WHERE ARE THE FATHERS AND THE MOTHERS?
By Rodney W. Francis
THERE IS a great need in the Christian Church today for the true fathers and mothers of the Faith to be encouraged to function as never before. All of us need the benefit of fathers and mothers who carry a real heart of care and concern for us, to make sure we fulfil our potential and destiny in God.
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors (“a leader of a child [Among the Greeks a servant whose business it was to attend on the boys of a family, watch over their behaviour, and particularly to lead them to and from school, etc. They were generally slaves, imperious and severe]” – Bullinger’s) in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:14-17, NKJV).
In the above verses the Apostle Paul is showing us there is a difference between having an instructor and having a father. The difference is so important that Paul warns us to understand what he is saying. An instructor passes on information, does it as a job, etc., but a father is much more committed to the whole process of spiritual growth, an ongoing relationship. He wants the very best for his son and will not only teach, but lead by example, and pour his heart and life into him. He tells us to imitate him – to heed and follow his way and example. Anyone can instruct, but it takes a father to reproduce, and to reproduce a son that is worthy of his honour and his name, who will carry the father’s inheritance on throughout the next generation. He gives us Timothy as an example of his fathering ability, and had the confidence that Timothy would not only remind people of what he had learned from Paul, but that he himself had caught the teachings that he (Paul) carried to the churches.
“I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him Who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him Who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one”(1 John 2:12-14, NKJV).
Here we have presented three phases or stages of the Christian life:
Strong young men.
Little children rejoice in the knowledge of their sins being forgiven and that they now have a knowledge of the Father. Fathers carry that knowledge of God with a maturity that cannot be gained other than by years of living, learning, growing and walking with the Father. Young men are such who are strong, learning to overcome the enemy and getting the Word of God fixed into their hearts and lives. Notice the order here: strong young men come as a result of the knowledge of God that fathers have learned by experience to impart into them.
Fathers carry the knowledge of God. They have come full cycle – from the place of conception through all the varying stages to adulthood, the place where they are able to responsibly reproduce themselves in others. They have learned from the example of other fathers before them. If there are no fathers, then we will soon have no children or young men to effectively “carry the flag” of Christianity. Fathers need to be fathers, encouraged in their fatherhood and given their rightful freedom to pour themselves into their children and young men. Little children and strong young men (not only the weak!) need more than an instructor – they need a father, someone who carries the commitment to see them through to their destination.
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13; Mark 4 & Luke 8) is a serious warning that three out of four soils – or 75% of the sowing of the Gospel, God’s Word – do not make it through to the place of reproducing itself – the place of being a genuine father or mother. The different soils represent the hearts of human beings who have heard and accepted the Gospel, but who, over time, get scorched, fall away, or overcome by the temptations of the world. Surely those who have proved themselves consistent through all the varying stages of life should be listened to more than someone who only has theories and/or charisma, but has not, as yet, proven him or herself able to overcome to the point of reproduction to the glory of God. The Christian road has enough obstacles and setbacks that we cannot afford to ignore those who are seen as being “over the hill.” The Bible and history teaches us that much of the best work done in the lives of great men and women are done in their older years. How ironical that, in many parts of Christendom, we hear things like, “It’s a young person’s world! Therefore we need young men and women to do the job of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.” That may have a certain amount of truth to it. But each of those young men and women need a father and a mother to guide them through life’s obstacles. Let’s face it, we’ve been where they have yet to tread.
“There is a generation that curses its father, and does not bless its mother” (Proverbs 30:11).
We pay a price to ignore – or not get the benefits from – the fathers and mothers of the Christian faith. For too long there has been a negative attitude toward those in the over 50 years of age bracket in life. Some feel we’re irrelevant once we get to that age, or we’re too “old school” to be taken seriously. Let us not be fooled into thinking we do not need the years of wisdom, maturity and insight that our older generation has.
With regards the women, the Bible calls a "mother" a “mother in Israel.” Let us look at what a "mother in Israel" is:
“In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, In the days of Jael, The highways were deserted, And the travellers walked along the byways. Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, Arose a mother in Israel. They chose new gods; Then there was war in the gates; Not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel. My heart is with the rulers of Israel who offered themselves willingly with the people. Bless the Lord!” (Judges 5:6-9, NKJV).
Deborah called herself a “mother in Israel.” From her life we can get some better understanding of what a "mother in Israel” is. Barak certainly knew the strength and advantages of having a "mother in Israel” working with him on the front lines of the battle. He succeeded because of her presence, prophetic insight, advice and wisdom. That “mother in Israel” had the following attributes:
Deborah was a prophetess (Judges 4:4).
She was a judger of Israel (Judges 4:4-5).
She heard from God (Judges 4:6-7).
She was a support to Barak in his obedience to the Word of the Lord to him through her (Judges 4:8-10).
She was an exhorter (Judges 4:14).
Deborah helped Barak to conquer (Judges 4:23-24).
Together Deborah and Barak sang of their victory. The victory came because and when:
The leaders led in Israel (Judges 5:1-2). Leaders must lead! When God’s leaders lead according to the Scriptural principles the people of God are led into victory.
The people offered themselves willingly (Judges 5:1-2). There is no substitute to people freely and willingly offering themselves to the purposes of God. No one ever wins who does things grudgingly, or under duress.
Before that victory was gained, we have a picture painted of the conditions that prevailed. Things were not very good until a "mother in Israel” rose up! Deborah declared certain things happened before she arose:
The highways were deserted (Judges 5:6-7).
The travellers walked along the byways (Judges 5:6-7). People did not have the freedom to travel openly. They were restricted.
Village life ceased in Israel (Judges 5:6-7). People had become isolated one from the other; they kept to themselves – became introverted.
People chose new gods (Judges 5:8). See also Deuteronomy 32:15-18: “But Jeshurun (“the darling upright” – a poetical appellation of the people of Israel – Young’s) grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God Who made him, and scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, To gods they did not know, To new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not fear. Of the Rock Who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God Who fathered you.”
It is amazing how quickly people can get away from the truth and replace it with “new gods.” Even those who have preached and lived for the Gospel can be deceived into allowing “new gods” to creep into their lives and turn them away from the Living God. When there is an absence of “mothers in Israel” the children of God slip into sin, and then forget God and all He has done for them. There was war – instead of peace – in the gates (Judges 5:8). The gates were a place where the city fathers sat, advised, ruled, kept safe the inhabitants, etc. Without the influence of true fathers and mothers in Israel the gates had become a place of “in-house” strife. No true authority was being exercised by the fathers and mothers who were called to keep the peace of the city. Yet they (the people) would not take up arms to fight! They were fighting “within,” but had no heart to defend themselves from the enemy “without” – “not a shield or spear was seen among 40,000 in Israel” (Judges 5:8). Is this not what we are seeing in our world today? People with no peace in their own hearts settling to be “at peace” with everyone else regardless of the compromises and the consequences.
AN UNNAMED WISE WOMAN
Then a wise woman cried out from the city, “Hear, hear! Please say to Joab (“Jah is father”), ‘Come nearby, that I may speak with you.’” When he had come near to her, the woman said, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Hear the words of your maidservant.” And he answered, “I am listening.” So she spoke, saying, “They used to talk in former times, saying, ‘They shall surely seek guidance at Abel (“transitoriness”),’ and so they would end disputes. I am among the peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city and a mother in Israel. Why would you swallow up the inheritance of the Lord?” And Joab answered and said, “Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy! That is not so. But a man from the mountains of Ephraim, Sheba (“oath, covenant”) the son of Bichri by name, has raised his hand against the king, against David. Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city.” So the woman said to Joab, “Watch, his head will be thrown to you over the wall.” Then the woman in her wisdom went to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. Then he blew a trumpet, and they withdrew from the city, every man to his tent. So Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 20:16-22, NKJV).
That unnamed woman called herself a "mother in Israel” (v.19).
She was not afraid to come forward to defend her city (v.17-19).
She called herself a “maidservant” (v.17).
She was peaceable and faithful in Israel (v.19).
She defended the inheritance of the Lord (v.19).
She in her wisdom delivered the city from unnecessary strife and war. She had Sheba’s head cut off and thrown over the wall to Joab (v.21-22).
MARY THE MOTHER OF JESUS
It was something that happened in the first miracle of Jesus that we read of in John 2:1-11 that got me started on this article. It was when Mary told Jesus that they had ran out of wine at that wedding feast. Jesus replied to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary’s response to the servants was, “Whatever He (Jesus) says to you, do it” (John 2:4-5).
The question is, “Did Mary know more about the timing of Jesus’ ministry than Jesus Himself did?” Jesus appeared to be in denial about His commencing time of ministry. But Mary His mother knew things that she had kept hidden in her heart over many years. Mothers carry a lot in their hearts when it comes to their sons and daughters. It was the motherly ministry of Mary that activated Jesus to commence His ministry that saw His ministry launched publicly with an amazing miracle. Mary had perception and discernment about Jesus that even Jesus seemed not to have at that point in His life.
How important is the ministry of perceptive, prophetic “mothers in Israel” who have the ability to sometimes see further than the prophets themselves!