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The Power of a Father's Example: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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Introduction: Dads Must Lead Their Families to Revival

As we celebrate another Father's Day in America it is becoming more and more apparent that our country is in trouble. According to the U.S. Census Bureau there is a father absence crisis in America. In this country 18.3 million children, 1 in 4, live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home. Consequently, there is a father factor in nearly all social ills facing America today.

Also, statistics tell us that children reared in a father-absent home are at a 4 times greater risk of poverty. They are 7 times more prone to become pregnant as teenagers. They're more likely to have behavioral problems, more disposed to facing abuse and neglect and are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Further, they are more likely to go to prison, 2 times more apt to suffer obesity, more inclined to committing crime and 2 times more likely to drop out of High School.

In contrast, when children have close relationships with father figures, they tend to avoid high-risk behaviors and they’re less likely to have sex at a young age. They’re more apt to have high-paying jobs and healthy, stable relationships when they grow up. They also tend to have higher IQ test scores by the age of 3 and endure fewer psychological problems throughout their lives when fathers are in the picture..

So, never underestimate the role that a good father plays in a family. And for all of those who are fathers, or want to be, take it very seriously and make sure that you do all in your power to set a good and godly example in your family for your children to follow.

Mothers play a vital role as well. However, the Bible makes it clear that the husband and father is the head of the household (Ephesians 5:23; I Corinthians 11:3). That simply means that God holds you ultimately responsible to take the leadership in providing for the physical and spiritual well-being of your family and on centering your household around biblical values and principles.

However, statistically in our society, along with the rise in fatherless homes, there is also a rise in the amount of people that, despite calling themselves religious, are having less and less to do with spiritual things.

For instance, according to recent studies;

For the first time in 80 years, Gallup polls have found that less than half of US adults belong to a church, synagogue or mosque.

“Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend,” Gallup reported in a recent post that “US church membership was 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and remained near 70% for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21st century.”

Membership numbers dropped to 50% by 2018, and last year in 2020 slipped to 47%.

And what about Bible reading? Of the over 2 billion people who call themselves Christians in the world, less than 30% will ever read through the entire Bible. The fact is over 82% of Christian Americans only read their Bibles on Sundays while in church.

It is clear that those of us who believe in Judeo-Christian principles have our work cut out for us. This country needs revival in the worst way, and it has to begin with each of us.

Specifically, Christian fathers need to set the example, both in how we talk to people about our faith and, more importantly, in how we demonstrate it to the world that is falling apart all around us. And we need to turn to God's Word for guidance in how to do that.

One passage that we can go to for this guidance on how to live our lives is found in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. This book, though originally written for God's people Israel, can be applied to our lives today as well. Let us take the rest of our time to look specifically at the passage found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

I. Background of the Passage

In order to give us a background for this section of Scripture, we must understand that the book of Deuteronomy was written to a group of people that just witnessed almost all of the previous generation die in the wilderness after being lead out of Egypt on the way to the promised land due to disobedience to the Lord. And this particular section of Scripture adds a portion that tells the people of Israel how they must be teaching the next generations after them to follow the Lord and His commandments. In other words, their own children and grandchildren.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 tells God's people:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

This particular portion of Scripture has come to be known as the Shema. The Shema gets its name from a couple lines from this passage and became a daily prayer in Ancient Israelite tradition. It’s the equivalent of the Lord’s prayer (“Our Father in heaven…”) in Christian tradition.

The word 'Shema' is the first Hebrew word in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, and means 'hear' or 'listen' So, Moses was saying: "Shema, O Israel!'

In traditional Jewish prayer practice, these lines from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 were combined with other passages from the Torah, (Deut. 11:13-21; and Num. 15:37-41)., and were prayed in the morning and the evening. This prayer has been one of the most influential traditions in Jewish history. The Shema has functioned both as the Jewish pledge of allegiance and a hymn of praise.

With all of this in mind, let's now apply the passage to the role of the Christian father within the family in the 21st century and see how it can help dads to be the type of roll model that God has intended for them to be

II. A Christian Father Puts God First (6:4)

The first thing we can glean from this passage is that a Christian father puts God first in his life and in the life of his family. Think about it. If God is who we believe Him to be; if He is the Creator, Sustainer and Sovereign of the entire universe; if He alone is God and everything else that we put first in our lives is an idol, then why wouldn't we seek to please Him every day. We can literally say:

"Hear, O Christian. The Lord is our God; the Lord is one!"

And yet, how many times does someone, or something come in the way of our placing God in His proper position in our life and the lives of our families? We must all ask ourselves the question:

"Do I really believe that God alone is my God?" "If not, why not?"

If so, then maybe that church service that I skipped, or that personal Bible study that I have been missing, or that time of prayer that I've kept neglecting every morning for a month needs to take more of a priority in my life than it has been.

And, of course, being a father who puts God first in his family dealings is making sure that his family is growing together in their spiritual life and is seeking the Lord's face in order to find out what should be added or subtracted from their weekly routine.

It also means setting the example of how to live so that the children will be encouraged to follow what dad does each day.

III. A Christian Father Loves the Lord With All His Heart (6:5-6)

The next thing we can glean from this Scripture about a Christian father is that they should love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind. In this passage, God was asking His people to have unreserved, wholehearted commitment to Yahweh, expressed in love toward Him. And, of course, this love couldn't be demonstrated in any material way like with idols. Rather, it was shown in obedience to God's law in everyday life.

It is demonstrated in learning God's Word, not just to learn it but to obey it in every area of life. The goal is to please the one we love and to grow in a more intimate relationship with Him.

I'm wondering how many of our personal relationships would survive if we treated our spouse, family members or our friends like we treat God. If we neglect them like we sometimes neglect Him it would damage the relationships.

Do we give attention to those we love and seek to please them by showing how much we love them and are grateful that they are in our lives? Are we thankful for what they do for us and let them know it? Well, love for God is shown in the very same way.

Of course none of us is perfect and all of us fail. We do this in our human relationships as well. But we must seek to be consistent in our love for them and for God. And when God asks us to do something we show consistency in loving Him by our obedience.

IV. A Christian Father Teaches His Child About God's Laws (6:7-9)

Finally, we can glean from the last section of this passage that a good Christian father not only loves and seeks the Lord Himself but he is constantly looking for ways to share God and God's laws with his children. Here Moses tells the children of Israel:

"You shall teach them (i.e. God's laws) diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when your sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." (7).

In other words, the commandments were to be the subject of conversation in all of their everyday life, both inside and outside the home, from the beginning of the day to day's end. Everything they did was a potential way to teach about God, His love and His commandments for His people.

Sadly, today even many of those children who are taken to church by their parents and whose parents go there themselves, only hear about God, His love and His commandments once a week on Sunday for 1 or 2 hours. That used to be called 'Sunday-go-to meetin' Christianity a few years ago. And it isn't what a true Christian should do. Today, however, it is the rule and not the exception to only bring up God on Sunday in many if not most Christian households.

And what do kids learn from this? They learn that God has no business in the rest of your life. They learn that to be a Christian is to give the Lord a small portion of your life if you can make the time. Once you appease God and make Him happy, the rest of your time, money and talents belong to you. But that is not the God of the Bible. Everything that you have all belongs to Him. And He is gracious enough to lend these things to you for a short time to use for His glory and for the good of others.

And, what of those fathers who merely take their children to Sunday School or church service and leave them for the church to baby-sit for 1 or 2 hours while they do something else? Sadly, these kids learn that God is just for children and has no place in the lives of adults.

Tragically, we see the results of this every day as most kids in this current generation are growing up and leaving the church in America. Statistically, If a mother does not go to church, but a father does, a minimum of two-thirds of their children will end up attending church as adults. In contrast, if a father does not go to church, but the mother does, on average two-thirds of their children will not attend church when they reach an age where they can decide on their own.

And America's culture is falling apart because of it. The Judeo-Christian morals and principles taught by the church that have made America one of the greatest nation's on this earth are eroding and could lead to a total collapse if we don't turn it around soon.

We need godly parents, especially fathers who will say:

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"

The last two verses in this section, verses 8 and 9, just reinforce the fact that God should be the center of all of life by those who belong to Him by faith, through keeping His Laws. A follower of the Lord should meditate upon and be directed by His commandments. The verses tell us this regarding God's commands:

"You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Interestingly, later in Jewish history, the Israelites took it literally and actually tied phlylacteries, or boxes containing these verses in Deuteronomy, to their hands and foreheads with thongs of leather. But the true meaning of the Scriptures were more symbolic of the seriousness with which God's people were to take what God commanded.

Today we don't follow the Old Testament law. Our Lord fulfilled it through His life, death and resurrection. However, we still follow the commands of Jesus given to the Body of Christ. And we teach our children to do the same.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is an awesome responsibility being a father, and one that is given to men by the Lord Himself. As we think about that daunting task, we must rely upon God to give us the wisdom to carry it out. We will fail many times on our journey, as have all Christian fathers throughout history. But we must be consistently following the pattern of love and discipline given to us by our Heavenly Father who is the perfect parent.

There is a poem that I'd like to leave with you that summarizes what we've been trying to say in this message. It is by an unknown author and is entitled: Grow Up Just like You: A Father's Poem. It goes like this:

There are little eyes upon you

and they are watching night and day;

There are little ears that quickly

take in every word you say;

There are little hands all eager to do everything you do,

And a little boy who's dreaming of the day he'll be like you.

You're the little fellow's hero

,you're the wisest of the wise,

In his little mind about you,

no suspicions ever rise;

He believes in you devoutly,

holds that all you say and do,

He will say and do in your way

when he's grown up to be like you.

There's a wide-eyed little fellow

who believes you're always right,

And his ears are always open

and he watches day and night;

You are setting an example

every day in all you do,

For the little boy who's waiting

to grow up to be like you."

The bottom line is that if we want our children and grandchildren to grow up to serve the God that we worship, we must begin to follow the admonitions of this section of Deuteronomy. We must serve the one true God alone, we must love Him with all of our hearts and we have to teach our offspring to do the same by the words that we say and the lives that we lead.

Yes, it is a daunting task but it can be done by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit who lives in each of us.

May we seek His help and then lead our children down the path that will bring them to God and His wonderful purpose for their lives.

© 2021 Jeff Shirley

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