“If the father has truly lived the Way in Christ; it is easy for a son to do the same; if the father has not, our Lord will first have to overcome and bring to death in the son what the father was.” John & Paula Sanford, p.99, “Restoring the Christian Family”
God has always been about producing a people among whom He could dwell, and through whom His will and ways and person could be manifested. His intentions began to be revealed in a known and clear way first to Abraham, as seen initially in Genesis chapter 12.
While there were a handful of things that God promised to do for and through Abraham, it all started with making him into “a great nation” (vs. 2). This idea of a nation in God’s mind was not a political entity as much as it was a relational entity. A relational entity or a people through whom “all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (vs. 3).
Israel was to be a righteous people made up of righteous families. And at the head of each one of those families was to be a righteous, loving, focused, and intentional father, who fathered out of His relationship with God the Father.
It is my growing conviction that the breakdown or failure of this brilliant plan of God is at the root of most of our world’s emotional pain, bitterness, rage and resentment.
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is a crucial passage for God’s people to see what God intended for the family, and thus where we have tragically missed the mark. “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, 2 so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” NASB
God’s intentions for this people He named Israel were greater than any of them could fathom. He truly loved them with an everlasting love, and at least ten times in the book of Deuteronomy He emphasized it by speaking of His intention for them - “that it may be well with you.” (see Deut. 4:40, 5:16; 6:3, etc.).
In Deut. 6, Moses appears to be still speaking to the “heads of your tribes and your elders” that he addressed in 5:23. While his exhortations and expectations applied to the mothers of this growing people, I believe they were especially focused on the fathers of families, some of whom were “heads of tribes and elders”.
Steadfast and complete obedience to the commands and practices in the first 9 verses of this chapter especially by Israel’s fathers would determine whether Israel would thrive or merely survive; and thus whether Israel would be an example to the nations of how they too can thrive. “…that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it”(vs. 1).
God’s intention for Israel is that they would soon begin to claim by conquest all of the lands He had set apart for them to inhabit. These lands and peoples were greatly influenced and affected by demonically inspired idolatry, and had been for many generations. Idol worship was the standard practice by all, and perhaps was of more danger to Israel than their armies. Thus for Israel to thrive among them, they must have developed a lifestyle of piety and devotion that could not be corrupted. “so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God….” (vs. 2).
God’s full intention was that that lifestyle first be one of resolute love and reverence of God, which would result in full obedience to all of God’s statutes and commandments. And that this lifestyle would be passed down from each father to his sons and to his grandsons.
Israel’s careful attention to the commands and truths revealed in vs. 4-9 would bring about their general wellness and wholeness in life as well as the growth and multiplication of their families (vs. 3).
So what is it that they must observe so diligently and carefully?
First as seen in vs. 4 that their God is one. And that He is the “Lord” over all. And that everything starts with knowing Him as He is.
Second as seen in vs. 5 – these fathers were to personally “love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Their greatest passion in life, far beyond their work, their hobbies, their ambitions, even their families was to be the pursuit of God Himself.
Third these things were to constantly be at the forefront of their hearts and minds (vs. 6). These things were to have been first on their minds when they got out of bed in the mornings and when they went to bed at night.
Fourth they were to teach these things diligently and naturally to their children as a lifestyle and in any and every circumstance or portion of life. Knowing and loving and walking with God was to be the main topic on their lips daily since it was the main pursuit in their hidden life (vs. 7).
Fifth these lessons were to be creatively taught and rehearsed and posted in any possible way and means available in those days to their children, grandchildren and wives. (vs. 8,9)
You see, God knew that if the fathers of Israel gave themselves to this priority and passion as a daily lifestyle, God would have gladly out of that relationship taught these fathers how to truly love their wives and their children and grandchildren. Then the overflow of being loved like that would be that their inner selves would have constantly overflowed with value, identity and a sense of well-being. And because all of those emotional needs that Fathers were meant to fill were indeed filled, they would have not so easily pursued their value, identity and sense of well being in the corrupt world system around them.
Sadly, most people I know around the world did not grow up with this kind of father. And the damage is far beyond what any of us can grasp. Most people I know in my generation in the body of Christ – even if we have known and walked with the Lord for the last 30-50 years, are relationally impaired because our most formative years in our parents’ home were far from what God intended. And the church in emphasizing our need to “honor our parents” and “forget what lies behind” has failed to give us tools to deal with the ongoing consequences of receiving often the opposite of what God intended for us in our homes growing up.
Most of us at the very best had an intact father, who didn’t divorce our mothers and who provided the material necessities of life for us, and who took us on occasional outings and vacations, and maybe to church gatherings on Sundays. For sure we should be thankful for such, knowing that many didn’t even experience that. But when a father who claims to be a Christian and who is recognized by his pastor and peers at church as a Christian, perhaps even as a leader of some kind, does not passionately pursue God with all his “heart and soul and might”, but instead watches television or is on the internet every evening and off and on during weekends, never reading his Bible, never pursuing fellowship with God in prayer, much less speaking from his heart about knowing and walking with God in a consistent way… Well, it is certain that confusion, insecurity, disrespect, scorn and a host of other emotions and sin patterns will rise up and open up the children of such fathers to all kinds of demon inspired substitutes. As our current national conversation has revealed, the effects of being unprotected by our fathers, has left so many in our nation hemorrhaging with emotional pain.
Am I blaming fathers for our personal sins? No! I spoke to this from several passages in my study on Generational Sins, such as Ezekiel 18:20: “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity.”
Many of us knew at a very early age that Jesus was the Son of God and Savior and never once doubted that reality, but we didn’t seek Him like we should have.
Many of us have deep regrets for the sins we committed out of our own volition – especially in the years under our parents’ roofs. Yet for ALL of mankind, Father God was always waiting for us to turn to Him for what we didn’t get from our earthly fathers. God is the God of the fatherless (Psalm 146:9). And it seems to us that there is much grace in these days to know Him as such, even if we didn’t seek Him in our younger years.
When Jesus invited the masses to turn to Him as the “bread of life” (John 6) or the “living thirst quenching water” (John 4), He knew He was speaking to many sons and daughters who did not experience Deut. 6 fathering. How He longed then and now to make us whole!
For the family to thrive again, we must turn this fathering tragedy around. Please allow me to suggest a few steps in that direction: We must first recognize what God meant it to be. Second, we must honestly face the reality that we did not experience that, and that spiritual and emotional damage was done as a result. Third, we must turn to and be honest with our Healer- asking Him to restore to us our sense of value, identity and wellbeing. Lastly, we must begin to trust Him to make those of us who are fathers to be great lovers of God and of our families. In the process, He can also use us to heal the broken and fatherless around us.
Since the church is the “pillar and support of truth” (I Tim. 3:15) we must re-capture God’s full intention for fathers and families. By the power of the Holy Spirit within us, “let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit…” (II Cor. 7:1). And let us be continually “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2), rejecting the world’s lies and empty substitutes.
The Holy Spirit, in His unique timing and way, will then show us and cleanse us by the blood of Jesus from every practice, mind set and attitude, that was not and is not what God intended.
May He be glorified as we allow Him to do what only He can do and what He is longing to do in these last days before He returns.