God’s plan for your family is not complex.
We make it that way, but it really is not.
This is the plan – God wants to reconcile the world to himself and he plans on doing that through Christ-following parents teaching their children to follow Christ and it multiplies from there.
Let me show you how this began all the way back in the first book of the Bible.
The author of Genesis describes Sodom’s destruction in Genesis 18:16-19:29.
Three divine guests visit Abraham, the father of Israel, before they travel to Sodom to survey the exceedingly sinful city. Some scholars believe that the three men should be understood as Yahweh (the Hebrew covenantal name for the Lord) accompanied by two “members of the divine council (Jer 23:18).”
Instead of sitting with his guests to eat, Abraham stood near them, which was not common practice for a host during this time. These guests inquired about Sarah’s whereabouts, for she was waiting in the part of the tent designated for females because women were forbidden to eat with the men.
While Abraham had previously heard Yahweh’s promise of a child and laughed at the absurd idea due to his and Sarah’s ages (Gen 17:16-17), this encounter was Sarah’s first chance to hear for herself the improbable news as she eavesdropped upon their conversation (Gen 18:10).
After the three men explained that Sarah would give birth to a child and the accompanying laughing ensued, the men began to look toward Sodom. This glancing toward the city serves as “an ominous tone that hints at what is to come.”
It was not necessary for Yahweh to behold Sodom’s sinfulness in person (Gen 18:21), but he was using this moment before Sodom’s judgment as an opportunity to descend upon the earth physically in order to apprise Abraham as a father since Abraham would in turn instruct God’s nation in a fatherly manner.
As a good host, Abraham escorted his guests for some distance on the next part of their journey. As they continued to travel toward Sodom, Abraham realized that this mission was leading toward the city where his nephew, Lot, and his family lived.
When God questioned whether or not he should conceal information from Abraham, he was apparently not speaking concerning the future destruction of Sodom; rather, God was speaking concerning the desired future of Abraham and his family.
At this point in the narrative, God reiterated to the angelic beings that he had specifically chosen Abraham to start his nation. Yahweh used the word yada to describe his relationship with Abraham. Through the use of the word yada, Yahweh indicated that he had “an intimate relationship” with Abraham.
While Abraham understood that God had chosen him before this encounter, Yahweh further revealed the purpose for which Abraham had been chosen. Yahweh purposed Abraham to develop a community of Yahweh followers. Before the nations could be blessed, Abraham would have to instill obedience into the lives of his very own family.
Genesis 18:16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grace, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
God desired Abraham to comprehend the destruction of Sodom in order to impress a warning concerning the penalties of sin upon the following generations.
If the upcoming Hebrew nation were to understand God’s justice, the nation’s father must understand that concept first.
Not only did God desire to reveal his plans to Abraham due to his election, but God also desired to educate Abraham for his family’s sake.
What happens next almost seems out of context. As God has conversed concerning the leveling of sinful cities, appointment of chosen nations, and circumstances with global implications, he explains Abraham’s task. It almost appears to be too trivial and too small of a thing in light of the prior discussion.
“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him” (Gen 18:17-19).
God’s global plan of redemption, his strategy to bless all the nations of the world, began with one father teaching his one family to keep the way of the Lord.
Simplistic? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.
God did not say the first step was for Abraham to perform miraculous feats to bring the mightiest kings to their knees. His first task was not to align a military powerhouse that would level the pagan nations. His first task was not to erect a grandiose religious temple where followers could worship.
His first task was to have a child and teach that child everything he knew about following God.
Abraham’s role in blessing all the families of the world was directly related to the fulfillment in his role as a husband and father.
God gave Abraham the chance to live out his purpose of teaching the future generations since he lived for sixty years of his son Issac’s life and the first fifteen years of the lives of his twin grandsons, Jacob and Esau. Yahweh’s plan was for this nation to impress its spiritual heritage upon following generations through the home (Deut 6:6; Prov 1:8), and Yahweh impressed this notion upon Abraham (Gen 18:19) even before his promised son was born (Gen 21:2-3).
God intended Abraham to instruct his family to live righteously in order to make the families of the world righteous.
While Abraham had a global mission, his first step in seeing that purpose succeed was to teach his children.
Before Abraham would be a leader of a people, he would be a leader of a home. Yahweh’s instruction to the father of the Hebrews serves as a reminder to all followers of Yahweh that one of the most important tasks of any father is to teach the succeeding generations the way of the Lord. As fathers teach children spiritual truth, each family can serve as a witness to reach other families far from God.
How We Get Off Track
It is easy for parents and churches to get off this track. All sincere parties involved in your child’s spiritual formation deeply desire legitimate conversion and growth. Unfortunately, we expect that God must use complex approaches to get the task done.
Much in the way we expect God to commission Abraham with some corporate task, we also expect God to give us instructions on a larger scale. I can prove it. Does your church focus more time on developing programs on a church campus for your child or developing you as parents to go to your home and disciple your child?
What was the last uproar about in your church’s children’s or youth ministry?
- Was it about an ineffective program?
- Was it concern about teenagers not wanting to come on Wednesday nights?
- Was it disapproval of how a church staff was programming events for someone’s kids?
- Or was it a desperate parent asking for help in discipling their children?
I imagine that most of the triumphs and tragedies concerning your child’s spiritual formation are centered around organized church activity and not intentional family life.
The problem is God never intended organized religion to replace the family.
God did not expect Abraham to rally a nation of God’s people together to invest in his child; he expected Abraham to assume that blessed responsibility himself. It was Abraham’s job. God had given that task to him specifically.
Before Abraham even had a son, God allowed for no speculation concerning his parental responsibilities. God expected Abraham to “command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19). He was to direct them to faithful devotion to the one true God. He was expected to do it by modeling righteousness and justice before their very eyes.