Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Parents from the Bible who screwed up

For a number of years now, I have read through the Bible using The Daily Bible. Every year that I read through God’s Word, I am always amazed by the godly leaders of the Old Testament who failed miserably as parents. These men are some of the most celebrated heroes of the faith, men such as Aaron, Samuel, King David, and King Hezekiah. These men had very close, intimate relationships with God, but they failed to transfer their faith on to some or all of their children.

Aaron was God’s first anointed high priest for the nation of Israel, and yet his two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, disobeyed God’s instructions by offering “unauthorized fire” in tabernacle worship (Leviticus 10:1-3). As a result of their disobedience, God struck them dead right on the spot. I wonder if their disobedience was partially a result of watching their father create two golden calves and leading the Israelite people in worshiping them at Mount Sinai?

The prophet Samuel was the last judge of Israel before the time of the kings began. He was God’s special messenger to the nation as well as the one who anointed its first two kings – Saul and David. The Bible speaks negatively of Samuel in only one area – his two sons, Joel and Abijah. 1 Samuel 8:3 says, But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. Samuel is not blamed in scripture for the failure of his adult children.

King David was anointed king of all Israel because he was “a man after God’s own heart.” The Lord loved David and blessed his leadership in many powerful ways, but his family was a mess. Due to the consequences of David’s sin with Bathsheba and cover-up with the murder of Uriah, his family was plagued with one problem after another. David’s firstborn son, Amnon, raped his half-sister Tamar and as a result, his brother Absalom later killed him. This same Absalom was David’s third born son who committed a political coup and became king over his father for a brief time. One of David’s officials later killed Absalom in battle. David’s fourth son, Adonijah, attempted to interrupt the succession of the kingship from David to Solomon, and Solomon had Adonijah executed. Finally, King Solomon himself started out as a wise, godly king who ended up following after idolatry in his final years. As a result of his sin, God permanently divided the nation in two - Israel and Judah. And you thought that your family had issues!

King Hezekiah of Judah was perhaps the godliest king the nation had known since King David. Hezekiah had such a powerful prayer life that God spared Hezekiah from an early death (2 Kings 20:1-11) as well as spared the nation of Judah from the destructive forces of Assyria (2 Kings 18:17-19:36). After 29 years of godly leadership under Hezekiah, his son Manasseh became king. Manasseh was Judah’s most ungodly king. I wonder what happened?

So, what can we learn from these parental screw-ups?
  1. The failings of our children are not always our fault. Each and every one of us has a sin nature and a free will. I’m sure that we have all known incredibly godly parents who have watched in horror and devastation as their teenage or even adult children have rebelled against God. At this point, all we can do is love them to the best of our ability without accepting their sin and pray for them on a daily basis. Then, we must put our hope in God to work in their lives.
  2. When you are tempted to sin, remember David's one night stand. King David's family paid a very high price for his one night with Bathsheba. When the temptation comes, be sure to run in the opposite direction. Be like Joseph, not David.
  3. Our children are always watching us. You know the old saying that “actions speak louder than words.” It’s vitally important that our Christian walk lines up with our talk. We must live out our faith in front of our kids because they are looking to us as an example on how to live.
  4. Quality and quantity time with our children is extremely important. These four men had extremely demanding ministries. Their free time was most likely limited due to their various leadership responsibilities. I’m sure that they all desired their adult children to follow after God, but desire is not enough. You must work hard at it. You must spend a lot of time with them and love on them.
  5. We cannot rely on others to raise our kids. Just taking our children to church a couple of days a week and having them involved in other spiritual pursuits is great, but it’s not enough. We have to teach them our faith on a consistent basis while we are with them. Be on the lookout for teachable moments and insert Biblical truth into your conversations.
  6. Fathers must be engaged in the parenting process. Dads are supposed to be the spiritual leaders in the home. Unfortunately, due to the high demands on our time and energy in the workplace, we end up many times sacrificing our families on the altar of success. The price is a high one that will affect both parents and children for a lifetime. Sometimes, we need to make hard choices and sacrifice the good for God’s best.
  7. Intention is not enough. Having a goal of raising godly children is a noble one, but it’s not enough. Every day, you must be moving in the direction of that goal. Advanced thought, planning, and action are required.
I don't know where you are today in your level of parenting. Perhaps you are right at the beginning with a newborn baby, or maybe your children are already grown and gone. It’s never too late to make a fresh start. Be real with your kids. Admit your failures. Love them. Ask the Lord to help you on your journey.
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