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 4:6 (N.K.J.V.)
Did you know that the last verse in the Old Testament talks about fathers and their children? If we believe that the words of the Bible are nothing less than inspired by God (and we do, 2 Timothy 3:16), then it must be significant that God chose to close the Old Testament record with a word about the importance of the father/child relationship. This fact alone should teach us just how important that relationship is.
As we study the context of this verse, we find that it involves a prophecy concerning Elijah and his return to the earth sometime before “the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” I think this explains why the fathers/children aspect of the verse doesn’t get preached as often as it should. Whenever a preacher does take this passage as a text, he spends so much time answering the questions “Was John the Baptist the fulfillment of this prophecy?” and “Will the actual prophet Elijah literally return to this earth one day?” that he doesn’t have time to do justice to the word about fathers and children. (By the way, if you are really interested in the question of Elijah returning you should read my blog post “One Mighty Angel and Two Incredible Witnesses.”)
For the purposes of this post, though, I just want to hammer home the fact that God equates true revival with the hearts of fathers being turned to their children and the hearts of children being turned to their fathers. You see, if you want to know how spiritually healthy a land is, conduct a national poll and find out how the fathers feel about their children and the children feel about their fathers. That’s not a spiritual barometer that we typically check, but it’s one that we should.
Significantly, our text verse lists the hearts of the fathers being turned to the children before the hearts of the children being turned to the fathers. This order makes perfect sense in light of the fact that it’s a lot easier to get a child to love its father when that father has first shown a love for the child. What this order also indicates is that if there has been a breakdown between the relationship between a father and a child, God will typically start with the father to build the bridge of reconciliation. It’s not that He will never start with the child; it’s just that He would prefer to start with the father.
As for our world today, it’s an understatement to say that many of the relationships between our fathers and our children could use some work. The fact is, though, that all of this work could be accomplished if each father and each child would truly get 100% right with God. No, this isn’t going to happen, but the failure is on our end, not God’s. If He had His way, every father/child relationship would be as He intended it to be.
I don’t know where this Father’s Day weekend finds you in terms of a father/child relationship. Perhaps you are a father. Perhaps you are a child. Perhaps you are, like me, both. Likewise, I don’t know the shape in which your relationship currently finds itself. All I know is that the Biblical principle is this: The land in which the hearts of the fathers and the children are knit together is one that can experience the fullest extent of God’s blessing, but the land in which those hearts aren’t knit together is one that is staring down the gun barrel of being struck by God with a curse.
If this isn’t proof of just how much God prioritizes the father/child relationship, I don’t know what is. Consequently, it is our job as individuals to make sure that each of us is doing his or her part to keep those hearts knit together. That’s why I encourage you to examine yourself this Father’s Day weekend and ask God to reveal to you anything that He wants you to either do or stop doing to play your role in the father/child relationship. Perhaps you don’t need to change anything, and if that’s the case, good for you. But if God does burden you to either do something or stop doing it, you should mind Him because, as we learn from Malachi 4:6, a lot really is riding on it.