This Father’s Day, we focus on father figures in the Bible to glean a little wisdom on how to do well in the tough job of fathering.
Adam was the first father on earth, and his descendants produced offspring and performed the same duties as providers and protectors of their families.
From the Bible, we see many exemplary models of fathers who show us how families, or even a whole generation, can benefit from a God-fearing father. None of them are perfect and the Bible is brutally honest when it comes to the mistakes they make and the struggles they have. Yet, sometimes, those are the very things that help the believer today to relate to them.
We take a look at these Bible fathers (and father-in-law) and the lessons modern day fathers can learn from them.
ABRAHAM: FATHER OF THE NATION
It is hard to talk about fathers without mentioning Father Abraham. His calling in life was simply to be the father of a great nation. It is interesting how God called a 75-year-old childless man to be a father. Yet Abraham did not despise his calling but “believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteous” (Gen 15:6).
What we can learn from Abraham is two-fold. Firstly, Abraham’s obedience to God did not stop after he received Isaac, his promise from God. In Genesis 22, we read about how he followed God’s instructions to sacrifice Isaac without hesitation. Because of his faith, God poured His blessings upon his household, generation after generation.
Isaac, his son, learned from Abraham and applied the same degree of trust towards God (Gen 26:1-6). With the good stuff he learned, unfortunately, Isaac also picked up bad habits. We see Isaac repeating Abraham’s cowardly mistake (Gen 20:2) of calling his wife his sister to avoid being killed (Gen 26:7-11).
This shows us that fear is also something that can be passed down in generations. If fathers want their children to live courageously, they need to first deal with their own fears.
NOAH: LEADING HIS FAMILY IN OBEDIENCE
The name Noah is almost synonymous with the word “ark”. We always associate Noah with animals, but he also brought along his family along. God chose not only him, but also his wife and children to be the sole survivals of Operation Earth Wipeout. He must have done something right as a father to have raised a family that found favour with God among all that was living on earth.
Like Abraham, Noah’s obedience to God is a lesson we can learn from. His faithfulness to God’s command to build the ark—during a time when there was no such thing as rain, and he endured great ridicule from others—saved his family and the entire human race from the flood. His sons later became the fathers of the different tribes and races of mankind.
JETHRO: IMPACTING THE WISDOM OF LEADERSHIP
“With great power comes great responsibility.” This statement does not only apply to Spider-man, but to Moses as well. He was one of the greatest leaders in history and he had to manage a whole generation of Israelites all on his own. It did not help that his people were notorious complainers and very quarrelsome.
Thankfully, Moses had a loving and wise father-in-law, Jethro. In Exodus 18, we see Jethro bringing Moses’ wife and children to visit him in the wilderness. How many fathers-in-law today would do that? We know that Jethro was a priest and a God-fearing man himself. He praised God enthusiastically when Moses told him about the things God had done for the Israelites (v8-12). More impressively, he gave Moses sound advice on how to delegate and share his workload as a leader when he saw how overworked Moses was (v17-23).
The lesson we learn from Jethro is to first build a strong relationship with our children before dishing out advice. It was evident that Jethro cared deeply for his son-in-law. Right from the start, Jethro invited Moses into his home when Moses had nowhere to go (Exo 2:20-21). He was the one who went out of his way to check on Moses in the wilderness. He was happy for Moses when he heard how his anointed son-in-law had led the children of Israel out of Egypt. Likewise, the way Moses readily took his father-in-law’s advice showed the level of trust and respect he had for Jethro. How great it must be to know that someone has your back when life gets tough.
KING DAVID: A FLAWED KING AND FATHER
King David is one of the most relatable fathers in the Bible. On the job front, David was a well-respected leader, and he led the nation well as the king. When it came to spirituality, he was a man after God’s own heart who loved the house of God. Even in his relationships, David was such a great friend that he mourned the death of his mentor-turned-enemy, Saul.
Yet when it came to his family, things were a mess. He already had a wife, Michal who had no respect for him and bore him no heir. Then he compounded his problems by getting involved with a married woman, Bathsheba. When she got pregnant, he plotted her husband’s death to marry her (2 Sam 11). Although he eventually repented from his sins, David could not escape the consequences of his sinful actions.
In 2 Samuel 13, his son, Amnon fell in love with one of his sisters, Tamar. Like his father, Ammon exercised poor judgment and repeating his father’s mistake, raped his sister. Because of his despicable action, he was murdered by his brother, Absalom. But Absalom was not done with his rebellion towards David’s house. He eventually became David’s enemy, dividing the kingdom.
From David’s life, we are reminded that fathers are role models for their children. As fathers, our actions have deep impact on our children’s lives. Keeping this in mind can help fathers (and mothers) to make wise decisions.
JOSEPH: THE SELFLESS FATHER TO THE SAVIOUR
We often talk about the faith and devotion of Mary, Jesus’ mother, but we often overlook her partner, Joseph who had his share of challenges. Right from the start, he had to bear the shame of Mary’s pregnancy. He suffered alongside Mary at the birth of Jesus and later, endured fear and terror when they had to escape from Herod (Mt 2:13-14).
Yet never once did Joseph neglect his role as a father. Even after Herod’s death, Joseph was constantly protecting Mary and Jesus, travelling them from place to place to avoid danger (Mt 2:19-23). To Joseph, Jesus was his son. He loved Jesus and worried for him when he went missing (Lk 2:41-50) and taught Jesus to take over his trade as a carpenter.
Through Joseph, we see the love of a father. The Bible has very few records of Joseph, but at every mention, we would see him protecting and providing for Jesus. It is no wonder Jesus grew up so well.
JAIRUS: TOUCHED BY GOD’S GRACE
Being a father is tougher than it looks. Jairus, a synagogue leader living in Jesus’ time suffered greatly when his daughter was about to die. Thankfully, he knew exactly what to do—he went looking for Jesus (Mk 5:21-43).
But his daughter died while he and Jesus were still on their way back to his house. Yet Jairus did not give up. He held on to Jesus’ words, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (v36) Because of his unwavering faith, Jesus did a miracle, and his daughter came back to life.
The story of Jairus reminds us that as fathers, there is only so much we can physically do for our children. As much as we want to shelter them and keep them safe, there are many things that are not within our control. In times like this, the wisest thing is to follow in Jairus’ footsteps and listen to Jesus. He is the only One in control after all.