It is wonderful to be a father! It is true that there is heavy responsibility attached to it. It is not an easy task. The challenge of rearing, guiding, molding, shaping encouraging, and building character in children is rewarding. Helping children become useful citizens brings a singular joy.
The Old Testament records the life of three men who had heart-breaking experiences with their children. These men did not fail in business, their professional careers, or in their personal spiritual lives, but they experienced heartache as fathers. What they did that was right we need to emulate. We should learn from their mistakes. Bear in mind, though, that their sons made their own choices in spite of the training they received from their fathers. This month's article focuses on two of the three men. Next month we will conclude by examining the third.
Eli was the first man to serve as both priest and judge in Israel. His sons, Hophni and Phinehas, however, were wicked men who did not follow the righteous example of their father. These men were worthless and wayward (1 Sam. 2:12, 16-17). They were the "Elmer Gantry's" of their day being guilty of open immorality (1 Sam. 2:22-23). Without doubt, these sons will be personally accountable to God for the decisions they made in life (Ezek. 18:20). However, Eli failed them by not rearing them properly. He was like many parents today and did not administer proper discipline while the boys were growing up (1 Sam. 3:11-13). I am sure he loved his sons and, perhaps, did not consider the exercise of discipline to be a manifestation of love. But, proper discipline is a high form of love. Even God disciplines those whom he loves (Heb. 12:6). Will we love our children with the love of Eli or the love of God? Effective discipline gives constructive guidance.
Samuel ranks high among the great men of history. He was the last of the judges and the first of the great prophets of God. His mother, Hannah, made a vow that if God would bless her with a son she would devote him to the Lord all the days of his life (1 Sam. 1:11). He received some excellent spiritual training from Eli, but his sons, Joel and Abijah, were a great disappointment to him. Their wickedness and lack of leadership created a national revolt (1 Sam. 8:1-5). Samuel's busy schedule probably prevented him from giving his sons the daily guidance they desperately needed (1 Sam. 7:15-17). Many fathers today feel that they must establish their career, run their business, and work extended hours to the neglect of their family's needs. The "demands of the job" as well as social and community obligations have created a situation where children spend more time with passive babysitters than with participating parents. Effective leadership in the community and in the church is directly correlated with leadership ability manifested in the home (1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12). How much quality time do you spend with your children?