Are you familiar with the final words of the Old Testament? A book primarily known for a passage of Scripture used in virtually every sermon on the tithe in its final sentence holds a challenging message for fathers …
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:1-6 (ESV)
Just in case there is any confusion over the word lest let’s wordsmith that last sentence …
And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, for fear that the Lord come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.
There is a New Testament counterpart to the above …
Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart … Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Colossians 3:20-21,23-25 (ESV)
Exasperate has several definitions: make very annoyed or frustrated, make furious, make worse. Synonyms include: aggravate, exacerbate, incense, infuriate, worsen.
Let me share a few U.S. Census Bureau statistics for 2011 with you … there are 11.7 million single parent families (with 24.7 million children) in the U.S. 85.2 percent of those single parent families are led by single mothers. 45 percent of those single mothers never married while 55 percent are divorced, separated or widowed.
Can you think of any greater exasperation for a child in a single parent family than to have their heart turned to a father (read that last verse of Malachi again) who has chosen or refused to have his heart mutually turned to their child … who is not a loving father to his children? Such exasperation does indeed cause a child to lose heart (see Colossians passage).
Some disclaimers … single parent families are not the sole domain of unloving fathers who have chosen or refused to turn their hearts to their children … also many a divorced and separated father continues to be a loving influence upon his children in the midst of divorce or separation … and finally many a single mother has done an incredible job of raising their children with little or no support of the children’s father.
Both the Malachi and Colossians passages above indicate the consequences for fathers who do not have a loving heart connection with their children …
Lord, help me not to exasperate my children and grandchildren … help me to be a loving father and grandfather with a real heart connection with my children and grandchildren.
May your will, plan and purpose be fulfilled within my family!