“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:5-9
This passage essentially describes an all-encompassing instructor, a picture of a never tiring, never sloughing teacher of sons and daughters. There really isn’t a time or activity, common or uncommon, in which he is not proclaiming the wonderful truths and commandments of his Creator and One True God and Father to his children.
This is God’s preeminent description of fathers: indefatigable teachers of and living examples to those whom they themselves father. The words of Deuteronomy 6 are direct; the school of righteousness is not relegated to a formal classroom. It encompasses the whole world and time in which you and they live. The only time their instruction hibernates is when they sleep. Either by father or mother, or the teachers selected by their parents, your children are constantly being taught, always under the aegis of their God-given master teacher, their father, until they have a knowledge, picture, and relationship with who their father emulates, their heavenly Father God. It is a responsibility of enormous proportion. The only way to avoid it is to not have children. To procreate is to immediately take on this all-encompassing task.
This appears to be the parameters laid out by God for the work of a father. He still must provide for and protect his wife and family, but in those roles, he is always teaching and nurturing – not always necessarily directly, but, at a minimum, under his authority and plan. What a responsibility! It requires energy, knowledge, and wisdom. No one is equal to the task. Apart from the recognized calling, strength, and guidance of God, it is unattainable.
This is particularly why Paul offers a necessary promise, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. It is also why God’s ideal includes two parents. It is why he provides a “help-mate to assist in the task; each parent brings gender-unique talents and strengths to this work. Two is always better than one, as the wise teacher, Solomon, tells us; husband and wife, father and mother. Short of the ideal of two parents, improvisation is required and it is so much more difficult but still possible.
Families need fathers like everyone needs air to breathe or water to drink. They are essential to family health; if a human father is taken away, a heavenly One must step in more prominently. Human fathers have one supreme model, namely their Heavenly Father. Being natural sinners, prone to failure, they desperately need His grace to survive and succeed. To teach about God and His commandments a father needs to know His Word. Ignorance of the Scriptures seals a father’s failure. Consistent discipline in reading His Word and obeying it provides promise of success.
C.S. Lewis wrote of the brilliant author George MacDonald: “An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that fatherhood must be at the core of the universe. He was thus prepared in an unusual way to teach that religion in which the relation of Father and Son is of all relations the most central. Fathers are that critical to the health of human society and the success of the family, in mimicking the relation which the Father and Son have within the Trinity in their relationship to their own children. Children know and relate to God by the nurture and instruction from their father. Their father in turn must have and know and depend on a relationship with his Father in heaven.
The strength and health of society and especially of the church relies on the strength of fathers who know who their Heavenly Father is and convey their knowledge and experience with Him to their children. It is God’s plan in this manner to convey His love to one generation after another. In accomplishing this, God uses particularly fathers to pursue the continuity of His grace to His chosen people. Would that God’s people would catch His vision for fathers and that men would commit their lives to fulfilling God’s design for fatherhood. There truly is no greater need of the church today!
“My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear. He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear. With confidence I now draw nigh, with confidence I now draw nigh, and ‘Father, Abba, Father’ cry.
(4th verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Arise, My Soul, Arise, 1742)
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