Why God Needs Fathers
Dr. Jim Denison
A father came home from work to find his little girl brushing the dog’s teeth with his toothbrush. He was horrified, and asked her what she was doing. She said, “Oh, don’t worry, daddy, I’ll put it back like I always do.”
Fathers deserve a day.
You’ve heard the bad news about men and fathers: one in two American children is growing up today in a home where their biological father is not present; just a quarter of adult men attend church regularly; only slightly more ever read their Bibles; only a third even claim to be “born again.”
The clear pattern from years of family counseling is that a bad or absent father can harm the education, personality, vocation, and future of his children. For example, almost all the members of Chicago’s street gangs come from homes with inadequate fathering.
Here’s the good news: it has been proven that good fathering strengthens children and homes in every way. Self-esteem and individual identity, definition of purpose and direction, a basic sense of worth all derive first in a family from good fathers.
A child psychologist spent years studying the faith of children and comparing it to their relationships with their fathers. Here is his famous conclusion: “No child will think more of God than he thinks of his own father.”
What an awesome responsibility, and privilege, we have been given!
What would Joseph’s father say to all of us who are fathers, and all of us who are the children of fathers? Here’s the basic point of our study today: where the father goes, his children will follow. Let’s see if this is true for Jacob and for us, and what it all means to our lives and families.
An example to study
Jacob’s story is one of the real roller-coasters to be found in the word of God, and his family rides every up and down with him. His name means “deceiver,” and his story proves its accuracy.
He is born the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, one of the greatest men in all of Scripture.
But he plunges quickly into family deception. As a young man, he cheats his brother Esau out of his birthright, and later deceives his blind and elderly father into giving him the blessing his brother deserves. As a result, he must flee from his brother for his very life, and runs to his uncle in faraway Mesopotamia.
Now things move up, however. On his way to Canaan, God finds Jacob at a place called Bethel. The Lord reveals himself, and covenants to bless him and his posterity.
But soon he slides down again into the depths of deceit. His uncle deceives him into marrying both Leah and Rachel; he tricks his uncle and increases his herds and possessions; finally he runs from his uncle as he ran from his brother.
But again God finds him, this time at a place called Peniel. He wrestles with Jacob until daybreak, and changes his name from Jacob (“Deceiver”) to Israel (“One who wrestles with God”). This is in many ways the high point of his entire story.
Now the slide begins again. His daughter Dinah is defiled by a man named Shechem; then his sons deceive the Shechemites and kill them all. Jacob says to them, “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land” (Genesis 34:30). But they are only following their father’s example, going where he has led them.
Finally Jacob returns to Bethel, where he first met God. Here he leads his family to rid themselves of their foreign gods, builds an altar to the Lord God, and worships him. And again, his family follows him.
But the downward plunge comes again. Now Joseph’s story begins. Is it any wonder that his brothers would enslave him and lie to their father? Any wonder that this family would spend twenty years in dysfunction and pain? What their father was, they became. Where he led, they followed.
But God is good. He restores their family through Joseph, and preserves Jacob’s nation and people. Along the way, he gives us an example we can learn from today.
Where the father goes, his children usually follow. Now, what does this fact say to us today?
Principles to practice
Be what you want your family to become. Hear the word of God: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
And then this text: “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” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Lead your children as God leads you.
A father decided to stop drinking the day he staggered home through a snowfall, turned, and saw his little boy walking in his wandering footprints in the snow.
Be the spiritual person you want your children to become. If your family grows to be exactly what you are spiritually, will that be a good thing? The chances are that they will.
Give your family the time love requires. Hear the word of God: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “Training and instruction” refer to the idea of nurturing love, of time spent in the things of God, of time invested in their lives and souls. Love takes time. For children, the two are synonymous.
A priest surveyed the children in his parish, asking them which they would choose: time with television or with their father. 92% chose time with their fathers.