The Old Testament wraps up with an interesting verse:
Malachi 4:6 “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.”
In some ways it is a difficult passage. It is a prophecy referring to the coming of John the Baptist in the spirit and power of Elijah. * It would be interesting to discuss why the Old Testament ends this way, and equally as interesting to try and discover why and how John’s ministry was characterized by the impact on fathers and sons. Instead of focusing on these intriguing questions, I’d like to focus on something that the passage much more clearly communicates, namely, that God cares about parenting.
God was concerned that fathers’ hearts were not given to their children, and He was equally concerned that the sons’ hearts were not given to their fathers. Evidently, this was so troubling to God that He decided to send a prophet for the express purpose of addressing this concern, or so it seems from this verse. Obviously, there was more to John’s mission than that, but this issue was certainly a central part of his mission. Not only was it on God’s heart, but He said that if this prophet failed to turn the hearts of fathers and sons, He would strike the land with a curse. He meant serious business.
Again, it would be an interesting discussion as to whether or not John the Baptist fulfilled this part of his mission, and if not, if we were somehow cursed as a result. I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I can tell this much about Malachi 4:6: parenting is important to God. Since parenting is important to God, you can be assured that God is in complete support of your efforts to become a better parent.
Another passage that shows that God is in support of your parenting is the passage about the shepherd that leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one that strays away. My guess is that most people will think this is a misinterpretation on my part, as we don’t typically think of this passage in this way, and you are half right.
The illustration of the lost sheep is given twice. When it is given in Luke 15, it is given in the context of the lost coin, and the lost son (or the prodigal son), and it starts off with a mention of the fact that the Pharisees were grumbling about Jesus ministering to sinful people. In context it is clearly talking about God’s concern for even one lost soul, and this is how we normally think of the parable.
However, the exact same illustration is also given in Matthew 18. Here, it is clearly in the midst of a different sermon, and Jesus’ point is completely different. It’s about children.
Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
Let’s stop here for a moment. Who are “these little ones?” Are they lost people, or are they children? Well, I can’t think of any other place that non-Christians are referred to as “little ones” and the chapter starts off with Jesus pulling a child to Himself and saying that we need to become like one of these little ones, so it seems pretty clear from the context that Jesus is talking about children still. Let’s continue with the rest of the passage:
Matthew 18:12-14 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
Clearly the “little ones” in verse 14 are the same “little ones” from verse 10, who are the same “little ones” from verse 6. The New Century Version states it plainly:
Matthew 18:14 In the same way, your Father in heaven does not want any of these little children to be lost. (NCV)
God’s desire is that we would not lose a single one of our children. Not a single one out of our families, and not a single one out of our churches.
The Guinness Book of Records lists the wife of Feodor Vassilyev as having given birth to 69 children in the 1700’s. Yeah, I have a hard time believing it too, but it also says another couple had their 55 th child in 1951, so I suppose it is possible. (After all, if you can have 55, what’s another 14?) That’s a lot of mouths to feed and bottoms to diaper! That’s also a lot of love, discipline, and instruction that needs to be given. It seems like it would be easy with that many children to let one fall through the cracks. If I had 69 kids, and one turned away from the Lord, as hard as that would be, I might still be tempted to feel pretty good about saving the other 68. But God’s desire is that not one would be lost—not a single one.
It says that He is “not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” Several translation say, “It is not the will of your father.” It is not God’s will that we should lose one. It is against his will. God is opposed to it. He is 100% for your family, and 100% against you losing your children. This is a very clear point He is making in this passage, and I am intentionally belaboring it. No parent is okay with losing a single child, and neither is God.
If God feels so strongly about not losing children, then it would also stand to reason that God is supportive of your work as a parent. We know that God is not willing that one would be lost, and from Malachi 2:15 we know that he desires godly offspring. If this is his desire, then certainly God will give you wisdom, strength, and courage to parent as you need to.
This doesn’t mean that no effort is required on our parts. We know better than that. But neither does it mean that it all depends on us. God is at work in us, through us, and for children.
Here’s another verse that talks about God’s will:
1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will , he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.
I don’t mean to use this verse as an oversimplification of the parenting process, as if you can just say the magic words and automatically win with your kids. And I don’t intend to offer false hope. However, I think there is a ton of hope offered here. It is certainly fair to say that God loves to answer prayers that are in line with his will. We already saw that God’s will is that not one of your children would be lost, so I think we can say with confidence that God loves answering your prayers regarding the winning of your children’s hearts.
Parenting is certainly a formidable and daunting task, but there should also be great comfort in realizing that God is for you, and He desires the same things you do in the salvation and successful upbringing of your children!
Hebrews 13:20-21 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.