Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured... (1 Samuel 4:21)
These were the famous last words of a woman who died in childbirth, upon the news of her husband’s death. Having lost all hope, the blessing of God clearly gone from her nation, she breathed her last. Many of us who have been alive to see the sweeping changes in society over the last fifty years, and the degeneration of fatherhood, have also watched the image of God fading rapidly from our world.
So much has been lost, seemingly vanished from sight. There has never been so much knowledge at our fingertips, yet so little wisdom to be found. There is so much emphasis on fashion and image, yet the inner man is increasingly wracked with fears, insecurities, anxieties, loneliness, alienation, greed, lust, anger, disrespect, despair and hopelessness. Suicide rates are skyrocketing with over a million people worldwide taking their own lives every year, out of 10 to 20 million of those who attempt suicide.1
Global sales of antidepressants, stimulants, anti-anxiety, and antipsychotic drugs to cope with these deeply troubling issues have skyrocketed to more than $76 billion a year.2 These things might ease the pain, or subdue the hyperactive children, but they don’t get to the heart of the matter, and often lock people into a lifelong chemical dependency that robs them of vital aspects of their personality and their resources.
It is frightening to consider that the prophecy of the apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy about the last days is being fulfilled right before our eyes. We could now say, “Perilous times have come...”
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
These words written almost 2,000 years ago describe with vivid clarity the parade of people we see in our city streets, restaurants, airports, and institutions every day in this 21st century. Surely, there have always been negative elements in society, but up until recent times they were a very small minority. No longer.
The Shifting Character of Man
Down through history men of conscience have understood the great importance of good morals and quality of character. The characteristics of a good man included honesty, humility, integrity, modesty, faithfulness, diligence, and things of this nature. Those with wisdom understood that the character of a nation would be no greater than the character of those who made up that nation.
In fact, it has always been understood that a central virtue of those with good character was the drive to live for something higher than one’s own needs and desires — to serve God and country by serving one’s family and those who were less fortunate. This kind of attitude and behavior would result in a greater happiness for all, and the individual would find personal fulfillment in having voluntarily done his part for the good of those around him. This is what gave people a sense of belonging and purpose — a national identity they shared with those around them.
There seems to be barely a trace of these qualities in the generations that are coming forth today. The emphasis seems to be “Get an education, so you can get a good job and make a lot of money and be a success!” John F. Kennedy’s famous words, if spoken by a politician today, would come out this way: “Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you.” These days, it’s clear to everyone that if you want the favor of the children, or the voters, or the consumers, just appeal to their selfish nature. So the selfless virtues of a noble character are all but lost, and have been mostly replaced by shameless vanity, greed and self-satisfying pursuits.
If you were to meet a young man with these outstanding qualities of a noble character, you would be able to safely ascertain two things: first, that his father and mother are probably still together in a loving marriage, and secondly, that his parents were devoted to training their child up according to the good things that had been invested in them by their parents and other wise adults.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Good character doesn’t just happen; it is a heritage passed down through generations who haven’t forsaken their heritage. But it seems that, morally speaking, we in modern society have largely squandered our inheritance.
Where Have All the Fathers Gone?
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then
(“Cats in the Cradle” song lyrics — Harry Chapin, 1974)
Fatherlessness is a rising epidemic around the world. Tonight in the US, for example, half of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live. Never before have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their fathers. Never before have so many children grown up without knowing what it means to have a father.
The lack of true fathering is one of the main factors in the declining well-being of children in our society. It is also a leading cause of our most urgent social problems, from crime to teen pregnancy to drug and alcohol abuse to domestic violence, and the list goes on. Though this might be obvious and understandable to many, the more insidious3 and frightening reality is that most fathers who remain with their families really don’t have their hearts turned towards their children either. They may have an emotional love for their children, and even try to do nice things with them from time to time, but most men in recent generations are consumed with other things that take them away from their families — their work, their computers, hobbies, travel, etc. It’s common to find people who grew up in their father’s house, but never really knew him.
But children have deep needs, which only their parents can fulfill. The mother certainly has her place in laying the foundation of emotional security in the child’s heart from birth, and training him in the basics of life. The father’s role should increase gradually as the child gets older, but is equally as important as the mother. These roles are not interchangeable, as most would think these days. But the many who are endeavoring to fill the need for both mother and father realize all too painfully the holes it leaves in a child’s soul.
The Role of Fathers
The father is the parent responsible for setting the pattern for the child’s obedience in the family, forming his character, keeping him keen to his conscience. Any disciplining that the mother does is an extension of the father’s authority in the family. The father must take the leadership in this area of the family. As long as the child is dependent on the parents, the father is to be responsible for his care and discipline in order for him to reach his highest potential as a human being created in the image of God.
It is a loving job to be a father, to bring up your child to maturity as a trustworthy, responsible adult. To bring up means to nourish tenderly. Children should be objects of tender, loving care. It is a job involving nurture4 — all that a child needs for his development physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially. This also requires corrective discipline. The father is God’s constituted authority, whose responsibility is to discipline his child when he does not obey him or show respect. And he will, without hesitation, if he loves his son as the Bible defines love:
He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly. (Proverbs 13:24)
This is loving, corrective discipline, which would never be done with the hand. But the Bible prescribes a thin, reed-like rod applied to the bottom. This would never cause injury, but the sting of the rod sends a clear message from the child’s bottom to his heart, reminding him who is in charge and cleansing him from the guilt of transgressing his father’s word (you could call it his law). This also teaches the child that there are consequences in life for going against the law of man and the law of God. This is essential towards putting him on the path of life, and preserving his soul from eternal death.5
Withhold not discipline from the child; for if you strike and punish him with the [reed-like] rod, he will not die. You shall whip him with the rod and deliver his life from Sheol (Hades, the place of the dead). (Proverbs 23:13-14, Amplified Bible)
The father who does not discipline his children is undisciplined himself, and is really no father at all. Both are illegitimate, according to Hebrews 12:7-9. They will go through life not knowing who they are, being lost in the confusion of this age, which plagues mankind with a deep sense of worthlessness. There is nothing that gives a man more true worth than knowing he is a true father. True fathers make true sons. There is nothing that gives future hope for a society like true fathers and sons, building together.
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? (Hebrews 12:7-9)
The Turning of the Heart
So where do we go from here? Is there any hope for mankind to regain the glory we were meant to have as God’s highest creation? It was prophesied long ago, that the failure of the fathers to turn their hearts to their children would bring a curse on the earth, but that God would send His Spirit to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the children’s hearts to their fathers. This is the very last promise of the Old Testament:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5,6)
We in the Twelve Tribes Communities around the world, live in the hope of the restoration of all things that have fallen.6 We believe that when Yahweh’s people “bear the fruit” of God’s authority in their lives, and bring this witness of the truth to the ends of the earth, then the end will come when Yahshua will return to set up His Kingdom on the earth.7 As we endeavor to apply our hearts to our Father’s commandments, and receive the discipline He has for His sons, we are finding our hearts turning more and more to our children, and their hearts to ours. So we have a very present hope.
But we understand that, if we are to continue, our Father will have to provide servants in places of authority, who will make a way for us to live according to our convictions and His word. But we believe there are still men and women of conscience on the earth. We hope that our stand will help them to stand... for what’s right and true.
1 J. M. Bertolote, A. Fleishmann, “Suicide and psychiatric diagnosis: a worldwide perspective,” World Psychiatry, 2002 October; 1(3): 181-185.
2 J. Eastgate, “Psychiatry: Hooking Your World on Drugs — Introduction” at http://www.cchr.org/cchr-reports/psychiatry/introduction.html
3 Insidious: operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect.
4 Nurture: to feed and protect; to nurture one’s offspring; to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster; to bring up; train; educate.
5 But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars-their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
6 Mark 9:11,12; Luke 1:17
7 Matthew 21:43; 24:14