Father’s day is upon us and while the nation celebrates Fatherhood, my hope and desire today is that we will truly reflect on what makes a good father. When I sat down to begin writing and reflecting on this sermon, my initial thought was, “Let’s scour the Bible and find a good and a bad example of fathering, much like I did for Mother’s Day,” but I have to admit, there aren’t any overwhelmingly good examples of Fatherhood in the Scripture, at least from a human perspective.
There are countless examples of men who at certain points in their life exhibit wonderful examples to follow, but just as quick as they shine, they make giant mistakes that give great reason for pause. Take Noah for instance; he found favor in the eyes of God, even to the point of specially being called to salvation through the flood, but immediately after the event, he plants a vineyard, gets drunk and curses his son’s son. King David might seem like a good option when we reflect on God’s statements that he was a man after God’s own heart (1Sam 13:14). But frankly David’s parenting left a lot to be desired – his son Solomon had a divided heart and allowed idolatry to flourish in the land, his son Absalom mounted a coup against him and his son Amnon raped his sister Tamar and David failed to respond appropriately. Even David’s closing remarks to his son Solomon before dying leave much to be desired as far as training a son – he orders his son to kill two men he had promised not to kill while he lived – Joab and Shimei (1Kings 2:1-9).
In fact, as we go through the Scriptures we are hard pressed to find a father who consistently brings his children up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). But there is one man I would like to introduce you to who seems to have affected his children and his children’s children in this way. His name was Jonadab the son of Recab. In 2Kings 10 we meet this man as he joins with Jehu to help destroy Ahab’s family and then to enter into the temple of Baal and slaughter all the false prophets. Apparently Jonadab hated idolatry and was willing to put his actions behind his heart and mouth.
Imagine what kind of a message that sent to his sons. To hear that their father entered into a temple and helped to slaughter all those who were leading the country astray from the true worship of God. Jonadab understood that bringing up children who loved the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength required more than just words. It required actions, both at home and away from home. While the word doesn’t tell us specifically how this man parented, it would be safe to assume that he refused to allow the culture of Baal to permeate into his household. It would also be safe to assume that his children knew of their father’s hatred for the false god and that hatred was passed down through the generations.
Consider the Hatfields and the McCoy’s with me for a moment. Asa McCoy was murdered in 1865 and from that moment the two families relations diverged quickly and over the next 40 years hatred was bred into each generation that cost 12 lives and made their names legendary. If that is what men can instill in their children in relation to other people, imagine the power a father has to instill a love of God and a hatred of idolatry into his children.
Jonadab illustrates a fatherly life that takes seriously the danger of idolatry and ensures that it doesn’t have a chance to take root in his family. Jonadab passed on his hatred for idols to his descendants. So how did he do it? Well, if we turn to Jeremiah 35 we meet some of this man’s descendants. Now mind you, there are roughly 200 or so years between the account of Jonadab and these descendants. This was more than ample time for the generations to rebel and forget the teaching of their great, great, grandfather.
In Jeremiah 35 God instructs the prophet to invite the Recabites to the temple to drink wine and when they arrive and the bowls are set before them, listen to their words, (Jer. 35:6-10) “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jonadab son of Recab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine. 7 Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.’ 8 We have obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab son of Recab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine 9 or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops. 10 We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab commanded us.”
So how did Jonadab instill a hatred of idolatry and keep it from influencing his family? At a minimum, Jonadab understood that drunkenness leads to debauchery (Eph 5:18), but more likely, Jonadab wanted to ensure that the cult practices couldn’t influence his offspring by separating them from the godless culture and the practices of the culture, which were most likely to lead them to idolatry. If you have been commanded not to drink and drinking is part of false worship, then you aren’t going to be able to participate in these orgiastic frenzies the Lord hates. Furthermore, they were told not to settle down and let the culture take hold upon them so they stayed out in the wilderness where they were dependent upon God and his provision from year to year.
Jonadab wanted to make sure that his children only received solid influence and grew up with a holy fear of God and so he established a family culture that ran contrary to the pop culture of the day. And you know what, it succeeded; 200 years later his offspring were still following his lead and instruction, living counter-culturally. They had a deep respect for their forefather and his teaching. And God honored his legacy upon the family with these words, (Jer. 35:18) “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.’ 19 Therefore, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jonadab son of Recab will never fail to have a man to serve me.’”
Jonadab’s pattern for life affected his children and it gained the family a promise that many of us would love to hear: “You will never fail to have a man to serve me.” Fathers, do you want you children and all who flow from them to be assured of being servants of God Almighty? Then listen and learn from Jonadab. Bring up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). And to do that you are going to have to create a family culture that is counter to all the world is seeking to indoctrinate your family into.
Fathers, if you want your children and their children to follow God, are you removing those influences from your home which are contrary to godly living and which draw the hearts of your children away from the Lord? And are you replacing them with other ways of living? What kind of movies and television are coming into your home and forming their hearts? What kind of music and lyrics are they hearing and memorizing as they live with you? What websites are coming into your house? Are these media god honoring, or do they speak of adultery, lust, anger, selfishness and so on. There is no such thing as a vacuum in culture; something always rushes in to fill the void. If as fathers, we are not establishing a culture of worship, prayer, reverence, hard work, respect, and submission to God in the things we do and don’t do in our families, then we aren’t following in the steps of Jonadab.
Fathers, are the friends of your children leading them to witness, view and participate in things contrary to God’s desires? Did you know that most children by age 11 have been introduced to pornography on the internet? And for a lot of those kids it happens at school or when visiting a friend’s house. What culture are you creating fathers or allowing to be created? Have you ever contemplated why children that are so sweet and dear before kindergarten head off to school and start picking up bad habits and behaviors? Might it be that a cultural vacuum has been created and the world is rushing in to fill the void that fathers and mothers have allowed to be created? Part of training and instructing in the Lord is analyzing what is influencing your children and then removing those things causing bad influence in their life and disciplining those behaviors, which are destructive until they flee them.
When Paul talks about training and instruction this is what he means. Training is the Greek word, paideia; and it means discipline and the discipline of the Lord has as its goal a person who lives in obedience to God’s will. When a person fails to obey God’s ways and their parents’ instructions, paideia, or training calls us as Fathers to correct that disobedience. Think with me for a moment, what kind of a parent does it take to raise children who are submissive to the 3rd and 4th generation? It takes a parent who is very loving but also who refused to tolerate disobedience and instilled that same expectation in their children. The Recabites had a healthy fear of God and a great respect for their forefathers.
But that is only part of bringing up a child. The other part is providing an example. Jonadab didn’t just remove things; he modeled a way of life. He himself lived as he was calling his children to live. He made sacrifices to be dependant upon God. He made sacrifices which surely cost him social contacts, financial prospects and the feeling of security – not drinking, not settling down and living in open country were all sacrifices and risks, but they were worth it, for they developed a dependence upon God and a relationship of trust which God honored. Jonadab created a counter-culture in word and deed. He lived out his beliefs.
Fathers – is your life something your children should be copying? Is it full of temperance, a healthy balance between work and family, a strong work ethic, and a devotional and prayer life worthy of emulation? Or does your life embitter your children and discourage them? Do they see love and consistency, or do they see special dispensations, lack of integrity and hardness? Does your life engender a love for obedience to God, his word and his authorities? Does it cause your children to store up your words, and treasure you instruction or are they rebelling from it? Does your life call your children to not forget your teaching because it is so compelling? If your children were to be asked, “what does your father spend the most time doing?” Would that use of time reflect a culture devoted to God and his Kingdom or to the ways of the world? Would you want your children to grow up and spend their time in the same way?
On this Father’s day, the word challenges us to consider the kind of culture we are creating for our families. Husbands and fathers we will have to give an account for our management of our families. But Jonadab’s life is not all we should think upon today, there is one more father we should consider and that is God the Father. I am convinced that God didn’t give us many examples of good fathering in the Scripture because he wanted us to always look to Him in order to see what The Ultimate Father looks like.
Jesus tells us that he only spoke words that (John 14:24) These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. From this it is easy to conclude that our heavenly father speaks words of life, calling for obedience and submission to the things of holiness and righteousness. For our Father commands us, Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy (Lev. 19:2).
The heavenly Father understood love and how to communicate it in a way that built up his son and builds up his children. He proclaimed, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). Our Father in Heaven teaches us that speaking words of approval and affection are wonderful gifts that we give to our children? Have you ever heard God tell you “I love you”? To hear the Father express his love to his children is a gift beyond comparison. Sure we hear echoes of that love in communion and even in various scriptures and stories like the prodigal son, or the story of Hosea and Gomer, but that pails when you hear the voice of God resound in your heart and mind, “you are my child whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” And that is exactly what our Father is crying out each and every day to you and me.
But our heavenly Father also understands how to give us good gifts – gifts of encouragement and hope and strength. For Paul prays, May the Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thes 2:16). When our Father called us to holiness and pronounced his approval and love upon us, he also gave us the help we needed to succeed. As a Father, he sent his spirit to dwell in our hearts and to lead us into proper living. Our Father doesn’t just tell us what to do; he comes and aids us in doing it.
He is a consistent Father who doesn’t change but desires to see right relationships restored between God and humanity and between members of the human race. And so he works in us to will and to act. But when those times of rebellion arise, his love extends to the point that he disciplines us in order to bring us back into holiness. God always has our best interest in mind, everything he does is done for a purpose – to see his holiness developed and restored in us. Hebrews 12:10 tells us Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
Fathers, you are developing a family culture whether you know it or not. Are you being intentional about it? Are you looking to the end and the goal of what you want multiple generations down the line to remember and still be practicing a worship of the Lord? Are you willing to look beyond all the temporary things, the desire to be liked or to get ahead or to make a name for yourself or your family in order to look toward the goal of seeing your children conformed to the image of Christ? I hope so, for then and only then will you be able to speak love, give grace and discipline the generations as your heavenly father has done for you?