We have seen so far how favoritism from Isaac and Jacob wrecked havoc on families and how David failed to interfere with his sons when they needed discipline and correction. By not interfering, David sowed the field for future heartache when two sons tried to overthrow him on two separate occasions. Neglect is also a theme in another famous Old Testament father by the name of Eli.
Eli was the high priest of Israel and a great man of God. He must have been very proud watching his sons attempt to carry on the family legacy by becoming priests like him. Sadly, his sons did not turn out to be men of God, but were “wicked men; [who] had no regard for the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:12) God dealt with Eli and his family severely, “For I [God] told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them…” (1 Samuel 3:13)
Eli was evidently fully aware of the greed and corruptness of his sons, yet he failed to take any appropriate action to try and rebuke them. Their actions were devastating to the ministry since each son was a prominent priest and were setting a poor and harmful example for the people. Even though Eli was a great man of God, his failure as a father brought a curse upon his family for generations to come. God considers the mission of fatherhood to be more important than any other type of earthly accomplishment. A man can become a great business or civic leader, a coach influencing the lives of many young people, or a minister tending His flock, but the most important ministry and the one God places as man’s highest priority is his family.
Tragic errors were made by notable fathers of the Bible. The consequences which followed proved to be dramatic turning point within each family. Each story proved these men were human and were capable of sinning just like us. God’s love and mercy is shown by how He still used each man to carry out His will, even through their sinfulness. In the midst of tragedy and triumph, the Old Testament provides wonderful and encouraging stories of successful fathers. Mordecai and Abraham are two examples of how fathers can influence their children to do God’s will and demonstrate God’s love to us.
The story of Esther provides an inspiring example of a young women’s undeniable commitment to faith and the ability to trust and use her circumstances to accomplish God’s will. She creatively masterminded a plan to expose Haman’s evil plot to destroy all the Jewish people in the land. The man behind the scenes was Esther’s father, Mordecai. Several years before, Mordecai adopted his young cousin after his aunt and uncle died. A powerful father-daughter relationship ensued. He raised her to be a beautiful and godly young lady, eager and ready for God’s special service. Esther became Queen of Persia and continued to seek and accept her father’s wise advice. Mordecai uncovered Haman’s plot and encouraged his daughter to cleverly interact on behalf of the Jewish people. Throughout the book of Esther, you can sense a strong and trusting relationship between Mordecai and his adopted daughter. God’s plan for Esther and the Jewish people was planted and took root in Mordecai’s efforts to be a good father.
Abraham represents the most dramatic illustration of a father’s obedience to God. Abraham and Sarah spent many years longing for a child. Not until they lived well past their child-bearing age did God miraculously bless them with a son whom they named Isaac. When Isaac was still a boy, God called on Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son as a testimony to his faith. Abraham readily offered himself as a sacrifice instead, but God declined. The dreaded moment came to carry out God’s command. Abraham slowly and painfully drew his knife to slay his young son until God abruptly stopped him.
If God called on you to sacrifice your young child, would you obey and be willing to follow through? I’m sure we would all be like Abraham and plead for God to take us instead. Maybe God is calling right now on fathers to do just that — to sacrifice. Are we willing to place ourselves on the altar and sacrifice our worldly pursuits of material wealth and self-fulfillment on behalf of our children? Are we willing to commit ourselves to spending less time at work and more time at home; less time on hobbies and more time playing with our kids? I believe God is calling on men to sacrifice. And fathers have to decide whether it will be us to make that sacrifice or our children. It is either one or the other. An evil world awaits our decision and ready to grasp a hold of our children and lead them astray if we fail to follow through.
God’s call for fathers to sacrifice is not unlike the sacrifice He made for us. Abraham had the willingness to sacrifice his one and only son and was stopped. God, however, followed through on his willingness by stamping the seal of death on His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and allowed Him to die a tortuous death on the cross. A sacrifice made in place of us — A sacrifice given to forgive all our sins. The ultimate sacrifice any father can appreciate.