Command your children to keep the way of the Lord…

We live in a spiritually soft age. That God uses means, particularly a child’s father’s commands, is understood today to be a betrayal of God’s grace. Yet, when it comes to soccer or SAT scores we readily understand the necessity of commanding our children. “No pain, no gain,” we tell them. Meanwhile, we make no demands on their conscience because we’ve been told that doing so will lead them to a mere outward conformity and no further. The message we are teaching our children is that sports requires discipline, obedience, rigor while the spiritual life is one of unprovoked, spontaneous, soft emotion. We no longer speak of the spiritual disciplines.

We’ve come to believe that when it comes to sports and academics our children will come to see the necessity of hard work and discipline, and, in the end, will enjoy the fruits of such discipline. But, when it comes to the spiritual life, the pursuit of God, the keeping of the way of the Lord, any rigor, any accountability, any discipline is a sure way to make our children hate God. The antinomians have won the day.

Read Genesis 18:19: “For I have chosen him (Abraham), so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

If those words had not been inspired by the Holy Spirit we’d be inclined to dismiss them as legalistic and harmful. But there they, exhorting fathers everywhere to command their households to keep the way of the Lord. It takes faith in God’s means to do that, especially when we’ve been taught to stay silent, to manipulate rather than command, to convince rather than exhort. Not so when it comes to football: 2-a-days, strict diet, proper hydration, watching tape, learning from mistakes, cardio work-outs, weight training, “rub some dirt on it and get back in the game, boy!” Sunday rolls around and Johnny wants to stay home from evening church: “OK, son. Rest up for next week’s practice.”

We are to command our children to keep the way of the Lord. This way comes with a playbook that must be studied and memorized, spiritual disciplines, weekly meetings, continuous prayer, working out (our salvation with fear and trembling), buffeting (our bodies to make them our slaves), law to be kept, confessions to be made when unkept, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, single-minded devotion to Jesus Christ, Savior of sinners.

Fathers, your children need to hear your commands to keep the way of the Lord. What you command is what you believe to be of ultimate importance. God has made you a father, a man in authority. Use that authority to the glory of God.

Here’s some sobering help from men who did not suffer from the softness of our era: Continue reading

"'I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.'"

Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land (1 Kings 17:1-7).

Like a scene from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, birds fly provisions to a man on a dangerous mission. But what we have in Scripture is no fairy tale, unless we take Chesterton’s definition (“Fairyland,” he said, “is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth…”.) which, like much of Chesterton’s writing, I don’t understand and, yet, know it is right…

Ravens, by God’s command, delivered provisions to Elijah the prophet. King Ahab was deepening Israel’s idolatry (1 Kings 16:31-34), so Elijah’s first work was to announce God’s punishment for that wickedness: “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” After speaking God’s Word to King Ahab, God tells Elijah to hide himself. Twice each day while he is exiled to the banks of the brook Cherith, the ravens—an unclean beast (Lev. 11:13-19)—arrived with meat and bread for the exiled prophet.

As you worked through your Scripture reading, did this wonderful demonstration of the power and kindness of God stand out to you? Perhaps because of magnitude of the works of Elijah (raising the widow’s son from the dead; mocking, dominating, and finally killing the prophets of Baal) that follow, we overlook the miracle of the ravens. Or perhaps we are conditioned to be dismissive of Scripture’s miracles. Let this one sink in…

I imagine Elijah laughing with joy the first time these skittish, awkward black birds landed close by and hopped toward him with beaks full of fresh bread and cooked meat. He’d never experienced anything like this, and he probably got all mixed up and thanked the birds for their delivery. Thanksgivings probably dribbled out of the sides of his mouth as he laughed and chewed and swallowed and sang. What a powerful confirmation of God’s fatherly care!

How many lessons can we learn from such a miracle? Well, here are a number from Matthew Henry, who has no trouble giving attention to this overlooked passage… Continue reading