Syndrome named Danny over on her blog (click here). If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it…it’s very sweet.

      God bless you and yours, Deb, and thank you for all you do!



  2. Thank you, Loren

    Wish I could hit the like button more than once 🙂

    Beautiful piece. I don’t know how they come up with the questions and I am positive I will never have all the answers, but I am thankful for each opportunity to share His truth.

    I’ve never contemplated the “where would Jesus live if I died” question. I’ve never been asked that one and I have no idea what I would have responded if I had been asked. 🙂 Interesting!

    Blessings much as you share Him with us older children too. 😉



    1. Oh, thanks Ann, you’re too kind!

      Don’t tell anyone else, but just between you and me, my kids stump me all the time. When we start talking about the Lord, they ask some of the toughest questions. I look back at all of the instances on this blog (and in “real life”) where people have challenged this doctrine or that doctrine, or have disputed something I have said about the Bible, and think about how, with the leading of the Holy Spirit, I have defended my position from Scripture and provided (I hope) solid answers to their attacks. I am just glad that they have no idea that I am regularly outsmarted by a 5-year-old 🙂



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