Adam was the first father. He had one son kill another. Talk about a family feud. I wonder what he said to Cain when he left home to get away from his reputation?
Noah had three sons. They apparently helped with the 100-year-ark-building program and stuck by the old man during the year on the ark (the other choice involved a lot of treading water). But after the flood was over, Noah got drunk one day and made a fool of himself. One of his sons saw him naked, so Noah cursed his son by cursing his grandson. Grandson: "Why doesn't Grandpa like me?" Dad: "Well, he was passed out from drinking too much, naked as the day he was born "
Abraham sent his first born (Ishmael) away, because his first wife made him. It was easier to make the boy and his mother pay the price of his poor judgment than fight with Sarah, his first wife. Abraham was ready to offer his second born, Isaac, as an offering to God until God stopped him. That made for awkward family memories: "Remember the time Dad almost killed you as a sacrifice?"
Isaac had two boys as well, twins. He learned nothing from the mistakes of his father. He too favored one child over another. When he mixed up the blessing meant for the first born, Esau, giving it to Jacob, the younger, he made no attempt to reverse it. He figured he would just let them fight it out, which they did. For decades.
Jacob had 12 boys from two wives and two concubines. You thought your blended family was tough. He favored one of the boys, Joseph, over the others. His brothers had enough of it and sold their brother into slavery. Sure, it turned out God was working the whole time to save Jacob and his family, but still, the relationships were strained. After their father died, the brothers went to Joseph, who was a pretty high-up politician in Egypt, and said, "Dad said not to kill us." That's a pretty low bar for family ties. If someone had ever asked Jacob how to have a close-knit family, I think he would have said, "Danged if I know how."
Manoah waited a long time to be a father. When an angel told him he would be a dad, he asked for advice about how to raise the boy. He wound up making sure Samson never cut his hair, but he gave in to every demand his son made. He was a classic enabler. Maybe he should have asked for a spine instead of wisdom.
Samuel put his sons into the family business of leading God's people. They absorbed none of their Dad's preaching. They were supposed to be assistant judges but turned out to be judges for sale, ready to sell a decision to the highest bidder. It must have broken their Dad's heart, what with him being a preacher and all.
Saul hated his son's best friend, David. The boy drove him crazy - literally.
David had a son rape his daughter; then another son killed the rapist son, and then the killer son rebelled against his dad. The whole thing turned into a war. When his son is killed, David weeps, maybe because he realized he'd been such a lousy dad. For a man after God's own heart, his heart had to hurt because of the way his kids turned out.
Solomon had so many wives and concubines he could hardly remember their names. Must have made for awkward family meals: "Now are you the son of wife number 178 or wife 231?" If therapists had existed in those days, I can imagine one of his sons saying to his therapist: "My dad didn't even know my name!"
I don't know about you, but compared to these guys, I'm looking pretty good as a Dad.
Why so many stories about failed fathers in the Bible? Because none of us can be the perfect Dad. We can do the best we can, but at the end of the day, we aren't perfect, and we can't control our children. It turns out that everyone is responsible for their own choices, their own decisions.
In the Bible, there is one perfect Father. So, on this Father's Day, if you are a Dad, accept His grace and ask for His help. Stop trying to be the perfect Dad. Admit your mistakes. Your kids aren't dumb; they know sometimes you just mess up.
And cut your Dad some grace as well. He wasn't perfect. No matter how bad he wounded you, try to remember he is a flawed person. If you need help giving that grace, there is a Heavenly Father who can help you. He's the only Dad who ever had a perfect Son. Because of their perfect relationship, your relationships can be better. They will show you the way.
The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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