Elijah, Where Art Thou?

by Juan J. Guajardo

Christians and political conservatives condemn Jeremiah Wright for his cursing of America.  But who will condemn God for cursing America?

THE PROBLEM

At the end of the Old Testament, God said He would “come and strike the earth with a curse” if the hearts of the fathers were not turned to the children and vice versa.  Where are the hearts of the fathers toward their children in 21st century America?

  •  The percentage of women who were currently cohabiting (living with a man in a sexual relationship) rose from 3.0% in 1982 to 11% in 2006– 2010.  While people are getting married at an older age, about half of first time marriages end in divorce.

(http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr049.pdf)

  • According to Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007, released by the U.S. Census Bureau in November, 2009, there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.8 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21 in the U.S. today).  About 84 % of single parents are mothers.  Eighty percent of those single mothers have a job, 50% full time and 30% on a part time basis.

(http://singleparents.about.com/od/legalissues/p/portrait.htm)

One of every four children lives in a broken home, not counting those who live in a yet-nuclear but dysfunctional home.  So close to half of American children are being raised by mentors who are not effective fathers.  For eight hours a day the mentors might be their teachers.  For a few more hours it might be the television, or the video games, or the Internet.  But where are the fathers?

It is no wonder that from 2006-2010 the median age at first marriage was 25.8 for women and 28.3 for men. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr049.pdf).  Boys in their late twenties don’t want responsibility.  They want to live a “full” life in a vibrant city full of adventure and excitement.  Some want to live a “cultured” life in which they can grow in sophistication and a “successful” career.  Others have no clue, so they try college or some other route to avoid having to be accountable to someone else, certainly not to a wife and children…let alone to a jealous God.

THE SOLUTION

Ah, but the churches are the answer, aren’t they?  Our visible churches are weak because the fathers that do exist in children’s lives are weak.  As Kevin Swanson says, the problem is that we don’t love God enough.  A godly man will show his children how to live.  He will tell them about the God he loves.  He will say, “Let me show you Jesus.” (Upgrade, p. 78)

The answer is in the Church, but only if the Church speaks for the God of the Bible—the God who creates and destroys, who loves and hates.  This is the God who told Moses to tell God’s people to love Him with all their being, and to keep His commands in their hearts, and to teach them to their children at all hours of the day in whatever activities they were undertaking (Deut. 6).

But that’s Old Testament, you say?  What about the God who told Paul to tell fathers not to exasperate their kids but to rear them in fear and admonition of Him (Eph. 6)?  That’s the same God who told His listeners it would be better to have a millstone hung around their necks and be thrown into the sea than to face His wrath…for what?  For causing a little one to stumble (Matt. 18, Mk. 9).

What happens when grown men themselves are still “little ones”?  It is the prophets who must repent and begin to speak faithfully for God. And it is the teachers who must come out of the corner and begin to serve balanced spiritual meals.  Our churches are full of gentle and warm relational nurturing and admonition.  Our preachers want to make sure that every message encourages and builds up the hearers.  And the hearers grow fat and soft with years of lactic build-up.  They never get the protein of the meat.

There is a place for teaching and preaching on relationships; however, it must always be built on a proper understanding of what a godly relationship is.  Swanson has this to say on the issue:  “During His three years of ministry, Jesus spent the time traveling with His students, teaching and ministering to them.  He fixed food them.  He told them He loved them.  Then He died for them.” (Upgrade, p. 74)

Godly fatherhood takes dying to one’s will and submitting to the will of the one who died for his followers.  Missionary Bojidar Marinov gets even more specific on the need of fathers to accept their function as guardians of their respective families.

Do you preach and teach purpose, what the family is created for? Do you teach the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth, have many children and through them take over the culture? Do you teach and preach on the educational function and purpose of the family; teaching the children in the Lord? Do you teach them the purpose of the family as God’s institution for economic decisions and action? Do you teach them on the fathers as protectors and conquerors? Do you teach them on the function of the family as a welfare agency, the only institution ordained by God to take care of the poor and the needy?

(http://americanvision.org/5555/relationship-vs-purpose-how-the-church-destroys-the-christian-family/)

While fellowship is wonderful and necessary, indeed ordained, on what basis is our communion, if not on glorifying God?  We cannot glorify someone that we do not agree with, and we can’t honestly say we agree with God if we don’t do what He has explicitly told us to do time and again.

Again, Marinov gives powerful admonition:

Jesus Himself…gives a very simple explanation of what a personal relationship with Him is: obedience to His will. In Matt. 12:46-50 He explains how one gets to be a member of Jesus’s family: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” And then again, in John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” There is no special theology of “personal relationship with Jesus” in the Bible; that personal relationship is very simple: do what He commands. It is not based on emotions or feelings. It is based on the self-conscious commitment to do what He commands.

http://americanvision.org/5555/relationship-vs-purpose-how-the-church-destroys-the-christian-family/

The last of the Old Testament prophets was John the Baptist.  Jesus said that John was the Elijah God had promised through Malachi (Matt. 17).  Something scary happened to Elijah after he ran from Jezebel.  God told him to go to the mountain but he went only to the mouth of the cave.  God asked him twice what he was doing there, in and around the cave.  The second time, God told him to go anoint two kings and Elisha (1 Kings 19).  How many times does God have to call me or you?

As God still had 7,000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal, He has thousands today.  But who will speak for God?  If our preachers don’t teach the Elijahs, whose voice will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children?

The irrelevancy of American men is in the eyes of American men, not in the eyes of God.  We are being held responsible whether we believe it or know it, or not.  Many first century Jews thought they could reject God’s Son and His commands; they chose to cling to their old religion and way of life.  They rejected the messenger Elijah/John, the message, and the sender and giver of the message.  Americans have done the same.

God has cursed this nation, and the only way out is through repentance.  Preachers who are guilty of taking God’s name in vain need to repent and answer God’s call.  Men have to grow proverbial hair on our chest, humble ourselves, and repent for despising God’s commands.  Women can be Deborahs to their Baraks (Judges 4).

Swanson offers concrete, specific steps men and women who influence men can take in accepting responsibility for our roles as teachers of our children, besides the obvious needs to begin early and pray hard:

  • We need to reassess our priorities.  “When you’re lying on your death bed, chances are you will not be wishing you had spent more time at the office.”
  • We need to integrate our children into our lives.  In the spirit of Deuteronomy 6, we can talk to them while driving to the grocery store, attending meetings together, cleaning the house, or fixing the car.
  • We need to pave the roads by establishing meaningful conversations with our child.  We should establish a regular time in the Bible together.
  • We need to repave the roads.  If necessary, we must confess in a heart-felt way and ask our children to forgive us.  Then we get to work in our paternal office.

(Upgrade, pp. 82-83)

CONCLUSION

When God called Elijah out of the cave, Elijah immediately began to justify himself and blame others:  “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” (1 Kings 19)

In this one sense, Americans have the spirit of Elijah.  We love to excuse ourselves and shift the focus of our arguments against the Jeremiah Wrights of the world.

The Elijahs need the willingness of the Isaiahs:  “Here am I, LORD.  Send me.” (Is. 6)

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