May 31, 2011
THE FATHER OF MANY NATIONS
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God intends for every family to gather together in the Lord Jesus Christ for teaching, prayer and worship. Each father, as spiritual head of the family, has a duty to command his children to follow God. As we consider the verses below, keep in mind that the Hebrew term “father” may include grandfather and great-grandfather as well. As we think about fathers, we will see the role that God intends every human father to fulfill.
God’s Covenant with Abraham. Abraham, originally named Abram, lived one hundred and seventy five years (Genesis 25:7). He was born in Ur of the Chaldees, apparently around 2165 B.C. God made a special covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, known as the Abrahamic Covenant. God promised Abraham that: (1) God would make Abraham a great nation in the land God would show Abraham; (2) God would bless Abraham; (3) God would make Abraham’s name great; (4) God would make Abraham a blessing; (5) God would bless those who bless Abraham; (6) God would curse those who curse Abraham; and (7) God would bless all the families of the earth in Abraham. Abraham was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:9-10). The Jews of the New Testament considered Abraham to be their father (John 8:39). Jesus, however, taught them that if they were truly the children of Abraham, they would do the deeds of Abraham, which they did not do (John 8:39). Furthermore, Jesus also taught that the true children of Abraham include everyone born of the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:16-17). God preached the gospel of salvation by faith to Abraham and selected Abraham and his offspring to bless the nations (Galatians 3:8).
For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.
Commanding Your Children. Today, we have many parents, and particularly fathers, who do not intend to exercise any control over their children. Some claim that they want their children to grow up and find themselves, without breaking their spirits, or being punished by their parents in any way. In contrast to some modern thinking, God told Abraham precisely how to raise his children. In fact, God chose Abraham for the purpose of Abraham to command his children to obey God. God commanded Abraham to command (“יְצַוֶּה“) his children. This term does not mean plead with or suggest to. It means to give orders as a farmer speaks to his laborers (Ruth 2:9), as Jesse directed his son David to take supplies to his brothers facing Goliath and the enemy (1 Samuel 17:20), and as a king commands his subjects (2 Samuel 21:14). This same term also described Moses conveying to the people the commandments of God (Exodus 34:34). In its broader scope, God created the world from nothing through His command (Psalm 33:9; Isaiah 45:12). God commanded Abraham to command his children.
Keep the Way of the LORD. God commanded Abraham to command his children to keep the way of the LORD. Let us focus for a moment upon this phrase the “way of the LORD” (Genesis 18:19). The way of the LORD is a stronghold for the upright, but ruin to the workers of iniquity (Proverbs 10:29). While every man views his own way as right, the LORD provides the good way, and weighs the hearts (Proverbs 21:2; Jeremiah 6:16). In the New Testament, we know that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and life, and no man comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). Righteousness guards the way of the blameless (Proverbs 13:6). In essence, the way of the Lord means the path provided by Him as He leads the way down the path of His righteousness. A man may choose to follow the way of life with the Lord Jesus, or turn to the way of death (Jeremiah 21:8).
Doing Righteousness and Justice. God always focuses more upon actions than words. Jesus said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). We know that we walk in the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice (Genesis 18:19). In this verse, God highlights righteousness. This term for righteousness signals that even Abraham found righteousness with God by faith alone (Romans 4:9-15). The application here means that fathers must teach their children about salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, and the spiritual life based upon faith righteousness. Righteousness refers to a quality of Yahweh that means upright, morally and ethically perfect. Notice the verse speaks of “doing.” We walk in the way of Yahweh by doing righteousness. Fathers teach their children by doing, that is, by example, and also by teaching with words. In addition to salvation, and the entire spiritual life of righteousness based upon faith, God also commands fathers to teach their children about justice. The righteous rejoice in justice and it refers to doing the correct thing before God (Psalm 32:11). You can wear justice as a robe (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10). God repeatedly placed a duty upon fathers, as spiritual leaders of the family, to be sure their children followed Christ. In the New Testament, God included even Gentiles in the promise of salvation made to Abraham: “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, and heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). Just as God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, so we Gentiles have been brought into the family of God (Romans 4:16-18). As children of Abraham, we should do the works of Abraham, including the obligation to learn righteousness and justice at home, from our fathers (John 8:39).
The Duty To Command Adult Children. In Genesis 18:19, God commanded Abraham to command his household. When we think of household, we may be thinking of just a few people, such as minor sons and daughters. The household of Abraham, however, included his son Ishmael, all the servants born in his house, all who were bought with his money, and all of their children (Genesis 17:23-27). In fact, when Abraham had to rescue Lot, the number of his trained men, born in his house, numbered three hundred and eighteen (Genesis 14:14; compare the household of Esau, which included more than his wives, his sons and his daughters, Genesis 36:6). In fact, the households of Jacob and Esau had been so great, they were unable to live together (Genesis 36:7; see also Genesis 46:26–the sixty-six people who “belonged” to Jacob when he went to Egypt). Although sons may have their own households, to the extent they still live with their fathers, they remain in a sense part of the household of the father. In any event, we see that the fathers had a duty to command everyone who lived in their household to walk in the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice.
So we learn more about fathers and their role in daily devotions.
● Being a father in Christ means that we have a duty to command our children.
● Being a father in Christ means that we deliberately influence everyone in our household to do righteousness and justice, and so walk in the way of the LORD.
● Being a father in Christ means we exercise spiritual responsibility for every person who lives in our household, even adult children with their children. Fathers must be strong spiritual leaders for Christ in the household.
Application for Today
God chose Abraham to command his children to walk in the way of the Lord Jesus Christ. Family devotions present a great daily time for fathers to read the Word of God and teach their household the commands of God, and then back it up with the father’s command to follow God’s command, by walking in the way of the LORD. We see that God has long-range plans for His people, and He uses fathers to influence their entire households. Fathers set the spiritual tone in the household. Although I have no physical children, I appreciate the role God has set for all fathers. All of us have a duty to fathers, to encourage them to command everyone in their household to walk in the way of the LORD, doing righteousness and justice. Will you live as a spiritual father today and command everyone in your household to walk in the way of the LORD today? Will you encourage a father to command everyone in his household to walk in the way of the LORD today?