Malachi 4:5,6 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
In light of Father’s Day coming, and in light of God’s heart and intention to restore especially to fathers and children the relationship He designed and had always intended for them (see Malachi 4:5,6 above) and in dedication to all the young fathers in our congregation, I am starting a series with this post on the high call for fathers to father their children according to the righteous standard given us in scripture from Genesis to Revelation. God has spoken much about this subject in many ways and the reality is none of us have listened as closely as we should have.
Therefore in this series we are going to explore what God originally intended and made very clear in scripture re: the job description for fathers; and then we are going to explore how the fathers of the Old Testament days did up through the time of Christ and how their obedience or lack of impacted their families, descendants and society. And then we will hopefully discover along the way how to participate with the living God in His great restoring work (see Malachi 4:5,6 above) He has promised before He returns.
Jesus Christ is returning for a pure and spotless bride (see Ephesians 5:27 & Titus 2:14). A significant piece of that restoring purifying puzzle is fathers righteously fathering their children, and children learning to find in their Savior what they did not receive from their earthly fathers.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
In life, we have two ongoing choices regarding all things family. One is to be conformed to the world, which means instead of consistently and carefully in the fear of the Lord operating by the standard given us in scripture for how we go about fulfilling the God given role of a father to our children, we instead mostly operate by what we have observed and learned growing up in our families and extended families and even church families.
Local congregations throughout this nation are filled with people who may attend on most or some Sundays, and who may serve and give financially, but who do not intentionally and consistently operate by daily meditation in the Scriptures and reliance upon the Holy Spirit for how to live life, how to know and do the will of God, and for how to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. For instance, we often hear people say of someone not in their presence to another - so and so is/was a “good Christian man” or so and so is/was a “good family man”. But the standard by which they measured the said person was not a diligent study of scripture and personal conformity to the standard laid out in scripture, but rather more of a cultural and greatly watered down measurement usually in comparison or contrast to obviously evil or wicked people in that society. Such measurements are greatly displeasing to God, as can be seen in passages like Proverbs 20:9,10, “Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”? Differing weights and differing measures, Both of them are abominable to the Lord.” Another example of being conformed to the world in our thinking about fathering is the thought pattern that “Dads primarily bring home the bacon and provide discipline for bad behavior. Moms give spiritual instruction.” This ungodly belief and many others like it have caused great damage to our families and to the expansion of Christ’s kingdom and even to God’s reputation/glory.
The other choice and privilege given us Dads (and Grandads) is to be daily transformed in our inner man by the renewing of our minds. This transformation process takes place by the Spirit of God when we are willing to admit “…nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh….” (Romans 7:18), and when we are willing to admit that we have been conformed to the world in many ways, and we thus must learn anew to “walk by the Spirit, and not the flesh” (Galatians 5:16), and to “…put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:24). It is very difficult to put on the new self in Christ until we are able to identify what the old self thinks, looks, feels and acts like, and we then put every bit of that old self to death (see Ephesians 4:22 & Romans 8:12, 13).
Please know as we proceed that no man has ever consistently and completely lived according to the righteous standard given in scripture for fatherhood. We have all fallen way short of what God intended and commanded. Thus as the writer of Hebrews exhorts, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 God’s grace in Christ is more than enough to overcome all that sin has sought to corrupt and destroy. The blood of Christ can wash away the deepest corruption and defilement caused by sin. Praise God for that!
Now as we begin our study of God’s revelation of the call to father our children according to His will and way, I’d like to make a few comments on some of the earliest fathers in scripture, Adam of course being the first. Adam is mostly known for his deliberate disobedience to God’s clear instructions for him and Eve regarding the forbidden fruit and the resulting spread of sin to all of mankind. But he was a father to multiple children and that was in obedience to God’s command to “…Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…” Genesis 1:28 Is that all we can say about Adam’s fathering? He apparently didn’t do so well with Cain since Cain actually murdered his brother Abel. But Adam is never blamed in scripture for not parenting Cain well, and the primary reason Cain murdered Abel was because Abel found favor with God in his ongoing worship of God, while Cain did not. And Abel had to learn that way of worship from someone.
Cain is mentioned often in scripture and if I am not mistaken he is consistently blamed for his own wickedness. Seth (Adam’s third son) lived to be nine hundred and twelve years old and nothing negative is said about him and he also fathered multiple children. The Messiah Jesus Christ came through his line/descendants as did the Patriarchs. Adam walked with God for some years it appears before God created Eve, and then Adam and Eve possibly walked with God for some years together before they sinned by eating the forbidden fruit.
“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Genesis 3:8
While we know from Genesis 3:8 that they (after sinning) tried to hide themselves from God when He came into the garden as He evidently routinely did to fellowship with them, there is no reason to believe that fellowship with God stopped after His discipline of them.
We are not told how Adam fathered Seth. Rather we see how Adam related to God before and apparently after he sinned. We are not told how Seth fathered Enosh. But we are told that right after Enosh was born, “Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.” (Gen. 4:26). We are not told how Enoch some generations later fathered his son Methuselah (or all of his subsequent sons and daughters); but we are told twice that Enoch walked with God, “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not for God took him.” Genesis 5:21-24 Somehow God so delighted in this man that He decided to just go on and bring him home and skip the dying process. That kind of intimacy with God in a father has untold impact on his children. Distractions and diversions to that kind of intimacy with God were just as real and plenteous in that day as in ours.
So perhaps what God wanted us to see from these early fathers of multiple children is not their method of parenting as much as their model of relating to and walking with God as a way of life. This is where effective parenting must start. There cannot be any God pleasing parenting without this. Few things in life have more impact on children than seeing and watching their father walk with God day in and day out. May the Holy Spirit give all of us fathers (and grandfathers) an ever greater hunger and thirst to know and walk with our God. God bless you in the journey!