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Now we’re going to turn to our theme again which is Knowing God as Father. I spoke about two main purposes for which Jesus came; he came to reveal the Father and to bring us to the Father. And I suggested that if those purposes are not fulfilled in our Christian experience, then we haven’t entered into that which God has planned and purposed for us. Jesus came to reveal the Father, his ministry was entirely Father centered. That’s a very important lesson. He said, I don’t do the work, the Father who dwells within me does the work. The words that I speak to you, the Father gave them. Everything that he did throughout his ministry was designed to point to the Father. And not only did he want to reveal the Father, but he wanted to bring us to the Father that we might know God as Father in our own personal experience.
One of the most important texts that I quoted last night was Ephesians 3:14–15 which says that from the Fatherhood of God every fatherhood or every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. A vital revelation. Every fatherhood, every place where there’s a father, which is what initially makes a family has its source, has its authority, has its sanctity from the Fatherhood of God in heaven. This makes two logical conclusions. First of all, speaking now to men, I believe it’s true that the most Godly thing any man can be is a father. In that he is most like God. Secondly, I believe the most important and sacred unit of society is the family. The family is based on the order of heaven. Every family in heaven and on earth derives its name from the Fatherhood of God. I believe that’s of vital importance both in the secular community and in the Body of Christ. I believe that a community is no stronger than the families that make up that community. And when family life is broken down, community life is also broken down, national life. I believe it’s true in the church. I believe a local church ultimately is no stronger than the families that make up that church. If you want a strong church, build strong families in the church and in a sense, the strength of the church will almost take care of itself.
Today I want to take this truth further and I want to speak about human fatherhood as an expression of the Fatherhood of God. In fact, this is going to be my theme both this morning and this evening. But from two different aspects. This morning I’m going to speak about human fatherhood in the natural. Tonight I’m going to speak about human fatherhood in the spiritual. This morning I’m going to speak about what it means to be a natural father. This evening I’m going to speak about what it means to be a spiritual father.
I’m reminded of the story of a little boy. In fact, it could almost be my own story in a way, but it’s just a little bit different. Of a little boy who was living at home with his parents, he was not very old, he slept in his own room. And one night there was a tremendous thunderstorm and he awoke with the thunder and the lightening and he was scared so he got out of bed and ran up to his parent’s room and they comforted him and said it’s all right son, God is in charge. He’ll watch over you. Go back to bed. Well, a little later he woke up the second time, the same thing happened. He got the same words of comfort, it’s all right. God is with us, you can’t see him but God is here. He’s watching over us. Just go back to bed. Well it happened once more. By this time his parents were losing a good deal of sleep. He came up, they said the same thing; it’s all right son, God is watching over us. He said that’s all right, but I want God with skin on! Well, that’s what a human father is. He’s God with skin on. If you can accept it, it doesn’t sound out of place to you. He is the representative of God to his family.
Almost all people who work with people who have psychological problems, and others, most counselors would agree that almost inevitably a child forms his earliest impressions of what God is like from his father. That’s not an accident. God designed it that way. God knows that the childish mind doesn’t easily grasp abstract concepts and things that are invisible and intangible. God wants to reveal himself to the family.
So the father in a very real sense is God with skin on. Most people that have had problems relating to their father have problems relating to God. Some of you are here this morning. Before this message closes I’m going to read you a letter of testimony from a young lady which really brings out this point. You probably are not aware how much the picture of your father in your mind and in your memory affects your relationship with God.
I would say furthermore, it is difficult if not impossible to have a bad relationship with a human father and a good relationship with God. And a bad relationship with your parents will definitely cost you the blessing of God. You may be a Christian, you may speak in tongues but your life will never really be in order until you have things right with your parents. Honor thy father and mother, that it may be well with thee and that thou mayest live long on the earth. This is the first commandment with a promise. The first four commandments are absolute. They just say do it, don’t do it. The fifth says do it and you’ll get a blessing. Don’t do it and you forfeit the blessings. I doubt whether many of you here this morning appreciate fully how important your relationship with your parents and particularly your father is. I have known people go through life and die as Christians but never have it well with them because they did not have things right with their parents. And actually, it makes no difference whether your parents are living or dead. It’s not them we’re talking about, it’s you. Your attitude, your relationship.
I know one young man who heard me speak on this years ago, probably twelve years. A very intelligent, sensitive, fine Christian young man. And he took a journey of something like fifteen hundred miles to the graveyard where his father was buried. And he left his wife behind and he went into that graveyard and he knelt there and he confessed his rebelliousness and his bitterness against his father. Repented of it, was released from it and came out a different person. That’s an actual experience which he shared with me later.
So when we’re speaking about human fatherhood I want you to understand whether you’re a male or a female, whether you’re young or old, this is something that concerns your life and your well being. I’m going to try to present to you a picture of what God desires a father to be. Now I am a father on no small scale. My first wife and I raised a family of nine adopted girls and when Ruth married me she brought me three more. So between us we have twelve. And I have a relationship with every one of those twelve. I’m not wagging my finger at you saying this is how you ought to do it, how you ought to have done it because I did it that way. I’ve learned many lessons in this area the hard way, by doing them wrong and by seeing the outcome of wrongdoing in the lives of people who are very dear to me.
Let’s turn to the scriptures now and I will lead you through a series of scriptures. The first one is Deuteronomy 32:9. It’s in two halves. I’m only going to read the first half although the second is important too.
“For the Lord’s portion is his people...” (NAS)
That’s tremendously important. The Lord’s portion out of this world, out of human history, out of everything that’s going on, what is God going to get for himself? The answer is a people. That’s his share. That’s what all human history and destiny is directed toward—the Lord getting himself a people. People are most important things in the world. One mark of religion without the grace of God is that it tends to make things more important than people. The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day made the Sabbath more important than people. They were so hung up on the observation of the Sabbath that they inflicted hardship and suffering on innocent people. Jesus said man wasn’t made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man. That’s true of everything religious. It’s made for people. People aren’t made for religion, religion is made for people. But you’ll find wherever the grace of God is not present, people are treated as secondary to religion. To buildings, to programs, to all sorts of things. And somehow in the midst of all this religious activity people slip through the cracks. And they’re neglected and uncared for.
As a visiting preacher I’ve learned many years ago that there are people who can come to a church every Sunday for many years and have deep inner hurts and problems which they’ve never shared with anybody. But along comes a visiting preacher and they buttonhole him, share their problem with him. Partly because they’re ashamed that anybody that will go on seeing them will know about their problem. But I always have to tell them I’m sympathetic but I’m just here for a few brief days, I cannot help you. You’ve got to find somebody on the scene who can continue to help you. And many times they don’t. See, many times people come to church but they never reveal their real selves.
That’s another feature of religion. Religion tends to make us professional actors. When we walk into church we put on our mask and we act nice and religious. There are many different masks. There’s Pentecostal masks and Baptist masks, Catholic masks and if you’re brought up in a certain tradition you know what mask you’re wearing. But it isn’t real. And I mean, don’t imagine that yours is the only group that doesn’t have a mask because you’re mistaken.
People are the most important thing in life. People are the most important thing in God’s estimate. In the Old Covenant God had Moses build a tabernacle that contained some very marvelous articles of craftsmanship. Gold and tapestry and so on. Then God had King Solomon construct what is probably the most expensive building that’s ever been constructed in the history of the human race. The temple of Solomon. I’ve estimated that to build that today would cost billions of dollars. I don’t think there’s any nation or group in the world that could do it.
But when we come to the New Covenant, God uses still more expensive materials for his building. This is a permanent one. The temple of Solomon only lasted a few hundred years. What is the material for God’s building today? People, that’s right. Living stones. So we need to understand that in all that’s going on in history and all the confusion and the turmoil, if you ever get really perplexed and say, I wonder what God is after, the answer is God is after a people for himself. The Lord’s portion is his people.
Let’s look at the last book of the Bible, Revelation. And in this study we’ll keep coming back to Revelation because we’re going to the ultimate purposes of God which are not fully revealed or fulfilled until the last book. Revelation 21:3:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and he shall dwell among them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be among them.” (NAS)
Notice this is the climax. God has got his people. They shall be his people. All history is working toward that climax.
Now, what does it take initially to make a people? You shouldn’t find it difficult. It takes a father, that’s right. That’s where a people begin. No father, no people. So in the very same chapter of Revelation, chapter 21:7 we find these words:
“He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (NAS)
It’s that relationship that is the basis of the people. But in Genesis 17 you’ll find how God set out to make a people. I just completed writing a book, this is a kind of an announcement of it, it isn’t yet printed. It’s called The Last Word on The Middle East. And it’s somewhat interwoven with the theme of people. And so I’ve been impressed how crucial and significant God’s dealings with Abraham were in all the subsequent outworking of his purposes all over the earth and particularly in the Middle East. So we’ll look for a moment at what God says to Abraham in Genesis 17:4–5. The Lord appeared to Abraham and said, I’m Almighty God. And when he said that he said, Abraham, you’re going to find it difficult to believe what I’m telling you, but bear in mind I am Almighty God. What I say happens. Verse 4:
“As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, [notice the first concept is covenant.] and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, [which means exalted father] but your name shall be Abraham: [father of a multitude] for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.” (NAS)
And then in the 18th chapter of the same book, Genesis, verses 17–19 we return to this theme:
“And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do...” (NAS)
That blesses me. God was pleased to share his secrets with Abraham. Psalm 25 says the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. That’s an astonishing thought. God shares his secret counsels with those who fear him. One great mark of intimacy between people is that they share their secrets with one another, isn’t that right? You rarely share your secrets with an enemy. But your bosom friend you share your secrets with. Well God shares his secrets with his friends. And Abraham is called the friend of God. So he says here’s my friend Abraham, I’m just about to do something but I think I’ll talk it over with Abraham first. Going back to Genesis 18:17:
“The Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?” (NAS)
Notice God’s destiny for Abraham was for him to become a great and mighty nation. Now verse 19 is so crucial because it tells us why God chose Abraham. God was looking on all the men in the world in the days of Abraham. And out of—doubtless there were already millions of men he singled out one man and chose him. And this 19th verse tells us what God saw in Abraham that made him choose Abraham.
“For I have chosen him...” (NAS)
But the Hebrew says literally for I know him, which I think is better. I know him. I have chosen him in order that or I know him that:
“...he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what he has spoken about him.” (NAS)
What was it that the Lord saw in Abraham? He saw that he would be a good father. That was his name to start with. First of all exalted father, then father of many nations. What was it in Abraham’s character that caused God to choose him? That he would accept his responsibilities as a father, that he would raise his children and order his household in the way of the Lord. And on that basis the Lord would be able to bring to Abraham all that he promised. I’m going to read that verse again without commenting on it. I ask you to just listen.
“For I have chosen him, for I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what he has spoken about.”
That was the reason why God picked Abraham.
Let me suggest to you that there’s a certain pattern of development of a nation in the Bible. It goes from father to family to clan to tribe to nation. And it took really three or more generations. It was Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, then his twelve sons. The twelve sons became the twelve tribes that became the nation.
I think particularly here in the United States because of the unusual history of this nation, it’s not easy for us to appreciate the family factor in the origin and destiny of a nation. But if you lived in Europe, if you lived in Scandinavia for instance. My first wife was Danish. If you’re born a Dane you’re a Dane. You’re not a Swede, you’re not a Norwegian, you’re a Dane. My first wife had an uncle who had a relative who was Swedish who moved from Sweden to Denmark when he was young and lived all his life in Denmark. Became a Danish citizen but he was always known as a Swede. He never lost his initial identity. That is really the typical way. The way the United States has come into being is somewhat untypical of a nation. I’m not saying that to be critical, I’m just pointing out it isn’t the normal pattern.
As a matter of fact, the United States is a very interesting and unique nation. It almost qualifies to be called a people. On what basis? Well there’s only one basis. It was born out of a covenant. Very, very interestingly, and I’m sure most of you don’t know this. The Hebrew name given by the Jewish people to the United States is very distinctive. Hebrew is perfectly capable of saying the United States but it doesn’t say that. Do you know what it calls this nation? ?Aratsot Habareet? which means the land of the covenant. In other words, the Jewish people are prophetic. Even when they don’t know it they’re prophetic! If a Jew ever says anything to you about yourself or your destiny, listen carefully. I’m saying that seriously. And the prophetic insight of the Jewish people gave this nation a unique name which points out its unique origin and destiny. As far as I know, apart from Israel and the church, this is the only nation that was born out of a covenant. When the founding fathers came together they made a covenant. And incidentally, whether humanists like it or not, their covenant was not merely with one another. It was with Almighty God. You know the real basic problem of the United States, why it’s falling apart? Because it’s betrayed its covenant. And is betraying its covenant. The only hope for this nation is to return to covenant.
Well again, that’s by the way, but at least I believe I’ve brought out to you something about God’s dealings with men and nations which I believe is absolutely basic to understanding God. And understanding ourselves and understanding who we are and where we are and where we’re going.
Now, I’ve said that in a certain sense it’s God’s purpose for a father that he should be God with skin on. I hope that doesn’t sound irreverent to you, you’ve got to understand that every human father is very much a human and has his weaknesses and his failings and is a sinner and needs to be saved like every other sinner. But in his capacity as a father it’s his responsibility to demonstrate God to his family and to represent God to his family. And where he fails to do that, believe me, there will be problems. I want to suggest to you that in doing this a father has three basic ministries, functions or responsibilities. And I will list them and then discuss each briefly. The three basic functions of a father as a father are: priest, prophet and king. I’ll say that again. Priest, prophet and king. As priest a father represents his family to God. As prophet he represents God to his family. And as king he rules his family on behalf of God. Let me just say that again because it’s absolutely central. The three functions are priest, prophet and king. As priest a father represents his family to God. As prophet he represents God to his family. And as king he rules his family on behalf of God.
Now let’s take the three ministries, just take a few examples, and work through them quite quickly. First of all, a father acting as priest to his family. Turn to the book of Exodus 12. This is the ordinance for the Passover which was the way that Israel obtained God’s intervention on their behalf to protect them from the judgment that came upon Egypt and to open the way of deliverance for them. Now the ordinance of the Passover affected every father in Israel. It centered around the father and the family. It was a family ordinance. One of the reasons why the Jewish people have been able to survive nineteen centuries of dispersion and persecution is that their religious life in many ways is centered not in the synagogue but in the family. That’s what’s kept them going. The Passover is not primarily a synagogue observance, it’s a family observance. One other great observance of the Jewish people which has set them apart is the Sabbath. The Sabbath, they go to synagogue, but the Sabbath is centered in the home. And very beautifully as I see it, the wife and the mother is the queen of the Sabbath. That’s her day. She’s the queen. She lights the Sabbath candle. You see, Judaism has made a place for women in its most ongoing and distinctive ordinance. If there had been no Sabbath, believe me, there would be no Jewish people today. That one ordinance has kept them separate from other people which is part of God’s purpose for them.
So what I’m saying is the religious life the Jewish people though the synagogue plays an important part and the rabbi is an important person, in many ways the most important person in the religious life of the Jewish people is the father. Still today you will see in Jerusalem, the Orthodox Jews, the Hasidim, Sabbath morning, the father leads his family to the synagogue. He pushes the youngest child in a stroller, he leads two more by either hand, the mother walks beside him. But it’s his responsibility to take his family to the synagogue. Every religious festival, and there are many of them in Israel, you’ll see the families out, the father carrying a child on his shoulders, leading another by the hand. The father explains to the children what it’s all about. It isn’t woman centered, it’s father centered. It’s very different from contemporary Christianity. Unfortunately.
Now let’s look, Exodus 12:3:
“Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves according to their father’s households, a lamb for each household.”
Notice it’s a household centered ordinance and the father is the key to it. Verse 7:
“Moreover they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses...” (NAS)
Who put the blood on the house? The father. That was obtaining protection from God for all his family. He was the priest. If he failed there was no alternative. No one else had authority to put the blood but the father. And in the 13th verse:
“And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (NAS)
The safety of every family depended uniquely on the father. If the father didn’t fulfill his function, the whole family suffered.
Let’s look at the story of Job for a moment. Just two or three verses from the first chapter of Job.
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil.” (NAS)
That’s not only just a general statement about Job, it’s actually repeated by God when he dialogues with Satan about Job. He uses the same language. Now one mark of Job’s fear of God and his uprightness was his sense of responsibility for his family. He had seven sons and three daughters. Verse 5:
“And his sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.” (NAS)
You see, there was a strong family identity with Job. And the sisters came in with the sons.
“And it came about when the days of feasting had completed their cycle, that Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Thus Job did continually.”
Job saw his responsibility to obtain the protection and the mercy of God for all his family. He offered a burnt offering for every son, for every daughter to ward off the judgment of God on his family. Now we can’t go into the details of the story of Job which are very interesting, but outside our scope. I’m just saying Job is an example of a father who fulfilled his priestly function.
And if you as a father here this morning are beginning to say, I don’t think I can do all this, let me suggest to you that if you fulfill your priestly function of prayer, it will enable you to fulfill the other two. But if you miss out the priestly function of prayer, you’ll find the other two too much for you.
Now let’s look at the father as prophet. The one who hears from God, instructs and directs his family. We’ll look at the example of Noah in Genesis 6:7–10:
And the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. And Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Notice it says Noah became the father of? The old translation said Noah begat or begot. It’s extraordinary that that word has dropped out. Verses 13–14:
“Then God said to Noah, The end of all flesh has come before me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. [I’ll move on to chapter 7:1:] Then the Lord said to Noah, Enter the ark, you and all your household; for you alone I have seen to be righteous before me in this time.” (NAS)
It was Noah who heard from God about the flood. It was Noah who received the instructions for making the ark that would preserve his family. And it was Noah that God commanded to come into the ark with his household. It was Noah’s righteousness that covered his family. He said you alone I have seen righteous in this generation. Come with all your family. I don’t know whether the modern man can grasp that, but a father’s righteousness can speak to God for his whole family.
I know I’m in an area where the Reformed Church is strong. And I feel quite at home here because I’ve spent quite a lot of time in South Africa with the Dutch Reformed Church. It’s much the strongest church in the nation. And I want to say that when I speak about covenant and fatherhood, I am speaking right down the line of your tradition. And it’s the strongest thing you have. Don’t let it go. That’s partly why you have strong ethnic communities in this neighborhood, because you’ve held on to some of these things.
Just let’s look in the New Testament for a moment, just one scripture in Hebrews 11:7.
“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence [or in holy fear] prepared an ark for the salvation of his household...” (NAS)
He was the prophet. He heard from God. His righteousness covered his whole household.
Now I want to say that it might well be that God could use a member of the family to speak to the family, but it’s the father’s responsibility to discern what is the voice of God. My mind goes back to a situation in Jerusalem in l948 when my first wife and I and our four youngest children were in Jewish Jerusalem and it was besieged by Arabs on all sides. Food and water were running out. And we were deeply committed to Jerusalem. We didn’t want to leave but we felt somehow God was saying you may have to leave. There was no way open to leave in any case because the city was besieged. But one day we knelt down, my wife and I and the four girls, the oldest was thirteen, the youngest would be about six. And we asked God to show us if we were to stay in Jerusalem or leave. When we finished praying, Kiersten who was the second oldest of the girls there, a little Moslem Arab by background, stood up and said very simply, “Momma, while we were praying, I saw a road and it was very narrow. And there was a barrier across it.” She said, “While I was looking, an angel came and moved the barrier. And then I saw after that the road got wider and wider.” We have no doubt whatever God had showed us what we were to do. And the angel actually did come and remove what was a barrier that we could not remove. So there’s an example, but I just want to say I was the father, it was my responsibility to discern that God spoke to us through one of our daughters. But our lives depended on that. This is not a theory that we’re talking about. Believe me, there could easily come a time in this nation when your life will depend on hearing from God. Your life and the life of your family.
Let’s look also in Deuteronomy 6. Now this is generally instruction for Israel as a nation. Deuteronomy 6:4–7. Here’s the great basic commandment of God. When Jesus was asked which is the first and great commandment this is what he answered:
“Hear O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heard and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and 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.” (NAS)
The first outcome of that commandment is my words shall be in your heart and you’ll teach them to your children. That was the first thing that God spoke about. And just to concern that look in Deuteronomy 11:18–21.
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you, shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates...” (NAS)
The first responsibility—teach them to your sons. And notice that the setting for teaching is not the religious institution, it’s the home. It’s the family relationship. When you lie down, when you get up, that’s in the morning and at night. When you walk by the way. Children quickly discern between what is religious and what is real. And if they only get religious instruction in a religious setting, then they divide between religion and real life. And if the religious instruction comes from mother and not from daddy, the little sons will say, when I grow up, I want to be like daddy. And they associate religion with female activity. And of course, for any boy, that’s sissy so he’s just waiting till he can come to the end of it. But that’s not the way God arranged it. He said to the fathers, you teach your sons and don’t go to the synagogue for the rabbi to do it, you do it at home.
A lot of parents today want the youth minister to do for their children what only they can do. God has given you that responsibility and you cannot transfer it to anybody else. Thank God for what the youth minister can do to supplement what you can do but it cannot take the place of what you do. Then God said, and I like this, this is the outcome, verse 21:
“...so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth.” (NAS)
Now in the margin it says literally, as the days of the heavens on the earth. I prefer the King James translation which says as the days of heaven on earth. Because I believe that’s exactly what God had in mind. He said this is how it is in our family in heaven. If you’ll do your task, your family on earth will be like the family in heaven. I sometimes ask American parents how many of you have homes that are like heaven on earth? And if you don’t, who’s to blame? Now you say, that’s the Old Testament. Let’s give you Ephesians 6 for a moment. Ephesians 6:4:
“And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (NAS)
Whose responsibility? Father. It cannot be shifted to the mother, it cannot be shifted to the youth minister, it cannot be shifted to the church. It’s the parental responsibility resting primarily on the father. He is the prophet of his home.
And then he’s the king. Now the word king this side of the Atlantic is kind of remote and antiquated. But it means ruler. It’s not just an ornamental person who just comes out on certain state occasions and rides in a coach. It’s a ruler. Going back for a moment to Genesis 18:19 which is the verse that tells us why the Lord chose Abraham.
“For I have chosen him, [or I know him] that he will command his children in his household after him to keep the way of the Lord.”
Notice that key word command. It’s the responsibility of the father to command. That doesn’t mean he has to be a dictator but it means he has to exercise authority. He has to determine the basic way the family is to be run. How much time do the children spend in front of television. What programs may they watch, what programs may they not watch. What time do they go to bed, and so on. Those are father’s decisions. If they are transferred to the mother the whole family will become lopsided.
You can contrast Lot if you want to. I don’t think we need to turn there, but Lot and Abraham separated. You can read it in the 13th chapter of Genesis. Lot headed for Sodom. He didn’t set a good example to his family. He got out by the skin of his teeth. His wife didn’t make it. He got two daughters with him, and as I understand the story, and it’s not absolutely clear, his sons-in-law and many other members of his family perished. The lesson is this: Lot took his family into Sodom but he couldn’t get them out again. That’s a fearful responsibility. That’s the difference between Abraham and Lot. That was why God chose Abraham and he didn’t choose Lot.
Let’s look at the example of Joshua. Joshua 24:15. Joshua is giving his final talk to the people of Israel. He says to them:
“And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, [my family] we will serve the Lord.” (NAS)
That’s a man speaking. He says I not merely make the decision for myself, I make it for my family. I am the ruler of this house. I determine which way things are going to go. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. That’s a man speaking. It’s a man’s privilege. My observation is, if a father will accept his responsibilities, God will give him the authority. But if he reneges, he loses his authority.
Turn to the New Testament, Acts 16:31 and following. This is the incident where Paul and Silas have been thrown into jail in Philippi, they were singing and praising the Lord at midnight, an earthquake came, the doors were open and everybody’s bands were loosed. And the jailer was about to commit suicide and Paul stopped him, and said don’t do it, we’re all here. Then here’s the end of the story. He said in verse 30:
“...Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” (NAS)
Don’t leave out the last few words. Our excessively individualistic picture of salvation tends to say believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. But that’s not the whole text. You will be saved, you and your household. Salvation in God’s economy is primarily a household business. It’s abnormal for it not to be the household. It can be.
“And they spoke the word of the Lord together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household [or family].” (NAS)
He got the message. He believed and it happened. He was a father. Some years ago, a dear lady came to me, her husband wasn’t saved, her children were not walking with the Lord. And she asked me to pray with her. And trying to be helpful I quoted to her this scripture. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house. And we prayed together, but after she left the Holy Spirit very quietly said to me, you misquoted that scripture. It wasn’t said to a woman, it was said to a man. And that’s different. The man has the scriptural right to make the decision for his family. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Now ladies, I’m sure there are many of you here who are in that unhappy position. I don’t want to leave you without a word of comfort. You can go to the book of Joshua and you can find a lady who was by no means a desirable character. She was a harlot. But she prayed her whole family in through her faith. So I’m not saying there isn’t hope, but let’s not deviate from scriptural principles when we offer comfort to God’s people. This is a scriptural principle, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved and your family. Addressed to the father, the ruler.
Early missionaries when they went to other lands, to bring the gospel, operated on a certain principle. When they went to a tribe, they went to a chief. And if the chief was converted, the tribe was converted. They started from the head down. That’s how St. Patrick converted Ireland. He went to the chief, the kings, the rulers. That’s how McKay brought the gospel to Uganda, a book I’m just reading now. It’s how the early missionaries in Africa and other countries operated. It’s a scriptural principle. It doesn’t always work but it’s illogical not to go to the head. Why convert the left foot and then have awful struggles with the rest of the body. Convert the head, it will tell the rest of the members what to do. God is so practical. Some families today are standing on their heads.
One more scripture, just to come to the realm of principle again, 1Timothy 3:4–5. Talking about an elder, what are the qualifications for an elder.
“He must be one who manages [the King James says rules] his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (NAS)
See, there’s a very close parallel between the family and the church. That’s why, and I’m being frank with you, I have real difficulty accepting women pastors. Because there is no question whatever that the man is to rule the family. And I don’t see how they can get into the car, go to church, and switch roles in the car. It just seems to me it can’t be done. And it does say here that the elder is to be the husband of one wife. It does not to suggest she’s to be the wife of one husband.
Now I’m not saying that to be awkward, I’m not aiming at people, I just believe there are basic principles building the human life. And if we ignore them, we’re in trouble. God hasn’t adjusted the way he arranged the world. It’s still the same. The world may try to adjust it but the result is a mess.
Now, I want to suggest to you that successful fatherhood will produce in the family and in the children two primary results. Security and maturity. And unsuccessful fatherhood will produce certain results which are not so precise because it’s more difficult to describe a mess than it is to describe an ordered house. I’ve seen ladies who have in their kitchens a little text that says, God bless this mess! I would never put that on the walls of my kitchen. I don’t want my home to be a mess. It’s a bad confession. There’s another set of text which says, Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest, et cetera... I want to tell you that there’s a seen head in every house. And don’t hide behind the unseen to ignore the seen. It’s all right. I don’t say take that one off your walls but bear in mind that the husband is the head of the house. Christ is the head of the husband, not of the house. The husband is the head of the woman.
What are the results of failure? I’ll give you three, but as I say, you could multiply these. The first one is rejection in the children. A sense of rejection. Of not being loved. Not being wanted. The next is disorder. Things are not running smoothly. There’s a lot of cross purposes and cross forces at work. And the third is rebellion. If people do not learn discipline at home, they usually go out into the world undisciplined. And they take it out on the world. They tend to become anti-church, anti-school, anti-government, anti-establishment. We don’t need to dwell on that because we’ve seen a whole generation in the United States that basically went that way. And they went that way for this very reason. Poor parenting. Most of them, and I know many of them, many of them are very close to me today, most of them really never knew what it was to have a real father who behaved like a father. Their parents gave you things like education and cars when they grew up, swimming pools. But they were not fathers to them.
And my personal conviction, this is based on experience, not on the teaching of psychology though I think psychology would probably confirm it, is that every child is born into the world with one primary longing which is for love. And primarily the love of a father. And I believe it’s in the arms of a father that a child learns what real security is. And the child that hasn’t had that experience probably is an insecure person. I think there’s something about the strength of a father that gives that little child a sense of absolute security. Here I am, daddy’s got me in his arms, nothing can happen to me. And I believe it’s God’s purpose for every child to learn that security very early in life. A mother’s love is wonderful and can do a tremendous amount but it’s not a substitute for that particular male brand of love which is the real source of security.
Not merely must a father love his children, but he must learn to express his love. Unexpressed love doesn’t really do the job. It’s certainly better than anything else.
Now I grew up in Britain. Many of you I imagine are from a Dutch background. Quite a lot of you anyhow. There’s something in common between the British and the Dutch. Neither of them are emotional people. That’s an understatement. My father never really expressed warm love for me. I know he loved me. I only really discovered how much he loved me when I began to take the wrong course in life and saw how it affected him. It was a revelation to me, it shocked me. I didn’t realize that my behavior could hurt him that much. But the kind of love we’re talking about has to be expressed. It has to be outgoing. That bumper sticker that you’ve probably all seen, Have you Hugged your Kid Today? That’s a very relevant question. An unhugged kid is an insecure kid. Then you’ll get problems at school and you blame the teacher, the school. The problem started at home. And such a child wonders, Am I really loved? Why doesn’t daddy love me? And that child may never share that feeling, probably it can’t even express it, but it’s the root of all its subsequent problems.
In the ministry of deliverance that I’ve been in for probably sixteen or seventeen years I’ve learned gradually that there are three different sections. There’s what I call the branches, the trunk and the root. When I came into deliverance I was busy chopping off branches. Alcohol or nicotine or something like that. Then I realized you can cut off endless branches but the tree goes on growing. Then I got down to the trunk. But then I realized that below the trunk, below the surface are the roots. And it’s the roots that keep the tree growing. And I began to find out that if you can deal with the root, then you don’t have any more problems. And I discovered in my personal observation, [this is a matter of observation, it’s not a matter of theory,] the main root of demonic problems is rejection. The deepest wound of the human heart is rejection. And countless, I would venture to say, millions in the United States today in some degree are carrying that inner wound. Why didn’t my parents love me? Or does my father really love me? And, in many cases, this affects their relationship with God. Even if they become Christians they’re still not really sure of God’s love because they’ve never known what it is to be sure of a father’s love.
Now I have but three more things to say, time is moving on. But I’m going to come to a very practical application. Let me first interpose two more things, then I’m going to come back to this question of rejection and I’m going to tell you the remedy. And I’m going to read a letter from a young woman who found the remedy.
But let me say there is one major Satanic force that opposes fatherhood, maleness and therefore family. It’s a spiritual force and I call it Jezebel. Jezebel is a very, very significant woman in the Bible. She’s mentioned six times in the Old Testament and once in the New. She’s a type of something. I’d like to read just the first place in the Bible where Jezebel is mentioned. This could be a sermon on its own but I’m not going to try to do that. 1Kings 16:30–31. This is about the kingdom of Israel, the northern kingdom.
“And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him. [And that was not a little] And it came about as thought it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him.” (NAS)
That was his biggest error, he married Jezebel. And as a result of Jezebel’s influence, he turned away altogether from the worship of the true God of Israel to the worship of a false god. Study the events that follow, you’ll see that to all intent and purpose, Jezebel took over the running of the kingdom of Israel through her husband. She did not scruple to take the ring from his finger which was the mark of authority, sign letters with it. She was a murderess, she was a persecutor of the prophets of God. She destroyed all whom she could get her hands on. She was the number one enemy of the prophet Elijah. And even Elijah who could deal with eight hundred and fifty false prophets ran from Jezebel. When I saw that, it opened my eyes to the tremendous evil power that Jezebel represented. What does that power do? It does today what it did then. It emasculates males. Ahab, her husband, became a figurehead. She took over. There are two key words: manipulate and dominate. Where it can dominate it will and where it can’t it will manipulate. But it will get its way. It doesn’t emasculate males literally but it emasculates them in their two primary functions: husband and father. It removes their authority and makes them in a sense just like Ahab, a figurehead. As I see the situation in America today, that is our number one problem. It would be hard to find any areas which that force has not infiltrated. Wherever it works, the ultimate result is the breakup of the family. It may not appear to achieve that end, but it does.
Now, when Jezebel gained that position of power, God had one answer. What is God’s answer to Jezebel? It’s Elijah. God brings on his heavy artillery. I don’t suppose there was a more powerful figure in the Old Testament in a way than Elijah. God didn’t underestimate Jezebel. He knew what it would take. So wherever you see Jezebel you know you need Elijah. And wherever you find Elijah you know the problem is Jezebel. Now I say that for a reason because Elijah hasn’t finished. You can interpret this passage various ways, I’m not concerned which way you interpret it. But there is still more for Elijah to do. Let’s turn to the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5–6. These two verses in a way really to me are such strong confirmation of the inspiration of the Bible. This book was written many, many centuries after the book of Kings. And it was written more than two thousand years before our present time. And yet it relates so accurately to both.
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” (NAS)
And it would seem to be just a little before. In other words, it’s one major aspect of God’s preparation for the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.
“And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land [or the earth] with a curse.” (NAS)
So what is the great end time social problem? It’s fathers and children out of right relationship. What will be the result if that’s permitted to continue? What will God do? Smite the earth with a curse. That’s God’s estimate of the seriousness of that problem. What’s God’s answer. I will send you Elijah. What will he do? Turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to their fathers. And note it’s the fathers that need to turn first.
Fathers need to be awakened to their responsibilities. I want to tell you you can be the president of a bank, you can have a very fine handicap on the golf course, you can be the mayor of the city. But those are not your primary responsibilities. Your two primary responsibilities as a man are husband and father. And if you succeed in all the others and fail in those, you’re more of a failure than you are a success. And all the other successes cannot cover up those two basic failures.
Why did Elijah have to come, or does he have to come, or will he have to come? What’s the problem? Who’s at work? Jezebel. What did she do? She alienates fathers from children. She insinuates herself. She takes over in many areas of the male role. She breaks down the divine order of the family. That’s exactly where we’re at. Let’s be realists, let’s face the facts about Jezebel. If she gets at us she’ll kill us. She’ll destroy the church, she’ll tear the family apart, she’ll ruin your life. She’ll ruin the lives of your children. You might as well see the truth about her. And if you need to repent, repent.
Now, very briefly in closing I want to tell you the solution, God’s solution for the problem of rejection. The problem of rejection that stems initially from an unhappy parental background. It may not have been actively unhappy, it may have been passively unhappy. You longed for affection and love and security which you never had. You’ve gone through life with something missing deep inside you. The mark of rejection in a sense is like this: you’re always on the outside looking in. You wish you could be inside but you somehow never really believe you can get there. One of the problems of people who have suffered rejection is that they are unable to show love. The scripture says about our relationship with God, we love him because he first loved us. I believe psychologically that’s true. None of us can express love till we’ve received love. A child or a person that has not received love cannot express it. Even though they may feel it. I’ve dealt with many, many women, mothers, and we’ve traced this thing back from their mother to their mother’s mother to their mother’s mother’s mother and so on. It’s come down like an evil inheritance from generation to generation. This inability to be warm and outgoing and loving. And I’ve said to them, listen, at some point we’ve got to cut this chain, finish with it. Why don’t you be the one so that you can raise sons and daughters, particularly daughters, who will be able to love their children the way their children need to be loved.
Now, the great key is to understand that Jesus on the cross endured our rejection. He took our sins, he took our sicknesses, he took our pains, he took our curse. That maybe we know. But what may be news to some of you was it wasn’t all that that killed Jesus. Jesus died of a broken heart when his Father didn’t answer his prayer. He said, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And that he could not bear. So Jesus knew the absolute depths of rejection on the cross. I believe medically the evidence is very strong, he died literally of a broken heart. Why was he rejected? Shall I tell you why? That we might be accepted. He bore our rejection that we might have his acceptance. He dealt with the rejection problem by his death. We have to learn to pass from rejection to acceptance through the death of Jesus on our behalf coming to God, acknowledging him as our Father and entering into his love.
I’ll relate two experiences which probably say a lot more than words. About ten years ago I was in a camp meeting, I was the speaker at the meeting and I was on my way across the campground to get to a meeting. And I was in a hurry because I had to speak. And as I was going there was a lady going equally rapidly in the opposite direction. We basically ran into one another. After we collected ourselves and picked ourselves up she said, Oh, Mr. Prince, I was praying that if you were to speak to me we’d meet. I said, We’ve met, what is your problem? And I said, I can give you two minutes. Well, she began to speak and after about one minute I said stop, we don’t have any more time, I think I know what your problem is. I want you to follow me in a prayer. And in this prayer I said, now you say these words after me. And I don’t remember—“God, I thank you that I’m not rejected, that I’m not unwanted, that you love me, that you’re my Father, that I belong to your family, that heaven is my home, that I belong to the best family in the universe. That you really love me, you are my Father. Thank you God.” Having said that I said good-bye, I have to go. About a month later I got a letter from her, she described the situation, how it had happened and reminded me of it. She said I just want to tell you saying that one simple prayer has changed my whole outlook on life. I am a different person.
Now here is a similar testimony from a young woman who hears my radio program in another city. And it’s so well written that I just can’t improve on it. It describes the thing so very well. “I thank God for your radio ministry. Recently I listened to a tape that apparently was taped live sometime here in Kansas City. The tape was entitled God’s Remedy for Rejection. As I listened I realized that the rejection you spoke of had happened in my own life. Since I was eight or nine my own father has shown very little love for me and often what I interpreted as just the opposite. In more recent years since becoming a Christian, four years ago, I have often wondered why my whole Christian experience was on such an emotional roller coaster. I had not really realized prior to hearing your talk that I had never experienced the love of my heavenly Father or the peace or joy of Christ for any extended period. Even though my life has improved immeasurably since the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I now realize that something was missing. At the end of your talk you prayed and I prayed with you. I accepted God as my Father, I accepted his love for me as his child and I thanked him for it. I forgave my father [and mother as well to a much lesser degree] for all the love he didn’t show me. I accepted my place in God’s family and forgave my parents for being an only child. I thanked and I praised God, cried a little and I prayed a lot. And something happened. A peace and a joy settled over and within me. I began praying to my Father. Previously I always prayed to the Lord, or Jesus. I kept singing a song with the words I have a Father in heaven. I found that after the healing took place, the scriptures and prayer took on new excitement and new power. I have been struggling with both most of my Christian life. A week after my healing took place I was tested. While at my earthly father’s house I received what I interpreted as more rejection. For about two to three minutes I accepted this rejection and began to wallow in self pity. But then I remembered that I had been healed of rejection. So I removed myself from the situation a few minutes and once again thanked God for being my Father and for loving and caring for me. And once again I forgave my natural father. When I returned to the situation I was able to show true love for my father with no self pity and with the knowledge in my heart that I had a Father in heaven. Praise God.”
That really is so typical and so well expressed. My observation is that it relates in some way to the lives of maybe fifty percent of people in modern America. And if I were to estimate the percentage I would make it higher not lower.
Now you may be here today and as you’ve listened to me somehow or other you’ve been able to identify with what I’ve said about the lack of real father’s love. The lack of real security. And in many ways that’s affected your relationship with God your Father in heaven. You don’t need to be ashamed or embarrassed because it’s come about through a set of circumstances for which you were not primarily responsible. So I’m not pointing a finger or laying blame on anybody. But what I want to say to you is there is a remedy. If you can see that part of the atonement of Jesus and the climax of it was dealing with rejection. That he took your rejection that you might have his acceptance as God’s well beloved son. And if you will in faith accept this transaction, believe it in your heart and say it out of your mouth. I want to assure you on the basis of scripture and of personal observation he can solve this deep inner problem in your heart. I would like to lead you in a prayer before we close this meeting. I’m going to just lead you in these words. But address them to the Lord. And in fact, be more specific, address them to God the Father. Say these words after me. “Oh, God, I thank you that you are my Father. That you gave your son Jesus to die in my place, to bear all my sins, my guilt, my curse and my rejection. I thank you that Jesus was rejected in order that I might be accepted. That I might come to you, my heavenly Father, and really know that I’m your child. That I’m not unwanted, I’m not rejected, you’re not keeping me at a distance. You love me, you want me, you invite me to come to you. And I come to you now in the name of Jesus. I thank you I have a Father in heaven. I belong to the best family. I’m a child of God. Thank you father for your love. I love you too. Amen.”