Fathers’ Day is just around the corner, a time for celebration and relaxation but also an opportunity for reflection on fathers past and the awesome responsibility fatherhood brings.
The nearest thing to an instruction manual for new fathers is the Bible, for its record of fatherhood is complete with examples of both ineptitude and excellence, with attendant consequences or rewards. Let’s not forget the solemn warning offered in Exodus that the “iniquities of the fathers will be visited upon the children.” So, for a closer look, consider the following examples.
Abraham qualifies as a good father for he instilled in his son an obedience to God’s will in the best way possible, by example. Following the example of his heavenly Father, Abraham was prepared to sacrifice the life of his own beloved son. Perhaps an even greater testimony was Isaac’s willingness to go along with the plan knowing that it called for him as a sacrifice, indicating his own trust in God. Obviously, Abraham did something right.
Noah also did something right in raising his boys. Shem, Ham, and Japheth dutifully assisted their father in building a monstrous ark while the rest of the world, no doubt, ridiculed them. The loyalty, trust and respect for their father paid big dividends, as the human race and all animal life was preserved due their hard work and faithfulness. Again, it was much easier for the boys to follow a father who had demonstrated a consistent and close walk with the Lord.
An unnamed man also warrants consideration of good father status even though one of his sons became temporarily wayward. The “prodigal son” took his inheritance, which his father had toiled years to acquire, and squandered it by embracing everything except God. If the story ended there, the father would be out of the running. However, when the broke and broken son returned home, his father greeted him not with scorn or admonishment but with love, forgiveness and acceptance. In so doing, the father thus mirrored the behavior of the Good Shepherd when a lost member of His flock returns to Him.
Unfortunately, not all fatherly examples found in the Bible are positive. Eli was known to be a godly man, yet his sons were described as “corrupt” and “not knowing the Lord.” Seemingly, something went wrong with regard to Eli’s parenting. Yet, even he obtains some level of redemption when he instructs and raises Samuel, the son of Hannah, who had been wrongly accused by Eli of being drunk.
Saul was a mighty king and warrior, but less successful as a father. So crippled by his own insecurities and jealousy of David was he that he hurled a spear at his own son, Jonathan. No mention of Jonathan’s parenting exists but, as we’ve explored in a previous article, he at least ensured his own son’s future by forming a covenant with David in which each man vowed to care for the other’s family.
Jacob is a more difficult example to categorize, as he was, apparently, a good role model for all of his sons. Yet, his love for one woman over another led him to favor his youngest sons, Joseph (and Benjamin), born of Rachel. No doubt, this helped fuel the jealousy and anger of the older brothers, who were born of Leah. Their anger and hatred of Joseph reached a boiling point when Jacob presented him with a fabulous “coat of many colors,” resulting in them selling Joseph off to slavery. As with the father of the prodigal son, Jacob may also get a pass, for even the horrible acts committed by the brothers against Joseph served a greater good. Joseph’s “slavery” became a position of status and authority and he used both to save his people, including his would be evil doer brothers, from starvation.
Let’s not forget Lot. His troubles seem to have revolved solely around women. Fist, he offered up his own daughters to the angry mob outside his doors who wanted to have a go at his guests. This is excused by many as the custom of the time was to protect visitors at all cost, even that of your own family. However, Lot’s wife was, apparently, not in subjection as she took no heed of the angel’s warning to not look back on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because of her poor judgment she was turned into a “pillar of salt.” perhaps that had some good too, as many passing camels, horses and cattle could have used her as a slat lick, but I digress. Finally, Lot allowed himself to imbibe of the alcoholic beverages at which point he slept with his own daughters.
Just like today, there were good and bad fathers in Bible times. Just like today, many of the transgressions were committed by fathers who are, indeed, good men. This is, precisely, why we need to remember that men, and women, are still human and as such, are imperfect. Of course, this also applies to Christians.
On this Fathers’ Day, let’s all try to remember that a perfect father figure does, indeed, exist. In fact, He wants to be the biggest part of your family. His love knows no limits. His advice is priceless. His shoulders are broad enough to bear the burdens of the world. The best part is, He’s promising you the greatest gift any father could offer, eternal life. All you have to do is invite Him in! Will you?