There is an ancient story about a father who lived in the Far East. His name was Job. The Bible describes him as a man worthy of notice – due to his reputation as a man of great wealth and influence. Of all his possessions; which are listed in order of value; he begins with declaring his seven sons and three daughters. This lists continues to disclose his possessions in livestock and servants. Job himself is quoted as describing the most valuable of all his possessions as “when my children were all around me”.
How this statement contrasts with most father’s today. I myself am challenged by it. It is not unusual for me to feel the great pleasure that comes when I spend time with my three children. I have come to look forward to simply riding to the store with them; even one at a time. I look fondly on those moments. Yet, I am also as guilty as other men who find themselves seeking solitude and quite time from the seemingly endless chatter children have a tendency to lovingly offer.
Job is further described as a man who had children who loved to spend time together. It is a testament to a parent’s child-rearing when siblings grow up and enjoy one another’s company. Parents who nurture loving, empathetic, sacrificial relationships between their children may certainly look forward to those children maintaining such relationships throughout their lives. Job’s children certainly did.
From the very onset of the story, we learn the type of man Job was. Job is described as “blameless and upright; a man who feared God and turned away from evil.” This is significant because it helps us understand what motivated Job to be the father he was. More specifically, what motivated Job to perform a certain ritual with each of his children?
The story tells how these seven brothers would invite their unmarried sisters to their birthday parties and have lavish feasts which certainly would’ve included the celebratory drinking of wine. It is also certainly implied by Job’s culture that although a festive party was had, there were under no circumstances, any illicit or improper behavior exhibited. The brother’s would not have exposed their sisters to such scandalous acts that would compromise their reputations or integrity.
How do we as fathers and brother’s fit this mold? It is not uncommon to easily find videos clips on YouTube, Vine, Instagram, WORLDSTAR, or Snapchat of children being incited to drink, smoke, and fight or display other immoral acts as they’re recorded by siblings or at worse their parents. Shamefully though, it’s common for father’s today to view sexually perverse on-line and printed media that have the corrosive power to corrupt the children in their homes.
I ask, how many fathers are taking the care to vigorously protect their children? Or are father’s today complicit as voyeurs’ of Cable T.V., un-managed limitless internet access or simply an ignorance to the reading genre their children are carrying in their back-packs? I would argue that a majority of children who are living as vagabonds under the by-passes and inside of many abandoned buildings of our cities are children of such homes where there were no protections from the corruptions of such evils.
Job and his sons were not like these fathers just mentioned. They were vigorous in defending the virtue of their sisters’ whom they loved with a godly love. Yet, even with such an apparently healthy family dynamic, Job was not naive to the realities of living in a corrupted, sinful world. The Bible describes how Job would allow the party’s to occur and then wake-up early the next morning and have his children all wash and change their clothes. He would obtain livestock from the best of his herd, usually a ram or lamb, and lay one of his hands upon the head of his child, and the other upon the head of the animal. In so doing, Job would symbolically transfer the sin of the child to the animal, which would then be sacrificed.
Job did this for each son and each daughter. One at a time. He knew what each child’s propensity to have sinned would have been. He knew what made each child tick. He paid attention to each one so as to adequately pray for them. Job is recorded as doing this very costly and highly religious act because he wanted to ensure that just in case any of them had distanced themselves from the Lord during their celebrating they would be forgiven and restored. This was because Job had a great reverence for God and turned away from evil himself. The idea that one of his children might possibly have neglected God in their heart was too much for him to bear. Job personally ensured that each of his children were purified immediately the next day.
Job is an example to fathers today of how we are to spiritually – as well as naturally – care for our children. There are many father’s today who believe they are to ‘provide’ for their children and wives. This is certainly true. As noted in Job’s story, he was extremely wealthy and supplied all of his family’s needs and wants. How many of those same fathers take the care and interest to ensure their children are purified before the Lord. Regardless of whether or not the child has done anything obviously sinful, the Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s perfection” and all require a sacrifice to be made on their behalf. Do father’s today place their children’s relationship with God as high a priority as Job did?
Job did not send his children to get washed and purified at the local altar. He prepared himself first by rising earlier than they did; preparing their change of clothes, gathering the wood for the altar as well as selecting the sacrifices himself. He took a personal investment into their spiritual lives. He did not leave it up to the local priest who may have served the community. He knew what his responsibilities were to God and his children.
Like Job, you may find yourself not living with your children. And like Job, God still compels you to live just as committed to care for them in every capacity of their lives, beginning as children. So that, once they have moved out into their own homes, living their own lives, they remained subject and obedient to their father’s influence and guidance.
As father’s, we are called to rise up early, know our children’s weaknesses and pray for them, so that they may never fall away from the God we trust for our and they’re eternal souls. This is the purpose and privilege of every father.
God’s peace and journey well…
ΑΩ Rev. A. David Griffin, M.Div