‘And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.’ In order for our children to have a better relationship with us as ‘earthly’ fathers, we should first have a good relationship with our ‘Heavenly Father’. (NKJV Malachi 4:6)
Being a father means much more than siring children and establishing a home. It means being involved in their training, education, work ethic and more. It is a great privilege to be a father – God planned that responsibility for men to take up. Without women, that would be impossible, so we never want to downplay the importance of women either.
Most of us have been fortunate enough to have a caring and loving father in our homes and involved in our lives. There were six children in our family and the four older ones had that kind of father until they were adults, my younger two sisters were not even teenagers when our father died. There was much that was missing in their lives – that which only a father could supply. My memories of my father are many, but one I do not forget was the way in which he could read a book or draw a map with great accuracy. He could read, write and speak about five languages and it seemed he knew about all there was to know about almost anything. I recall his offer to translate musical text for a friend – from Latin into English. There was much to admire. My dad was a coal-miner and was almost killed more than once. On one occasion of a cave-in, he was buried, but his partner dug him out before he could suffocate. Miners were that way – they stood up for one another. I have often thought about the courage he showed by going back to work and into danger so the family could be fed. Fathers are that way. That does not mean he was not human in every way. He had his faults, but the good things outweighed them by a whole lot. In thinking about my dad, there is much that cannot be defined that he did to influence my life and the lives of us all.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, men and women have bungled their way through parenthood. Children are our most precious asset and yet in this wonderful land that was developed and defended by our forefathers – children have been born into circumstances they cannot control and that had good or bad impacts on their lives and on their character. When parents are incapable of providing a strong and solid basis for children to grow and develop into stable citizens, the country suffers. Some children seem to overcome all obstacles and win success in the end, but their ranks are few in number. Paul stated that through one man (Adam) sin entered the world (Romans 5:12). We need to realize that Eve was complicit along with Adam in the sin, but it seems that Adam had a greater responsibility because as the Bible states: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (I Timothy 2:14). There is a reason God seems to have placed more responsibility upon Adam. Paul went on to write in verse 15 that “she” will be saved in childbearing if “they” continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. After their sin, God put them both out of the Garden and explained that women would have sorrow and pain in childbearing and be under the rule of her husband (Genesis 3:16). Adam was also given a hard life of providing for his wife and family. Both of them were no longer as close to God and had severe lessons to learn.
It was no accident that when Jesus came to reveal God, He revealed Him as our Father (Matthew11:25-27). The term “father” defines a position that God holds in our lives. We are to learn of Him through the concept of fatherhood. In all that is written in this article – there is no missing or forgetting that mothers are just as vital. Children have many facets of their nature and character that need to develop. Without one of the parents, something vital is missing. Fathers have an important role. There are over 40 references to those who are “fatherless" in the Bible. Many of them indicate a state of great loss. In almost every culture, the father figure is strongly upheld. One of the first strong commands God gave to the Israelites who were His people was to be sure they did not afflict the widow or the fatherless (Exodus 22:22-24). God goes so far as to say that if they did afflict the fatherless, he would make their children fatherless. War does that all too frequently and the last world warcost tens of millions of lives of men mostly, leaving many children fatherless. Among other scriptures we see the instruction: to be sure the fatherless have enough food (Deuteronomy 14:29; 16:14), that they are to be given justice in all things (Deuteronomy 27:19), that their property is to be kept safe (Isaiah 10: 1-2) and that none are to raise their hand against the fatherless (Job 31:21). God is very concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the fatherless, because they were helpless in some instances. A father is a defender and protector of his children and grandchildren James was inspired to write that true religion included taking care of the widows and orphans (James 1:27). The father in the house is a vital part in the well-being of the family.
God is a father unto the fatherless (Psalms 68:5) and a defender of widows. This important part of His character shows how God understands what the lack of a father in the house can mean. This very important concept ought to help us all understand how important it is to really reach out to those who are without a father or husband. We are not to weaken them by doing everything for them, but we are to be merciful, understanding and helpful to them. A father doesn’t do everything for a child; they want the child to be strong. I recall one day when I came home with a bloody nose and cut on my head. I had been in a fight with the older boys in our town. Not uncommon for me in those days during WWII. When I came to my father, his first question was: “What does the other fellow look like?” or in other words – did you defend yourself? He wanted me to stand up for myself. I did not get a lot of sympathy because he wanted me to become a man. He knew that one day I would have children and I needed to be a “father” to them. The kind of father I would become had a lot to do with the manner in which my father worked with me. My brother and I learned to use a large Swede saw to cut logs for the winter. It was hard work for two young boys on the end of that huge saw-blade. But our father knew that doing that work would develop a good work ethic in us as well as build strong healthy bodies – and it did. He encouraged us, but let us do the work. All the lessons we were taught were helpful and have stayed with us both all our lives.
Some fathers do not know how to be real fathers. They have sired a child, but never learned to be a dad. It is an all too common story these days. God intended humans to have children when the parents were still young and full of energy. Fathers would romp and play with the children. Fun was part of growing up with a father in the house. My father built us a “Tarzan swing” in the back yard – and then showed us how to use it. He could do tricks and we thought he was great. There was also a serious side to life in our home. My father worked shifts in the mine. Day shift, afternoon shift and night shifts alternated every two weeks. There were some weeks when my dad was sleeping during the afternoon or the evening. We learned to respect his need for rest. Our mother made sure we understood the need for quiet in the home. We learned to respect others through that experience and exercise. Sometimes my dad had a sore back and would sit with his rear in the oven of our wood stove, so the heat from the stove could warm his back. But he never complained and that too was part of his strength and our lessons in life.
There is a reason God commands everyone to “Honor your father and mother.” Dads teach us how to live, to think and how to be responsible. Those lessons are intended to save our lives (Exodus 20:12). The command is also to teach us to respect the efforts of our father in providing a good life for us. In a poem called “Measuring Rods” a man once wrote: “I know what father’s face is like, it’s like his whistle in the air, like his step on the stair, like his arms that take much care, and never let me fall, And so, I know what God is like – He’s everything my father seems, but greater than all of these.”
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