Summary: Like Josiah’s sorry sons, we have missed the point of our fathers’ messages about the value of Scripture, the worth of the church, and the meaning of the work ethic.
Why is it that on Mother’s Day we honor our mothers, we talk of saintly moms who worked their fingers to the bone to cook and clean and sew for us? But on Father’s Day we scold the dads! Why is that? Have you noticed? We honor mothers for their industry, their wisdom, their prayer life, and their welcoming presence. And that is as it should be. But then we come to Father’s Day and we scold. We urge fathers to get good jobs, mow the lawn, support the church, and be leaders. We preach at them that they ought to advance higher, earn more money, and watch fewer sports on TV. We scold on Father’s Day. I have preached my share of sermons for faltering fathers, but I am beginning to suspect that if scolding is all we are going to do, we can just keep the ties and socks and the power tools. Fathers deserve better than another shrill and scolding sermon today.
Because the problem may not be in fathers. The problem is in those of us who receive fathers’ messages. The problem is in sons and daughters who have heard what they wanted to hear and have seen what they wanted to see. The issue is not always in what our fathers taught us; the issue is in the way we absorb it. We distort their messages. Do you remember, on the old TV show, how Cliff Huxtable would try to get something across to his kids? “Get out of here and get a job!” But they always heard what they wanted to hear. One of them heard, “Get out of here” and but took off for a year to find herself, courtesy of dad’s credit card. Another got out of here but signed up for graduate school, only to come home every time the apartment refrigerator emptied. They missed the point. Dad spoke; but they didn’t get it. The issue is not necessarily in what fathers tell their children. The issue is in what we sons and daughters see and hear.
I know of one very accomplished father. He had a superstar career. This man had been compelled to go to work at the tender age of nine, but even though you would not think it possible, he showed tremendous promise at that early age. He even took on an ambitious project over the objections of many of the people around him. He was truly a productive youngster.
In the middle of that big project, however, something happened to this young man. I guess you could say he had a conversion experience. He became so sold out for God that he forced everybody around him to re-examine their spiritual lives. He pressed God’s agenda hard. The fellow wasn’t officially a preacher, but he surely did influence a lot of people, and got many of them to turn their lives around.
Why, this man got so sold out for God that he went all around to lead campaigns against immorality. He lived, you see, in a time when children were not cared for, and died at random. A time in which women ran to prostitution, and their customers were plenty. A time in which it seemed as though everything vile and negative was taking over. But this man worked tirelessly to persuade others that what they were doing was not God’s way. Most people respected him. He had a great following and a wonderful reputation with nearly everybody. Nearly everybody, but there were two significant exceptions. His sons. His two sorry sons.
You know how the Bible says that a prophet is not without honor except in his own country? A man may be a hero to others, but may not be held in high regard by his own family. Sometimes those closest see all the externals, but they really don’t understand their father’s heart. They see all that he does, but they don’t understand why he does it. Sometimes children hear, but they don’t hear; they see, but they don’t see. Sometimes they just miss the point.
And so, when this particular father’s life ended, brutally and unexpectedly, just before the age of forty, his two sons tried to imitate some of the things their father had done; but they distorted them. They didn’t get it. They missed the point. In fact, his sons were disasters, total disasters. They had heard their father’s message, but they missed the point of what their father’s life had been about.
The father I am talking about is Josiah, King of Judah in the last part of the seventh century before Christ. Josiah became king as a child, and began almost right away to rebuild the Temple. And then when workmen found the book of God’s law in the Temple, Josiah realized how far off the mark he and his people had gone. This king wept, he prayed, he cried out to God, and he let God turn him completely around. He went to work to root out child sacrifice and cult prostitution; he closed the pagan shrines and brought all worship to the Jerusalem Temple. This man Josiah turned a whole nation around spiritually.