“….Margaret Mead and others have observed that the supreme test of any civilization is whether it can socialize men by teaching them to be fathers – creating a culture in which men acknowledge their paternity and willingly nurture their offspring.” David Blankenhorn in “Fatherless America” p. 3 (Margaret Mead - December 16, 1901 – November 15, 1978 was a noted American Cultural Anthropologist).
One of the great challenges we earthly fathers face is that of passivity or settling for far less than what God has ordained for our parenting. Abraham and Job both somehow resisted this tendency and provide us good examples for how to avoid this sin, and how to be who we need to be to our children unto our dying breath.
We find Abraham in Gen. chapter 24 to be “…old, advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in every way.” Two different adjectives were used in the beginning of this verse to help us see this man was really really old. He had lived a long full life. God had blessed him in every way. And if anyone “deserved” to sit back and take it easy – it would have been him. He had fought many battles. He was tired and weak. “It’s time for Isaac to step up. I’m going back to bed” he easily could have said.
But Abraham knew the purposes of God for his family had not yet been fulfilled. While God had blessed and protected and clearly set apart Abraham’s son Isaac to continue the building of this people eventually to be called Israel, that could all be sabotaged if Isaac married the wrong woman. Sadly in our day there are many dads who attend church who would be happy if their son would just marry a woman. They would be thrilled if they married a woman with an education and the potential for a good career. And they would be ecstatic if she was conservative in her politics. But Abraham would not have been content with any of those things. This potential bride for Isaac had to be a covenant woman, a worshipper of the one true God. And no matter how beautiful or available or anything else – she definitely could not come from the Canaanites, whereby she would most likely have been tainted by idolatry and would infect Isaac with the same. “Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, “Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” (24:3,4). Abraham didn’t just choose anyone for this job of finding a wife for Isaac. He chose the one who had served with him the longest and who had picked up his values and who knew to some degree his God. No passivity or carelessness or taking chances in this father whatsoever. And if you read the rest of the story you will see the evidence of Abraham having chosen the right guy/servant for the job.
Now obviously we don’t have the same kind of culture they did. Most of us do not have servants. And even if we did I’m not sure our sons would allow a wife to be delivered to them whom they had never met. For some of us – our children are already married. And while perhaps our children did not make the best choices in whom they married, we still can be of influence and must do what we can to see God’s restorative purposes accomplished.
The point of this story is Abraham, despite his age and weariness, was hands on and proactive and very watchful for the danger of worldliness and idolatry to seep in and destroy what God was building in and through his family.
While we cannot go about things with our adult age children the way he did, we can at least do what Job did for his adult age children. So let’s turn from Genesis to the second oldest book in the Bible – the story of Job.
Job was a very wealthy and influential man in his day. We are told in vs. 3 of chapter 1, “His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” But interestingly, as evidence that he was indeed a man who was “….blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” he said later in the book that his view of his prime was intimacy with God and intimacy with his family, not all of his wealth and influence – “As I was in the prime of my days, When the friendship of God was over my tent; When the Almighty was yet with me, And my children were around me.” Job 29:4,5
Job had seven sons and three daughters (vs. 2), who perhaps in their late teenage years or maybe early twenties had a practice of holding a feast presumably on each of their birthdays that lasted several days (see 1:4). Job then had a practice of interceding for them when the feasting was over. His great concern for them was, “…Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Job practiced this intercession for his children “continually” per the end of vs. 5. Job as an alert father always knew sin was lurking around the corner from each of his children, and he never let his guard down.
My purpose in this article is not to expound this passage in great detail. It is rather to show that here is a man who was very successful, very influential in his town and region, and a man of great responsibilities, and yet whose great concern for his ten children was their spiritual life. And he regularly sought God to have mercy on them.
I also think it is important for us to see that God early on wanted His people, especially fathers, to see that intercession for the spiritual vitality of one’s children is important until the day they die, which for Job’s children happened much sooner than he would have thought. God put this example in His word early so fathers among His people could follow Job’s example.
Fathers, the greatest gift other than Jesus Himself that we can ever give to our kids is faithful intercession for their spiritual growth and well being. They will be eternally grateful for it.
- It may be you are estranged from your adult child/children, and they are not open to any of your input at this point. What can one do in this situation? Well first I would say don’t give up. And ask God to cleanse you from any bitterness or resentment towards them. Whether they will admit they need you in their life or not, they do need you in their life. God wired them and you for such. So thank God as we saw with Job’s example you can pray for them and your God answers prayer. Secondly I would say - in the meantime - get yourself in better shape so that when the opportunity to re-engage with them comes you are primed and ready for it. Jesus says the only way to truly help someone with the splinter in their eye is to deal with the log or beam in our eye (Matt. 7:3-5). It is very easy for we parents to focus too much on our children’s flaws and ignore or give minimal attention to our own. The apostle Paul stated to Timothy about the path to usefulness in His kingdom, “…if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good deed.” (II Tim. 2:21). Only God can open shut doors, but He will more likely open it if we are preparing ourselves diligently for that special day.
God bless all you fathers and anyone else reading this article and may He make us vigilant for our children until our last breath!