Here are the famous final words of the Old Testament:
"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." Malachi 4:5-6
One pastor, Steve Wright, observes, "Of all the ways that the Old Testament could have closed, notice how with laser accuracy it zeros in on one particular group--fathers" (ApParent Privelege, 135). The passage promises a messenger like Elijah who would bring reconciliation of family conflicts within the Jewish community. And it warns that the land will be cursed if the fathers do not respond to this messenger. But how will they be cursed? What is at stake if the fathers disobey?
Throughout the book of Malachi, the prophet has called fathers to turn in repentance toward Him and turn back to their community, their wives, and their families. The consequences are clear. By their actions, the fathers will either become a curse and source of warning for their children, or their repentance will be a source of blessing for their children. And their children will be claimed by God as godly offspring:
"If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name," says the LORD Almighty, "I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me. "Because of you I will rebuke your descendants" (Malachi 2:2-3a)
"The LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth" (Malachi 2:14b-15)
God wants dads to reconcile with Him and with their families, because he has a claim on their children. He desires godly offspring. He wants the next generation to know Him and treasure Him, keep his commandments, and not forget him. And family conflict is an obstacle that gets in the way of kids knowing Christ. Conflict with your spouse can be an obstacle to your kids growing in godliness.
Often dads use a heavy work load as an excuse for neglecting their families. Steve Wright responds this way. His words are ones to live by:
God has given a job description to us, and there is no escape clause, even for dads who work a certain number of hours. You see, our career isn't really our job. Our career puts food on the table and keeps the lights on so that we can do our real job. Our real job is laid out clearly in the Word...
Love your Lord with everything you've got. Matthew 23:37-38 says, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment." If Jesus said this is the most important thing we can do, then it is also the most important thing a dad can do.
Love the Lord and lead your bride. Ephesians 5:25 says, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." The message is to serve your bride just as Christ served His Bride, the church, to the point that he laid down his life for her.
Love and teach your children. Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." This verse sums up the biblical mandate for dads. Dads must lead the effort to give their children an eternal perspective, show them their need for Christ, and continually point them to the Savior (from ApParent Privelege, 146-147).
Don't neglect your primary responsibilities. Don't let family conflict be an obstacle to your kids knowing Jesus in 2010. Heed the final words of the Old Tesament.