Monday, December 15, 2008

Hearts of the Fathers

The last verses in the Old Testament are
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
before the coming of the great and terrible 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.

For many years, Elijah Company (no longer in business) was unequivocally my favorite homeschool supplier. When they first opened for business, I don't think there was one single item in their catalog that wasn't perfect for our family. Of course, I couldn't buy and use everything they offered: not enough money and not enough time in the day. But it was ALL excellent material. That was when their catalog was only a couple of dozen pages. The business grew, and they began to carry some items that reflected their theology a little more strongly, so no longer was I thrilled with everything in their catalog, but it was still the best place to shop for books and games and kits.

The key Bible verse for the company (and the source of the company name) was that verse from Malachi quoted up above. They --like many among American Christians-- were committed to strengthening the family, and encouraging dads to spend more time with their kids, especially their sons, so that godly men could be raised up in this country.

Now, I am not against strong families. And I am not against dads spending time with their kids; actually, Gary's new job has been hard for us this past year because of the decreased time he has with the family. But somehow, that verse always bothered me. The point of sending the fore-runner was to strengthen families? That doesn't sound right. If the dads and the kids don't love each other, God will bring curses upon us? Somehow, this seems a little off-base. Not that I'm against their conclusions, but I don't believe that "family time" is what God's will and Christianity are primarily about.

Today our prayers included the story of John's birth and the Benedictus. Pastor started us in Malachi so that we could see how Zachariah's song was grounded in Malachi's prophecy. He said that this final verse is about people believing the promise made to our father Abraham: "and in you and in your Seed all the families of the earth will be blessed." This verse is about people trusting the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This verse if about listening to our fathers in the faith, the patriarchs and the prophets and the psalmists and now even the apostles and martyrs.

Suddenly, this verse makes sense like it never did before.


  1. I always wondered about that, and now it is clear. On a whim I pulled out my Keil and Delitzsch: "The meaning of this is not that he will settle disputes in families, or restore peace between parents and children; for the leading sin of the nation at the time of our prophet was not family quarrels, but estrangement from God. The fathers are rather the ancestors of the Israelitish nation, the patriarchs, and generally the pious forefathers, such as David and the godly men of his time. The sons or children are the degenerate descendants of Malachi's own time and the suceeding ages. "The hearts of the godly fathers and the ungodly sons are estranged from one another. The bond of union, viz., common love to God, is wanting. The fathers are ashamed of their children, the children of their fathers" (Hengstenberg). This chasm between them Elijah is to fill up. Turning the heart of the fathers to the sons does not mean merely directing the love of the fathers to the sons once more, but also restoring the heart of the fathers, in the sons, or giving to the sons the fathers' disposition and affections. Then will the heart of the sons also return to their father's disposition and affections. Then will the heart of the sons also return to their fathers, turn itself towards them, so that they will be like-minded with the pious fathers...

    I like how the commentator calls the nation "Israelitish." Kind of like calling the people of our day "Christianish."

    BTW, did you know that this same Delitzsch was a Martin Stephan sympathizer and follower in Germany?

  2. Hey, that quote is cool!

    You know what Steve said about Stephan, don't you? He was a preacher of the cross. There was a reason people flocked from all over to hear him preach, and the church was too crowded to hold everybody! So that's why Delitzsch would agree with Pastor. ;-)

    "Israelitish." I wonder if that's a quirk from not speaking English as well as German? I hope it's not; it seems such an apt description.