How many of you grew up hearing just the first few words of Ephesians 6?
Children, obey your parents …
Some of us heard those words often. But rarely did we hear the rest of the passage – especially verse 4:
Fathers, do not exasperate your children;
instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
We were given only half the story. At least half the time we disobeyed, it was because our parents were so exasperating.
You can hear it, can’t you? “When I was your age …” or “There’s nothing wrong with a B in Algebra, but you can do better,” or “If all your friends were jumping off a bridge …” You know – exasperating.
But verse 4 does more than just warn fathers not to provoke their children; it also commands fathers to bring them up to know the Lord and what the Lord asks of them.
Happy Fathers’ Day, Dads – your gift today is a serious job to do.
If you are already doing it, God bless you. But for many of us for too long, we have dumped the responsibility for the spiritual training of our children onto the Moms.
Even though we see throughout God’s Word that is the Father’s duty.
The key verse in all of Judaism since God’s people were on the way to the Promised Land is Deuteronomy 6:4:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
This little verse set the Hebrew people apart from all their neighbors by declaring that there is only one God, and that He is their God, and then He added that they were to love Him with all of their heart, soul, and strength. This was so important that God gave specific instructions to His people to make sure it was never forgotten. Verses 6-8:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Although God does not say specifically that this order is for the fathers, the men were the ones who had time to walk along the road, talking about spiritual matters. The men were the ones who wore the phylacteries on their foreheads and their upper arms – little leather pouches with the Shema written on parchment inside. They were the ones who nailed the mezuzahs on the doorframes – again with the Shema inside.
Some fathers took their responsibility seriously. We heard this morning in Psalm 44, written by the Sons of Korah:
We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago.
The psalmists were speaking of stories of deliverance, stories of God’s provision, stories of God’s faithfulness. The plagues in Egypt. Passover. The parting of the Sea. Water from a rock, manna, and quail. The Promised Land. The Judges. The Kings. Victory over enemies. And after hearing those stories, our passage wraps up with verse 8:
In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.
That is the result of fathers telling stories to their children – the faith is passed on to the next generation, and that generation worships God.
Some of us were blessed with fathers who loved to tell stories. As kids, you may have heard about coming to America, or living through the First World War, the Great Depression, or World War Two. And where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated, or when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Or how they met your mother, and what it was like the day you were born.
Those stories are important, because they give you a sense of where you came from. And the funny and touching stories enable you to see your parents in three dimensions.
But the most important were the stories of faith. Where your parents went to Sunday School and worship – and who took them. Being in Christian Endeavor. Going to camp. Singing in the choir. Taking a mission trip.
How they came to faith in Jesus. Their baptism, if they were old enough.
Our Baptist sisters and brothers might disagree, but even the stories of baptizing babies help pass along the faith. Infant baptism is a sign of our faith in God’s covenant with us. So when we tell our children the story of our baptism and their baptism, they can see God’s covenant faithfulness playing out in the generations of our families.
Even more important are the stories of God’s power in our lives. God’s provision in hard times. God’s faithfulness when we were not faithful. How we struggled with and overcame doubt. How God wove the events of our lives into a beautiful tapestry for His glory and our good.
And stories like these must be passed along to your children – and grandchildren – and beyond. Especially you, Fathers. Ignore the rolling eyes. Ignore the “Not again, Dad”.
The stories you tell the next generations are vital. For the same reason that Hebrew fathers were commanded to impress them on their children – so that the generations to come will realize God’s love and faithfulness, and will worship the one true and living God.
If you won’t listen to me, then listen to Crosby, Stills, and Nash:
You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.
And so become yourself because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they pick’s the one you’ll know by.
Dads – if you love your kids – and you want them to love Jesus – tell them your stories of faith.