A Fathers Hope
Text: Genesis 11, 12
Proposition: A father has many hopes but the greatest of them all is that he would be a man who is all of what God intended him to be.
Introduction: The role of a father is one that God is very familiar with. He has established this as the primary relationship that He has with Jesus within the Trinity. By extension through Jesus He also is our heavenly Father to everyone who believes in Christ for salvation. When a person is born again this is the beginning of knowing God as their heavenly Father. But so crucial is this role of father, God has also set men in this role over families and communities and even nations. Sometimes what is implied through the term ‘father’ is that they are the eldest, sometimes it infers leadership and even the role of being a guardian. So the meaning of being a father didn’t just begin with a biological necessity, the big strong one goes out and brings back meat, the small, soft one cares for the children. No, fatherhood began much further back before the world or mankind was ever created. That pre-existent fatherhood had a design in it, had a hope at the center of it. If you think about it today, there is within every fathers heart a particular hope that has many facets to it. It is fashioned after the way the Father in heaven knows and relates to Jesus. There is joy as He beholds the Son, there is expectation as He commands the Son, there is love as He upholds the work of the Son, there is timing and wisdom and wonder and even expectant hope. There is beauty, strength and courage, just as there is gentleness, peace and grace, all this and much, much more characterize the fatherhood relationship within the Trinity. So it should not surprise us when these very same hopes manifest themselves in our experiences of fatherhood. They are there by design so that in their expression they point to the One who designed them. What if we were to take one example of being a father from the pages of the Bible, what might we expect to see? The examples are many, but let’s begin with one who has been called the father of a nation, even the father of all the people of Israel… Abraham. Turn with me to Genesis 11.
I. Fatherhood to God Is Not So Much About History As It Is Faith.
There is a great patience with God the Father that I know is meant to characterize the patience we are to have as fathers. The genealogies help point that out. When you read Genesis 11:19-26, you see this record of fathers and their first born sons. It begins with the history of Shem, one of the three sons of Noah from whom the earth was repopulated after the flood. If you do the math you’ll see that Shem was still alive when Abram was born. The collective wisdom and knowledge would compound amongst these peoples yet in their wisdom, which God reckoned that, “now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them…”, there was neither obedience nor faith. The experience of Babel was something that Shem experienced and perhaps something that he lived to tell all succeeding generations. It was 9 generations later that Abram is born and for the first recorded time since the flood God speaks directly to man. Great history had ensued, 390 years of time had passed since the birth of Shem and mankind had been divinely dispersed over the face of the earth, but it was faith that God valued more than history. Fathers, know that history, whether it’s your history or your sons history, is not what matters most to God. Faith, living faith in God Almighty, is more important than history.
II. Fatherhood To God Is About Learning To Follow As Much As To Lead.
So Terah was about 70 when Abram was born and he begins to lead the family out of Ur of the Chaldeans in order to move them to the land of Canaan. Ur of the Chaldeans was On the Euphrates River close to where it flows into the Persian Gulf. He makes it as far as Northwestern Iraq, to a place called Haran. It is here where Terah dies after a prolonged illness and it’s here that Abram learns to follow at a new level. He had followed his father as most of you have followed yours. Abram had followed the model of being a patriarch, of caring for family even if it’s not your family. He had followed for 75 years and now being almost middle age (he lived to be 175, Gen.25:7) he was about to become the new leader of the family, and not just the family but even a nation! But now he must learn to follow God. Let’s be real, God dealt with Abram in a very unique way that is certainly different from the way that you and I have experienced. This being said, we too do need to learn to follow God and there can be similarities. Consider these:
1. The challenge of obedience. God calls Abram to go and yet does not give the destination. Obedience will always be challenged by pragmatism, is it a wise thing to obey this command of God? I can only imagine how Sarai responded, or Lot and all the other people with them. Perhaps the test of faith is the way that it recognizes logic and yet moves forward with a greater conviction of the unseen. Obedience is the first response of faith, it is a learning opportunity that demonstrates leadership.
2. The challenge of risk. As fathers you will know the challenge of risk because it presents a loss/gain equation in front of you. You let go of the familiar in the hope, which is cleverly disguised as a risk, of greater gain. You’ll do that with your daughter who demands greater freedoms at 15, you’ll do that with careers, with every step of godliness. To leave your country, your family, your fathers house…that was risk. To move towards the unknown but sure promises of God, to be in pursuit of God’s blessing, to be the vehicle by which others might be blessed…that was gain. The challenge of risk will always test where you have placed your trust. Can God indeed take care of you, will He more than replace what was lost with gain to His glory? These are also part of what it means to learn to follow before you lead.
3. The challenge of being unique. I think there is in all of us the desire to want to just blend in, to not stick out in a crowd. Perhaps that’s part of a conservative nature, perhaps that’s part of how we would express humility. But to think that God would choose you, to bless you, to bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, that is a unique identity.
It was what God declared to Abram, it proved to be true as God protected him, even against the foolishness of Abrams own schemes, like when he pretended Sarai was his sister in order to keep safe, twice he did that! When God said to Abram, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”, that was a most extraordinary statement. It referred to the wonder of what God would eventually do through father Abraham, the lineage of Jesus Christ coming from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Judah…to Jesus. Perhaps the challenge of being unique is the most difficult because we know that we have not merited it or earned it. It is extended to us by grace that through faith in Jesus Christ we have become the most unique beings in all creation and we are that way that He would bless others through us. His glory is that we would be most satisfied in Him, even in the acceptance and expression of being unique in Christ.
III. Fatherhood To God Is More About Sacrifice Than Success.
Perhaps the most famous of all stories about Abraham is when he was commanded to take his only son Isaac, born when Abraham was 100 years old, to take that son and sacrifice him as a burnt offering to the Lord on a mountain top of Moriah. The name Moriah means, “chosen by Jehovah”, it was the same place that Solomon built the temple. It would be the place where Jesus, the ‘chosen by Jehovah’ would be sacrificed for the sin of mankind. God knows much as our heavenly Father about sacrifice. God knows that sacrifice is really all about substitution, where one lays down his life for another. For all fathers there is a drive to be successful, from success comes respect, from success comes security and power. But when it comes to raising your children success is not the measuring rod. God does not call us to be successful parents, he calls us to be faithful parents. There is so much that is beyond your ability when it comes to the life of another. You are not called to be a successful husband, you are called to be a faithful husband. To be faithful will require sacrifice, it will require laying down your life, your preferences, your rights for the benefit of others. The cross of Christ benefits us eternally, benefits us to the depths of an absolute righteousness. We benefit because Jesus sacrificed and that at the will of the Father. So what is the hope of a father? A father has many hopes but the greatest of them all is that he would be a man who is all of what God intended him to be. It is a father who knows faith is more important than history, who has learned to follow God so that he can lead others, who has come to see sacrifice as being of much greater value than success. These are a fathers hope.