Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

Faltering Father, Faithful Father


"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant that I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
Mark Twain

Being a father is often a struggle between saying and doing just enough to help your children, without them knowing it.

I have three kids - ages 14, 17, and 20. I love them dearly, and I want them to feel supported and cared for, but I also recognize my responsibility to guide them and assist God in molding them into His image. Especially during the teenage years its often difficult to know when to let them discover the wisdom of life on their own, or when to spare them the pain by telling them what they should do.

I lost the parenting handbook somewhere in the delivery room of my first child and I've been trying to find it ever since. I have role models - one especially that comes to mind is Bob Tucker. Bob died when I was in my freshman year of college - but I admired his style of parenting - the humor, the wisdom imparted so easily - yet the strong devotion to God. I think we all benefit from father role models.

This weekend we celebrate father's everywhere - and you know there are some great father role models in the Bible. But today I wanted to talk about an anti-role model - someone who we can gain lessons about what not to do in order to be a good father.

1st Samuel 2 Eli

I feel sorry for Eli. He served as a priest for the Lord shortly before Israel's first king. When we first see him he's old and he's fat. Perhaps too many days eating the fat of the sacrifices and sitting on his rear end.

Eli had two sons: Hophni (fighter - rebel), and Phinehas (mouth of a serpent). These two boys were a parents worst nightmare.

First they were PK's - preacher's kids. They followed along in their dad's footsteps, serving as priests of the Lord. But something was terribly wrong with these boys.

Vs 12 says they were "wicked men who had no regard for the Lord."

They demonstrated this in many ways - including the fact that they would have their servants take a fork and stick it into the bubbling cauldron of sacrifice and take out whatever juicy piece of meat they wanted. If someone brought a sacrifice they would force them to give up a piece of raw meat - and if the person refused they would take it by force.

They also seduced the young women that worked at the Tent of Meeting.

Eli knew something was wrong - at one point he says to them: "23 Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the LORD's people. 25 If a man sins against another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?"

The boys didn't listen - and Eli did nothing to stop them. So one day a man of God stops by and basically rebukes Eli saying: "29 Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?' 30 "Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: 'I promised that your house and your father's house would minister before me forever.' But now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained."

He tells Eli that Hophni and Phinehas will die, both on the same day.

And they do - these boys had so little regard for the Lord that when a battle against the Philistines went south they brought the Ark of the Lord out to the battle, thinking that the Ark would somehow save them. Instead the Philistine's captured it and killed them.

Now you've got old fat Eli, sitting by the side of the road, worrying after his boys, but again, doing nothing to stop them. When he hears that they are dead he falls over in his chair and breaks his neck.

So what happened? And more importantly, what lessons can we as fathers learn about raising our own children from this tragic story?

There are clues as to why Eli's boys went bad.

1- Eli listened well, but failed to speak in time.

o How aware are you of what your sons and daughters are up to?
o Do you talk to them, do you know their friends?
o Do you know where they go and what they do?
o And when you hear things, what do you do?
o Instead of sitting in a chair worrying, Eli should have been on his knees praying.

2- Eli was both priest and parent, but relinquished both roles

o Eli should have set the standard for behavior on the job, instead he allowed the wickedness of his sons to infect him - he ate the choice bits of meat his sons stole from God's sacrifices.
o Eli should have been an example morally for his boys - but instead they ran rampant with sexually immorality.
o You set the standard of behavior in your home - what sort of standard is it?

3 - Eli heard the warning but didn't heed it.

o Even when a man of God warned Eli that he was on his way to destruction he did nothing to stop his sons behavior from worsening to the point of losing the Ark of God.
o What do you do with what you read in the Word, hear from godly men and women, observe in your children's lives?

There was another person in Eli's life - not his son by birth, but his son by proxy. As a young boy, Samuel came to live in Eli's house.

As a man Samuel chose the first two kings of Israel, including David - ancestor of the Messiah.

So what was different about Samuel?

1. Hophni and Phinehas grew up stealing from God and fooling around in the entrance. Samuel, it says in Vs21: "But Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord."

2. Samuel, it says, "ministered unto the Lord before Eli the priest" even as a boy. "Ministered" means: "to attend as a menial or worshipper, to wait upon, or to contribute to."

3. Samuel's spent his formative years with God

4. Eli modeled to him how to worship and serve the Lord.

5. Samuel was a "faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind." The key with Samuel was faith. Hophni and Phinehas didn't have it, Samuel did.

So how can we apply this to our own jobs as fathers - as parents, really?

There is a key for us in raising our own children as fathers found in the verse I just mentioned.

o Do our children grow up in the presence of the Lord? Do we bathe them in the Word - not formal Bible study necessarily, but the "as you go" kind.

o Do we communicate to them what is in both the heart and mind of God? Not just the external behavior, but also the internal transformation of character.

For a look at the way we as fathers should behave - lets turn to Ephesians 6:4

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

o Exasperate - means to "anger alongside". The idea is that we are not to be such strict disciplinarians that we drive our sons and daughters to strike back.
o Instead be trainers and instructors
o Train means "child leader" or tutor
Figure out what kind of character the Lord desires, then emulate that to your children. Be a leader, not just a reactor - show them the right way.

o Instructor means "to call attention to"
The idea here is of a mild rebuke. We are not just to tell our children what is right, we are to point out when they go wrong - not wrong from what we want, but from what God wants.

You see, I think that was one of Eli's greatest mistakes, he didn't know what God wanted - made obvious by the fact that he took the meat obtained illegally by his sons. So he couldn't adequately rebuke them.

As fathers we have a special role in the family. Children look to their dads for role modeling, strength, stability, and direction.

You can choose to be a godly role model for your children - but if you don't make that a conscious choice, you are choosing to be a less-than-godly role model for surely the ways of the world and the messages of the world will overpower you efforts unless you invite the Holy Spirit to first cleanse and fill your life so you can in turn help your sons and daughters to faithfully serve God.

Perhaps your children are already grown or almost grown, and they haven't walked with the Lord.

Proverbs, chapter 22 verse 6.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

"Train up" means to "narrow" and is translated: dedicate
We as fathers "narrow" the path for our kids - show them where the right path to God lies and help point out the ruts along the way there. It is most often translated "dedicate." It does take much dedication to train your children.

What I want to point out is in the latter half of the verse. It says "when he is old he will not depart from it." Sometimes our children, despite our best efforts, choose to leave the path we have set for them. It is not your job to make your kids conform, it is your job to show them the right way, encourage to follow it, and correct them along the way.

"Old" means: aged.

What you need to take hope in is that you are a seed-planter. You are a waterer - but God is the grower. Pray that the seeds you plant and water will bear fruit when your son or daughter ages - or matures. When is that age? God only knows.

Now maybe your father was more like Eli - or maybe you see too much of Eli even in yourself. I don't want you to fret - because the ultimate role model is our Father God.

Even if your father modeled behavior that mirrored the world, God the Father models right behavior. Even if your father abandoned you, God the Father will never leave you nor forsake you. Even if your father wasn't faithful, God the Father is.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJ) "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

So to sum up:
o Decide that you'll encourage your children to follow the Lord
o Discern what a godly character is
o Determine what's going on in your children's lives
o Discuss the Lord "as you go"
o Dedicate yourself to being both a leader and a corrector, as a model

Finally - for all of us to appreciate our fathers:

"How Fathers Mature"
4 Years My Daddy can do anything
7 Years My Dad knows a whole lot
9 Years Dad doesn't quite know everything
11 Years Dad just doesn't understand
14 Years Dad is old fashioned
21 Years That man is out of touch!!
25 Years Dad's okay
30 Years I wonder what Dad thinks about this
35 Years I must get Dads input first
50 Years What would Dad have thought about that?
60 Years I wish I could talk it over with Dad once more