It Takes a Man to Be a Father
1 Kings 2:1-4
Dr. Jim Denison
I can prove that fathers need a day like today. Consider some school-age children’s’ answers to the following questions:
What did your mom need to know about your dad before she married him? She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer? Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?
Who’s the boss at your house? I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.
What’s the difference between moms and dads? Moms work at work and work at home, but dads just go to work at work. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power ’cause that’s who you gotta ask if you want to sleep over at your friend’s.
How did your mom meet your dad? Mom was working in a store and dad was shoplifting.
But there’s good news as well.
A priest surveyed the children in his parish, asking them which they would choose if they had to—television or their father. 92% said they’d take their dad.
Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg has published The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting. Here’s number one: “What you do matters.” Research for the last 60 years has drawn this consistent conclusion: parents have a profound effect on our children’s emotional, social and intellectual development.
What do we do with this role, this responsibility, this privilege?
Teach your children
David is about to die, to “go the way of all the earth” (vs. 1-2). So are we all. Every day is another day closer to death. We begin to die from the moment we are born.
What do we do with our approaching death? Leave a legacy of faith for those who will follow us. For fathers, this priority is first and foremost with our children.
“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” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Thus David “gave a charge to Solomon his son.” “Charge” speaks to the significance of these words. This father did not merely suggest or encourage—he challenged, even required, that his son heed these words. This is the word for a general to his soldiers, a president to his cabinet, a CEO to his associates.
This was David’s practice, as he assumed responsibility for his son’s spiritual life and growth. Solomon would later remember, “When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them” (Proverbs 4:3-5).
We must hand on to our children than which has been given to us, while there is still time. There is urgency in this. What have you “charged” your children to believe and become?
What to teach your children
“Be strong” (v. 2a). The word means to be steadfast mentally, physically and spiritually. This speaks to who our children are—strong spiritually, in the Lord.
Moses to Joshua, his “son” in the faith: “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance” (Deuteronomy 31:7).
We are to say the same to our children in the faith. God expects us to encourage them spiritually, to do all we can to help them grow closer to Jesus. If we provide for them financially, materially, and educationally, but do not help them grow spiritually, we have missed our highest and most eternal calling.
“Show yourself a man” (v. 2b).
“Show yourself”—make public your private faith and commitment.
Show externally the reality of your internal faith. Be sure others see Christ in you, through you. We can measure our success as fathers by the degree to which others see Christ in our children.
How do we encourage such spiritual growth? “Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses” (v. 3). In other words, teach our children to live in the word and will of God.
This is for all people, not just Solomon: “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13, emphasis mine).
For all times, not just Sunday: “Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always” (Deuteronomy 11:1).
Despite the prevailing culture: “Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 18:30).
Are you a man of spiritual strength and maturity? Does your family know it? Are you teaching them the word and will of God? When last did you spend time with your family in prayer and Scripture? When last did they see you make decisions based on prayer and Scripture? When last did you lead them to make such decisions together?