Last month, for Mothers Day, I brushed up on my history by reading again about the origins of Mothers Day and I did the same for Fathers Day. Mothers Day officially began in 1908 and had tremendous support from the commercial industry as businessmen saw this as a holiday that would ultimate profit them. After 6 years of growing observance, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mothers Day a national holiday in 1914.
The push to establish a similar day for fathers, however, did not receive the support/backing that Mothers Day did because, as one florist put it, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.” Eventually, Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, solicited the support of local churches, YMCA’s, businesses and politicians, and Fathers Day as we know it was celebrated on June 10, 1910 in the state of Washington. Fathers Day was observed, not by all, for the next 50+ years and in 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson made a presidential proclamation honoring fathers and designated the third Sunday in June as Fathers Day and President Richard Nixon, in 1972, signed it into a law thus making it a permanent national holiday.
The idea of a Fathers Day was met with some resistance at its inception upon the basis of financial profitability, or the presumed lack thereof. I never could really find an answer as to why it took so long for the day to be considered important enough to solicit a sitting president’s acknowledgement, much less sign it into law (Mothers Day: 6yrs--Father’s Day 62yrs). The quandary exists still today. The commercial industry understands the importance of Fathers Day but, in all honesty, that is driven by profit potential. However, if you were to survey people I think that we would find that Fathers Day and Mothers Day are no where near equal in importance among the general population.
I think that much of the problem has been self-inflicted in many cases because there is no lack of evidence pointing to absent fathers (physically or emotionally) and the consequent impact upon the children they brought into the world.
Rather than focus on the problem, however, I want to encourage us to be men that contribute to the change. Therefore, today I want to talk to you about the biblical practice called The Father’s Blessing. The Father’s Blessing was a critical part of the relationship between the father and His children, so much so that God utilized that relational experience as the means whereby the Covenant, the agreement between God and His people, would be passed on from generation to generation. In this sense, it is much like the biblical parenting principle of passing knowledge of Jesus on to the next generation that comes behind us. While The Father’s Blessing does refer to the official, ceremonial passing on of the Covenant from one generation to another, The Father’s Blessing, in the Old Testament, was much more. Simply put, The Father’s Blessing was the intentional and determined act of a father whereby he would speak life, love and blessing into and over his child’s life.
Today we are going to look at a father by the name of Jacob who, during the final days of his life, blessed all twelve of his children. We are going to focus primarily on the experience between Jacob and Joshua.
Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine beside a spring; its branches climb over the wall. The archers attacked him, shot at him, and were hostile toward him. Yet his bow remained steady, and his strong arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, by the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, and blessings of the breasts and the womb. The blessings of your father excel the blessings of my ancestors and the bounty of the eternal hills. May they rest on the head of Joseph, on the crown of the prince of his brothers.
These are the tribes of Israel, 12 in all, and this was what their father said to them. He blessed them, and he blessed each one with a suitable blessing.
The first thing I want to bring to light this morning is what we find in verse 28. We are told that Jacob blessed all 12 of his sons with a blessing that was suitable to each one. If you were to read every experience whereby Jacob blessed his sons as recorded in you will find that the blessing that were spoken over his children were not some sort of general/pat/formulaic combination of words and sentences that he had heard somewhere or that were handed down to him from his father. These were custom blessings spoken over Jacob’s children that flowed from him actually knowing his children intimately. This was more than just knowledge of things like sports and extra-curricular activities. The Father’s Blessing flowed from an intimate knowledge of his sons. Jacob knew his the hurts and hangups, the fears and frustrations, their successes and failures, their inward desires and their deepest concerns. Jacob knew his sons well.
Sociologists and cultural experts have identified one very significant thing that has contributed more to the decline in our society than nearly anything else and that one thing is the absence of fathers in the home. I could bore you to death with all sorts of statistics and data that reflect the negative impact that the father’s absence has on children but I won’t. As I said before, let us not focus as much on the problem as we do on being and becoming the solution. What I do want to bring out though is that being absent is not just about physical location. You can be absent and present at the same time. You can be physically present but emotionally absent.
As we read these words that Jacob spoke to his son as a blessing we come away with the impression that Jacob wasn’t simply a man in the house but he was a father in the house that was present not only physically but relationally as well. He was vested in his children and knew them intimately. If we are going to be and become men and fathers known as those who bless our children then we can learn from Jacob in that being present is about more than just being physically present. Our children long for and deserve our full, undivided and intentional attention. Our children should be a subject that we are continually studying so that they know that we love, care about and want to know everything that there is to know about them and not some figure that fits a stereotypical picture that culture creates for us of a buffoon whose primary concern is control over the remote control or who has more knowledge of their hobby than they do their children. We want to be fathers that bless, right men? It begins with knowing...
If we are going to be and become men and fathers that cont
The next thing I want us to focus on could be so easily overlooked. When Jacob wanted to bless his children he did so by speaking words of life and love into and over their lives. This blessing was not about anything materialistic that could be described as a gift. This was about real, meaningful and intentional words being spoken by the father to his children and the Bible calls this The Father’s Blessing. Consider the message that Jacob’s words communicated to his son:
“You are good enough.” (22)
“You can overcome anything life throws at you.” (23-25a)
“You are blessed by God.” (25b)
“The best is yet to come.” (26)
I don’t think that anybody would disagree with me when I say that Jacob was intentional with his words and wanted to bless his son by speaking words of love, live and hope into and over his child. There are many different ways that Jacob could have blessed his children but he decided to use words. Why? Because words matter. Words are important. Words are powerful. The Bible says...
Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
We spend our entire lives trying to make ourselves believe that words are not as powerful as our response to them makes them out to be. Think about it. From an early age we teach and were taught, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We all know that to be a lie and we should eliminate it from the childhood songs and rhymes we teach our children. First, because it teaches us to question, deny or suppress our response to negative words that are spoken against us and it doesn’t matter how many times that little song plays in your mind it cannot heal the hurt that can be caused by words. Not only does this song teach us a lie about our response to hurtful words but it teaches us a lie about the power of words. It makes us think that words are not the problem, rather that the person that is the recipient of the words is. It is all a lie. Words are powerful and they can be used to speak life or death into and over our children.
As I was studying this week, I came across the story of a woman that had experienced an enormous amount of emotional pain in her life as she jumped from one relationship to another only to find that the every relationship was less fulfilling than the previous one. She ended up dabbling in all sorts of unhealthy behavior including giving herself over to the adult industry. She eventually came to terms with the fact that there was a void in her life that she couldn’t fill and therefore decided to go to counseling because nothing else seemed to work. The counselor worked with her and worked with her trying to uncover the root cause of this insatiable desire that she had in her being. One day, during a session about her childhood, the woman shared a story of when, at the age of 10 or so, that she had been given a beautiful new dress for her birthday. She remembered being so excited to try that dress on and hear her daddy tell her how special and beautiful she looked in it. She recalls coming into the living room where her father was with this new dress on and she began to spin and twirl with all her might. Her father never looked up from the newspaper he was reading. She spun faster and twirled harder and yet her father never even noticed that she was there. The little girl left dejected and broken because all she wanted to do was hear her daddy tell her that she was beautiful. The counselor understood a lot about that woman that day because of this experience and realized that much of her life had been spent seeking to hear the words, “You are special. You are beautiful” from others. Multiple men throughout her life had told her these things but they were not able to satisfy the desire of her heart because her heart still longed to hear those words from her daddy.
There is power in our words and we will either speak life, love and blessing into and over our children or we will speak the opposite either with our words or with our silence. As we consider the way in which Jacob used words to bless his children may we become the kind of men and fathers that use our words wisely with our children and others and bless others with the words of our mouths.
As we reflect upon this special moment between Jacob and his children one thing really stands out to me that may stand out to you as well if you know Jacob’s story as recorded in the Old Testament is that Jacob has come a long way as a man. I say this because because Jacob’s story as recorded in the Old Testament reveals to us that he was a very mean, deceptive and manipulative man that would do whatever it took to get whatever he wanted. I think it is safe to say that Jacob probably did not have the best of relationships with his father either. Jacob was willing to go so far as to dress up in costume and disguise his voice in order to deceive his dad into giving him the blessing/inheritance that was reserved for his older brother, Esau.
In light of this, I say to you that it is never to late to become the kind of person that God is leading us to become. Jacob is a perfect example of how God can change a person and the old cliche that states “If I’m not dead then God’s not done” rings true for all of us. I stand before you as an imperfect dad with many “daddy issues” of my own and I realize that some of you here today may not have had a dad that reflects what we have been talking about this morning or struggle to be the kind of dad that we have been talking about this morning. The good news is that it is never to late to start becoming the person that God is calling us to be.
Here on Fathers Day, I don’t want anybody to think that this is simply a message about healthy parenting principles. There is more to this than we may imagine at first thought.
Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
The Bible tells us that a man by the name of John the Baptist is the fulfillment of this prophecy. While his name is not Elijah, his ministry is like Elijah’s in that he was calling for people to turn from their rebellious and harmful ways of doing life and to turn to God. One part of the message that John the Baptist was entrusted with was a message for fathers to turn from the worlds way of fathering and to turn to God’s design for fathering. This message of “turning” from the wrong way of doing life to God’s way of doing life continued on in the teaching of Jesus. Therefore, what we can understand that this is not a matter to be taken lightly. God used the relationship between fathers and their children as a sign to who where His work is being done in the lives of His people. Therefore, this is a call to be Gospel Dads that reveals to the world thatJesus is in us and making us to be the people He has saved us to be.
simply a parenting principle sermon but a plea to see Jesus known among us by how we relate to our children.