Marriage was the first institution created by God, that is, bringing a man and a woman together as husband and wife. The partnering of a husband and a wife, a man and a woman, formed the building blocks for the family unit. The head of the family unit as ordained by God is a father and a mother. In God’s economy both are vital but the burden of responsibility for family leadership falls on the man, the husband, and the father.
According to Scripture the roles and responsibilities of husbands and fathers is clearly outlined.
- Genesis 2:24 & Ephesians 5:22-23 – Husbands are to be the head of their households (To be clear, husbands are not to be dictators, but rather leaders who work collaboratively with their wives for the good of the family. God holds the husband personally responsible and he is accountable to God for ensuring that the family lives and operates within the will of God)
- Ephesians 5:28-29 – Husbands and fathers are to provide for the physical needs of the family
- Proverbs 22:6 & Ephesians 6:4 – Father’s are to train and instruct their children (Here again, husbands work with their wives in providing training and instruction to their children. However, God holds father’s personally responsible and accountable to make sure that what children are being taught is in accordance with the principles of godly living.)
When we examine Scripture we discover that the roles and responsibilities of husbands and fathers are closely linked and parallel those of Old Testament Priests. In the Old Testament, priests were not self-appointed, but rather they were chosen. Here we see one of the parallels between the priesthood and fatherhood, it takes more than desire to become one. One of the issues facing the family today is that when people get tired of being a parent, they just stop parenting or they become part-time parents. Men who were called by God to the priesthood were selected to serve God with and for their entire lives by offering up sacrifices. Similarly, fatherhood is a calling that lasts for the duration of a father’s lifetime. Fatherhood is a calling to a lifetime of sacrifice.
The duties of priests fell under three main headings:
i) Service in the tabernacle/temple – This included leading worship and ministering to the needs of the people
ii) Teaching of the law – Providing the people with instruction from the Law of God for the purpose of life application
iii) Prayer – Seeking the knowledge of God’s will for guidance and direction especially when the nation was facing a major decision
When we compare the roles and responsibilities of husbands and fathers as outlined in the above Scriptural passages with the duties of priests the parallels become clearly apparent. The one conclusion that I believe we can draw is that father’s are God’s appointed priests for the family.
As we turn our attention to the book of Proverbs, we are greeted by two little words (my son) that are repeated 22xs throughout the 31 chapters that make up the book of Proverbs. In each instance the words, my son, appear in the book of Proverbs a series of teachings follow. In each occurrance the words, my son, appear they are the words of a father speaking to his child. The repetition suggests God places a premium on parental instruction and especially that of the father.
Verse 1 offers some valuable information regarding the content of what is to be taught and one of the challenges to providing instruction. There are two words that we need to zero in on in verse 1, the words forget and teaching. The word forget means to ignore or cease/stop following. This is a caution to the children, but it is also a challenge to fathers and mothers. Children, and one commentator remarked especially teenagers ignore and stop following the teachings of both their mothers and their fathers. This is a reality. I believe it is called teenage rebellion. It is marked by a time with the same adorable, little boys and girls that we used to bounce on our knees will flat out let us know that we are out of touch and they are able to make their own decisions. The teenage years are a make or break time for many families. It is during this time that many families breakup or many others are drawn closer together.
The word teaching means to provide instruction. It has the idea of parental guidance and direction. The Hebrew word is To-ra (Torah). The Torah is the Jewish book of God’s revealed instructions to God’s people. The Torah teaches how to act, think, and feel about life and death. The primary source for teaching is God’s word (the To-ra) everything else is only for reference. One of the questions that must be posed to both fathers and mothers is, what is the primary source you use for teaching your children? I would submit to you that there are some really good parenting books on the market, but there is also a lot of garbage out there too. The most trusted primary source material is the To-ra, the Word of God.
The truth is that fatherhood and being a father is not an easy job. More often than not, it is a thankless job. Unlike Mother’s Day where women are exalted, revered and we stop short of giving them wings and watch them fly away. Father’s and the role and contribution that godly father’s make to the home and society is largely understated and overlooked. Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a middle aged man who went back after twenty plus years to see his old high school coach. The man told the coach that he wanted to thank him for four words that forever changed his life. The coach had no idea what the man was talking about. The man went on to say that one day during practice over twenty years ago he had messed up on a play and one of the assistant coach’s began to berate him, curse him and humiliate him in front of the entire team. About the time the man had made the decision to give up on football and go hang out with a gang, his coach stepped in between the man and the assistant coach. The coach faced the assistant coach and said to him, coach’em up not down.
Today, I want to coach father’s up not down. I want to remind father’s that you have been chosen by God for the special purpose of representing God to your family and your family to God. You have been chosen by God to be God’s priest to your family. The fact that you through biological means fathered a child or children was a privilege extended to you by God and with that privilege comes the responsibility of serving your family, teaching your children, and seeking knowledge of God’s will to guide and direct you as God’s priest to your family.
In an effort to coach you up and not down, I want to give you some guiding principles to help you fulfill your role as a priestly father.
1. Instruction needs to be repetitive – The writer reminds us that children forget. They have built in forgetters and therefore, we need to be prepared to repeat ourselves over and over and over and over…again.
2. The instructor needs to be patient – Remember children forget. In fact, as we begin to enter our second childhood you will notice that we become forgetful too. It is important to keep in mind that some things take a little longer to learn and remember than other things. Rather than become exasperated with children who appear to be not as swift as we would like, try another approach. May be the problem is not with the child, but with the way we are communicating information.
3. Instruction needs to be age appropriate – A pastor and his two sons where at a retreat. One of the young boys was playing at the edge of a bank and below was a river. The pastor looked over his shoulder and noticed the boy getting dangerously close to the edge. He shouted at the top of his lungs, “get off the bank.” The little boy continued to play. The pastor ran over grabbed the boy by his arms shook him and broke off a switch from a nearby tree and began to apply the rod of correction to the seat of understanding. Afterwards, he asked the little boy if he did not hear him when he said, “get off the bank.” The little boy with tears in his eyes said, “daddy what is a bank?” The smaller the child the simpler the information should be so that it can be absorbed and understood.
4. Instruction includes words and actions – The most impactful instruction children receive is from watching their parents. Boys and girls learn from their father’s self-determination, integrity, and the importance of family, honor and good name.
5. Instruction needs to aim for the heart, not the head – Head teaching produces knowledge. Knowledge is the amassing of information and while you may know all there is to know, do you know what to do with what you know. Instruction that aims for the heart produces W, U, A – wisdom, understanding, and application. Wisdom and understanding comes as a result of learning how to use the information you have amassed or acquired.
6. The way to the heart is through situational instruction – Fathers and mothers must see every opportunity as a teaching moment. Walking and riding in the car, on the bus or train, sitting at the dinner table, and even the most casual of situations can all be opportunities for instruction and learning. Going through situations children encounter and experience frame by frame helping children to identify things they handled well and things they could have handled better.
What is the motivation for becoming a priestly father? Proverbs 17:6 says, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” What greater motivation than to know that if you and I follow the pattern and model outlined for the priestly father we can expect:
a) To be blessed with godly grandchildren
b) To raise children that will honor and never forsake us