This morning I am going to start a two part series in which I address the role of a father and the role of a mother in the family. There are two reasons that drive me to this topic this morning. The first is that we are leading up to a time when we will all commit to and sign a copy of our church covenant. And one of the statements on our covenant is that “We will strive to bring up our children and any under our care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Therefore, I thought it would be good for us to look at these two roles from a biblical perspective.
The other reason is that back on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we were going through a series of sermons on our vision and so I just burrowed through those days without a mention about fathers or mothers. And, as many of you may remember, I assured you that before the year ended I would address these topics. Therefore, though I believe these messages are crucial in understanding that to which we are covenanting, I must also admit that I am trying to fulfill a promise while the end of the year is approaching more quickly than I was prepared to handle.
The text which we will look at this morning to see the biblical perspective on this topic is Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This passage is the heart of the Old Testament, for when Christ repeats this command in the New Testament, he says that all the law and the prophets hang on this command and the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself. And I also think that it lies at the heart of the examples the bible gives to men as to how to be godly fathers.
Therefore, I am going to look to this text and illumine for you qualities and disciplines that I believe it gives us that godly fathers should possess.
1) A godly father is a man who knows God and delights in God more than he knows and delights in anything.
Isn’t that the command that is given to all of us in verse 5? Therefore, fathers are no exception.
They should love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and might. I have summed up this command for us by saying that he should know God and delight in God more than anything, for I think that hits at the very essence of this command.
The danger of saying such a thing and using such a text is that often we have grown so familiar with such statements that we miss the weight of that calling. I believe this command demands that we know God better that we know anything—anything! What I mean is that knowing God is not something that simply pastors or other church staff should do. This is the responsibility of all of us, especially fathers. A father is to know God intimately and genuinely, not just about him.
The father is also to delight in God. I believe that delighting in God, above all else, is the absolute peak of fulfilling the purpose for which we were created. Everything in your life should be a drive to delight in God above all else, for only by delighting in God above all else will God be exalted and glorified above all else in your life. If you do not do many other things, that will work against you being a godly father, but if you do not do this one, you utterly disable your chance of being the kind of father that God intends for you to be. You must delight in God.
There is nothing that I will say today, or ever, or that anyone else will say that is more important than what I am saying to you right now. You need to know God and delight in God more than anything.
So, let me ask you then, do you know God better than you know the Dallas Cowboys (or whomever you cheer for), or cars, or sports, or television, or whatever? Do you strive to know God better than you know those things? Do you spend more time seeking to know Him than you spend time seeking to know those things? And then at the same time, can your children say of you that your utmost delight is God? Do you enjoy God? Has your life been captivated by pursuing your pleasure in God above everything else? I cry out, and (even unknowingly) your children cry out for a dad that can answer “yes” and is striving to answer “yes” to all those questions. Are you doing many commands without striving to fulfill the greatest one, namely, that you love the Lord with all your heart, and soul, and might? I believe that is the epitome of the very core of a godly father. If anyone were to say anything about him, their first thought would be to say, “He knows God better than he know anything, and he finds more joy in God than he finds joy in anything. I have never known such a passionate obsession with God.” Ensure that your kids can say that about you at your funeral.
2) A godly father hides God’s word in his heart.
In verse 6, God tells Israel, “And these words which I am commanding you today [to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might], shall be on your heart.” I take this to mean much the same thing as what the psalmist was saying when he said, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11).
A godly father needs to spend time in meditation, study, and memorization of the word. I guarantee that I will say this again, but the channel for gaining a holy delight in God is meditation on the word of God. I put meditation on the word before study of the word. The reason I say that is because meditation on the word of God is actually the best key for studying the word of God. Read over it slowly and stop and think on it, and ask God to open up your eyes. I remember being blown away when I heard John Piper say of the Puritan John Owen, who had written seven volumes of commentary on the book of Hebrews, that prayer and meditation were his greatest study tools. I find it amazing because so often I am tempted to blow over the text and immediately pull all my tools off the shelf and go to work—and I think I am being responsible.
And, as I said, meditation is not only good for study but is the channel through which God gives to us a holy delight in him. If the goal of every one of us is to gain our highest and holiest affection for God, then meditation on his word should be the means that every one of us are taking to get there. Put truth in your head and then pray, “God, do not let my heart be unmoved by this.” There it is: prayer and meditation.
And another important reason that you need to spend much time in meditation, study, and memorization of the word of God is so that you may avoid sin. When these words are on our hearts, it’s as if we have armed ourselves for whatever will come along in the day. The Psalmist said that he treasured the word in his heart in order that he might not sin against God. Isn’t this what Jesus had done in Luke four, responding to Satan every time saying, “It is written …”? Do not come up with a philosophy for avoiding sin and think you are better than Jesus. You need to treasure the word in your heart so that when you are tempted, it just comes pouring out like an overflowing cup. I would ask you two things to drive this point home. First, think of that temptation which you seem to succumb to most often. Now, let me ask you, “How many passages of Scripture do you have memorized that directly address this temptation?” Next, “How many times when you are tempted with this particular thing do you quote Scripture right from the very outset?”
The word is our sword. We are no better than Jesus, and he quoted the word when he was tempted. Don’t you think we should do the same?
Finally, you need to treasure the word in your heart in order that you might teach the word of God to others. And that is the third feature of a godly father.
3) A godly father teaches and loves the word of God over his children.
Verse 7 says, “And you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” A godly father is constantly talking about and teaching from the word of God. This is a call that goes out to every father.
Packer writes in "A Quest for Godliness" about the father in a Puritan household, “The head of the house must conduct family prayers twice, take the family to church, and examine and catechise the children and servants afterwards to make sure that they had thoroughly absorbed the sermon” (pp.241-242). And lest we think that we might come close to that in a week’s time, Packer was just talking about what they did on Sunday.
I think it is a beautiful idea for the father of the house to take notes on the sermon in order that he may go back home with his family and re-teach it as he sits around the table, making sure that all the rest of the family understood it. We should not sit as if we are helpless in the matter, hoping that our children are gaining a knowledge of God on Sunday morning. Teach them on Sunday afternoon what was taught on Sunday morning.
And I know that some of you men may say, “Well my wife is smarter and understands the Scripture more, and I read horribly and slowly.” Listen, your responsibility as the head of the household is only to lead your family to God. It may be that you say, “Alright kids, we are going to sit now and talk about the sermon this morning,” only to pray, let one of them read the Scripture, and then explain the things together with your wife. The man does not have to do everything, just lead your family in that, even as Christ led the church to the Father and eternal life.
And let me exhort you in one other area along this line. Never, never, never let your teaching of the word of God to your family be dead and boring. What I mean is rejoice over the word of God as you teach your children.
Every Sunday and Wednesday, I have a two-fold purpose when I stand up hear to preach the word. The first part is to teach the word. I want you to understand more of God, and your purpose, and what we can see from the text. And the second part is to create in you a love for the word of God. Therefore, I pray before I preach that God would allow me to love the word of God over you and rejoice in the word of God over you. I want you to see how much joy and holy affection I find in the word of God. I love it. And I long for you to love it as well. Therefore, I strive to let you see my love for learning more of God through his word, even as I exhort you to do the same. Love the word of God over your kids. If you do, no matter what they say, you will be planting a seed of delight in God’s word right in their heart. They will want to know what about the word you find so delightful, and they will go there to find out.
Teach and love the word of God with your family.
4) A godly father strives in everything he does or thinks to bring glory to God—and to create a household with that same purpose.
I think that is the idea of verses 8-9 as God says, “And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Why did God want them to put this command to love God on their hands and their heads? I think it was in order that every time they reached to do something with their hands, they would see it and be reminded of what should be their purpose in everything they find to do. And, likewise, they put it on their heads to remind themselves that every thought they have needs to find its end in bringing glory to their God.
Also, I think verse 9 should lead us to understand that the fathers were not only to be doing this for themselves, but ensuring that the entire household was about the same thing.
Fathers should create an understanding about their lives and lifestyle that everything this family does has its end in the glory of God. Fathers should make the longing of their hearts that their children and everyone under their care would know why they were created and long to fulfill it in everything. Your children should not simply ask you why they have to learn math, and science, and writing, and foreign languages. Instead, your children should be able to say, “Dad, I know that everything we do is for the glory of God. That is why we exist. And you have shown us by all that you do and say that your entire life is about that. So, what does learning science, and math, and writing, and foreign languages have to do with bringing glory to God?” That is asking a question from a foundation that godly fathers should be establishing in the home.
And what do you answer? You tell them that you learn those things in order that they may better understand and communicate how glorious our God is. You tell them that they need to learn the things of science to understand God’s creation. They need to learn how complex our galaxy is, how large it is (though being small in comparison to God),the massive number and size of the stars in it in order that they might better understand how majestic God is when he says in Isaiah 40:26, “Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name.” They need to understand what happens for the leaves to change colors, fall off the trees, and grow back again in the spring in order that they might marvel as they read in Daniel 2:21, “It is He who changes the times and the seasons.” They need to understand the logic presented by mathematics in order that they may understand the logic of the promise given in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all. How will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” They need to know how to write well, and they need to know English and other languages because they have an infinitely important message-the gospel-to communicate to every tongue and tribe and nation in order that they may join in His praise.
That is how a godly father thinks and speaks. And that is the kind of atmosphere that a godly father builds in his home. His children know that whether he eats, or drinks, or whatever he does, he is doing it for the glory of God. He knows and delights in God above all things. He hides God’s word in his heart. He teaches and loves the word of God over his children. And finally, everything he does and everything he is about is bringing glory to his Lord.
So I ask you fathers this morning, “Is this a picture of you?” Are you a godly father, teaching your children to value God and make God supreme in all things? Or is this a message that you need to pray would sink into your heart change you from who you are now? It is not too late to become this kind of father (or grandfather or great-grandfather) now. Therefore, I plead with you, wake up each morning and hit your knees in prayer, realizing the magnitude of the task that lies before you each and every day.
And in all things, hold on to the truth that his grace will be with you always. Amen.