Pastor David B. Curtis

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An Exhortation to Fathers

Psalm 37

Delivered 06/21/1998

A well known feminist leader has said, "fathers are a biological necessity, but a psychological absurdity."

From the standpoint of God's word, and the evidence of a great deal of research that has been done recently, such a statement is an absurdity. Dads have a vital role in bringing strength and stability to the home.

Today, children who live in single-parent homes have increased 300 percent. But even when both parents are physically present, the father and sometimes the mother as well, are often spiritually and psychologically absent. This coupled with other factors have had devastating results on the family.

Another alarming statistic is that crime among the very young (7-12 year olds) has increased a whopping 60% in just the last few years. Why has this happened? There are many reasons, but one of the major causes is the breakdown in the home, and this includes the failure of fathers to take the responsibility for the spiritual leadership of the family according to the guidelines of the Word--giving, loving, serving, caring, and strong leadership.

Scripture and history show us that as goes the home, so goes the society. And generally speaking--as go the fathers, so goes the home. The moral and spiritual condition of the society is always the offspring of the family.

William Wordsworth wrote, "The child is father of the man," meaning the experiences which occur in the early and formative years of a child's life, the experiences of home, shape the character and behavior of tomorrow's adult. And as that is true of the individual, so it becomes true of an entire society including, of course, its leadership.

The future of their children is perhaps the uppermost thought in the minds of most parents. Each parent hopes that every child will grow in character and citizenship; get along with friends and associates; and make an honorable place in the world.

Most thoughtful parents want their children to know about God and moral living. But somehow in the hustle and bustle of life, they never get a chance to take stock of where such training will come from. They think if they send them to Sunday School, that will do it, but that involves only one hour out of 168 hours in a week. But there is a place that has a great deal more impact than any other in society due to the dynamics involved--if those dynamics are utilized. Where is that place? It's the home--the place where life makes up its mind.

Psalm 78 addresses the importance of the home and the vital role of parents, especially fathers. This is a psalm of instruction covering Israel's history from Egypt and the Exodus to the time of David. It records the failure of the people of Israel, but it also records the steadfast faithfulness of the Lord and His wonderful works and mercy. Ironically, one of their greatest failures was their failure as parents.

In Psalm 78, we have the words of Asaph, a contemporary of David, who longs to be heard because he is speaking an important word from God to God's people, one that is absolutely essential to the preservation of society and the purpose of God's people in society.

Psalms 78:1-2 (NKJV) Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,

This Psalm begins with an invitation to "listen." "Listen" is the Hebrew azan which means to "hear, listen with understanding," and then "to be obedient, hearken."

The Psalmist is speaking, but he is speaking for the Lord. Ultimately, this is God's instruction and God's word to His people.

A parable: A parable is an illustration by comparison, or explanation by illustrations of comparison. In other words, the author takes a common experience of life or an event of history and brings it along side and uses it to teach a spiritual lesson or truth. God's past dealings with Israel, as summarized in the rest of this Psalm, form a parable of spiritual instruction full of lessons for God's people of all ages.

Old Testament history of God's dealings with Israel is revelatory, full of spiritual truth that needs to be understood and applied to our own lives.

By observing God's gifts and faithfulness; His mercy, love, power, and grace, and the way Israel failed regardless of their privileges, we can learn much that is essential for our own spiritual edification and warning.

Psalms 78:3-4 (NKJV) Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.

Ultimately, as verse 5 shows us, this tradition of truth had its source in God's Word, but as the verses below will stress, the most effective way to communicate God's truth for maximum impact on children is when it comes through the parents.

The more parents teach their children and fortify their instruction by godly and loving lives, the better. Sunday school teachers and pastors were never meant to be substitutes for a mother's tears and father's prayers. Why? Because parents have the opportunity, as no one else, to be models in living color, of both attitude and action, of those things they seek to communicate.

When Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton University, the father of one of his students said to him: "Why is it, Mr. President, that you do not make more out of our boys?" "Because," Mr. Wilson replied, "they are your boys."

Verse 4 tells us that when we fail to communicate God's truth to our children, we are guilty of hiding from them the most important information in the world. We are like someone who knows where there is water, but refuses to reveal it to someone who is dying of thirst. That is nothing less than a monstrous crime.

By our own indifference to the things of God, by our preoccupation with the pressures of life; by our materialism; by our failure to get real in our walk with the Lord; we become guilty of concealing God's truth.

The psalmist teaches that this is one of the greatest missions of God's people. Indeed, we have in this one of the great commands of the Bible--the command for parents to teach their children and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Deut. 4:9; 6:6-9; Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4).

Psalms 78:5 (NKJV) For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children;

This stresses that God has clearly revealed Himself in an inspired, authoritative, and infallible document; God's Word to Israel through Moses. In other words, they were not following cunningly devised fables or the mere traditions of men. And neither are we. What they had to offer to their children was nothing short of a miraculous Word from God designed to protect them and their children from the many deceptive counterfeits that were being offered by a world.

Further, this stresses two great needs and responsibilities we have as believing parents:

(1) We must put our trust in God's Word above the ideas of men for all areas of life, including the raising and training of our children.

(2) But if we are going to do that, we also need to communicate the character of the Bible as indeed the Word of God; an objective, inerrant, infallible guide and authority that always takes precedence over the ideas of men and the world. We must guard against elevating the ideas of men, whether psychological or philosophical, above the authority of the Word. The need to be on alert to this has become even more important in our day of secular humanism and human psychology where the ideas of men are raised to the level of the Scripture--or far above it.

Psalms 78:5-6 (NKJV) For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; 6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children,

These words pinpoint the primary procedure God uses to effectively communicate His Word, generation to generation. This is the most effective way for children to truly come to know the Scriptures. Other agencies may help in this process of communication, such as a Christian school and the church, but the primary means established by God is the home under the godly influence of a godly father and a godly mother.

Obviously, this includes both parents working together, but God places the responsibility for this directly on the father. Men, to a certain extent, God holds us responsible for the spiritual condition of our families. Too many men are abdicating or ignoring their responsibilities as Fathers.

1 Timothy 5:8 (NKJV) But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Providing for your family, however, means much more than simply putting bread on the table. It includes the provision of all the elements of a Christ-like home: teaching and modeling God's Word in an atmosphere of love, grace, patience, loving discipline, understanding, and encouragement. This would also include modeling biblical values, priorities, and pursuits.

When we think of providing for our children's needs, we often think of material provisions, or a college fund, or braces for their teeth. But do you know what a child's greatest need is? In the series "Growing Kids God's Way" Gary Ezzo says this, "One of the greatest emotional needs a child has is the need to know that Dad and Mom love each other. Fathers, the best thing you can give your children is a loving demonstration before their little eyes of how much you love their mom." Children need and thrive on the demonstration of love between parents. Much of a child's basic security depends on what he observes between his mother and father. Ezzo goes on to say, "If you love your children, you must make the husband-wife relationship a priority. More important than anything you can buy or do for your children is to let them know that Dad loves Mom and that Mom loves Dad."

Note that we are told in verse 6 that we need to train our children not only that they may know God's truth, but that they may, in turn, pass it on to their children yet unborn, that they may arise and tell them to their children.

This stresses the goal of our instruction. Our goal is faith, personal confidence in the living God. We want obedience in our children. Not the obedience of rigid legalists, but the obedience of personal faith, faith in the reality of God who has worked marvelously in history to reveal Himself to man through the Word, and the person, and work of Christ.

But please note the connection between confidence and remembering the works of God. Having confidence in the Lord is vitally connected to knowing, remembering, and believing that God has worked in history, first in creation and then in the historic acts of God recorded for us in the Bible. This connection is important because it means that He is still at work carrying out His purposes in history.

These verses teach us: If the fathers are not truly godly, the chances are neither will the children be. Children are born with sinful natures, and unless they have the godly influence of parents who are themselves faithful, obedient, and walking with the Lord, their children will go the natural way of their sinful natures. Dads, our children are greatly influenced by us. Look with me at:

Exodus 34:6-7 (NKJV) And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation."

This verse is speaking of influence. The father's influence on their children. Fathers, we influence our children and the influence we have on them will cause them to walk with the Lord or to walk away from Him. Are you influencing your children in sin?

Simonides said long ago that "the city teaches the man." He knew that Athenians were very different from Spartans, and he supposed that the influence of Athens upon its citizenry was different from that of Sparta. He noted that life is molded by environment; we are shaped by our surroundings.

Of all the environmental influences which play upon a growing life, none is so effective as the home, and none so strong as the Fathers.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) Home is the first school the child knows, and it leaves its mark upon him as long as he lives.

Colin Powell's father, Luther, often made friends of total strangers. It did not matter who you were, you were always welcome at Luther's home. Colin Powell's wife, Alma, tells a story uncanny in its similarity. The Powell family was holding a small birthday party for Colin at the official residence of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when a family member answered a knock at the front door. Two young men who identified themselves as Special Forces troops from Fort Bragg, NC, were passing through Washington and wanted to meet their hero, General Powell. "We're having a family party right now," the relative told them. "Perhaps you could come back a little later." The two men thanked her, turned on their heels and strode down the walk. "Who was that?" General Powell asked. When he found out, Powell burst through the door after the servicemen. Within minutes, the two young sergeants were inside the house, enjoying the party.

Fathers have a tremendous influence in the home, whether for good or evil.

We need to influence our children far more by how we live than what we say. One day a father was trying to inspire his son to greater achievement in school. He said, "Son, do you know what Abraham Lincoln was doing when he was your age?" "No sir," said the boy, "but I know what he was doing when he was your age!"

Not only do the fathers influence the children by their lives, but the Bible shows us that God deals with the family based upon the father's relationship with Him. This is a staggering thought. Look with me at:

Hebrews 11:7 (NKJV) By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

I want you to see here the result of Noah's faith. Noah acted in faith and saved his household. The word "saving" here is the Greek word "soteria." It is used here in the sense of deliverance. It is referring to deliverance from the flood.

Listen up men! Noah's faith preserved his entire house from destruction. The Bible says nothing about his wife's faith, or his children's faith. His faith saved them.

We have become so infatuated with individualism that we find this hard to understand. But in the ancient world, when the head of the family acted, he did so for the whole family. All through the Bible we see God dealing with families based on the faith or unbelief of the head of the family. In Joshua 7, we see this in a negative way.

Joshua 7:1 (NKJV) But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel.

Achan sinned and it effected all of Israel. Thirty-six men died in battle because of Achan's sin. When they found out that it was Achan that sinned, look what happened.

Joshua 7:24-25 (NKJV) Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day." So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.

Achan sinned and his whole family paid for it. Fathers, think about this. This is a very sobering thought. How is your sin effecting your family? This idea of the father's sin or righteousness effecting the whole family is seen all through the Bible.

Joshua 24:15 (NKJV) "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Joshua not only states that he would follow the Lord, but so would his family.

Leviticus 20:3-5 (NKJV) 'I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. 4 'And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he gives some of his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, 5 'then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.

God tell Israel that if a man see's another man sin and doesn't deal with it, then He would set his face against that man and his family.

Judges 1:23-25 (NKJV) So the house of Joseph sent men to spy out Bethel. (The name of the city was formerly Luz.) 24 And when the spies saw a man coming out of the city, they said to him, "Please show us the entrance to the city, and we will show you mercy." 25 So he showed them the entrance to the city, and they struck the city with the edge of the sword; but they let the man and all his family go.

This man helps out the children of Israel and saves himself and his family from death.

1 Samuel 25:17 (NKJV) "Now therefore, know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him."

This evil man was bringing destruction against his family.

2 Samuel 6:11 (NKJV) The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.

God not only blessed the man but all his family also.

Acts 16:31 (NKJV) So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Acts 16:34 (NKJV) Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Not only did the Philippian jailor come to faith in Christ, but so did his household.

Acts 18:8 (NKJV) Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

If these verses say nothing else, they say this: Men, as the head of our households, we can protect our families from the destruction that sin brings by living a godly life in fellowship with the Lord. Men, are you protecting your family by your godly life? Or are you bringing them into destruction?

In order to influence our children in godliness, we have to spend time with them. Some reports suggest that the average father spends less than seven minutes a day with his children. Excessive fatherly absenteeism is a problem in most families. When Billy Crystal's daughter turned 11, Billy was in New York filming a movie. He called her, apologized for his work schedule, and said a package would be delivered soon. He then flew from NY to LA. Later that day when Lindsay opened the front door, a six foot high carton greeted her and she began ripping it open on the spot. Dad was inside the carton. Billy said, "She hugged me for five minutes. It was unbelievable." He went on to say, "I missed 25 birthdays with my dad. I'm not going to let that happen with my girls." Billy was 15 when his father died of a heart attack. Billy understands the importance of spending time with his children do you?

Fathers, we cannot lead our children any further than where we have gone ourselves. This is a basic truth-- if we do not have a living and vibrant relationship with the Lord, how can we ever expect our children to?

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