I was in Christ Church, Port Harcourt, with Ambassador Raymond Orogun Ugbeh on Sunday, 16th of June, to speak during their Father’s Day celebrations; it was a glorious moment. There were several intellectuals and business men and women present.
I believe in the vegetative reproductive capacity of the Word of God. When Jesus told the devil that man does not live by bread alone, He did not quote the whole discussion; He only applied a portion of it and it worked.
Doctrinal issues, however, are different. The background to this topic and the intent of God must be fully understood, if not, we can commit a fallacy of hasty generalisation.
Text: Genesis 18:16-19.
When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
On what grounds would Abraham be able to command his household and descendants to obey God’s word? On what grounds would they act rightly and justly after Abraham?
We took our bearing from Abraham’s journey from Ur of the Chaldeans in present day Iraq. Abraham’s town is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was a great civilization.
John Calvin, in his message on this topic, said that if you have not been a pupil of God, you cannot be a teacher of God. Abraham was a pupil of God in the school of obedience.
1. When God told him to leave his people and go to a place he had not been or seen, he obeyed and moved. Abraham had consistently obeyed God, painfully and sacrificially.
2. Abraham had no Bible or pastor. What would he use to teach his household? He knew the form of God, His theophanic manifestations, and he knew His voice.
Abraham had frequent and intimate discussions with God. Today, we shout at God and bark at the devil and we quote men and women of God who have not had personal relationships with God.
3. Abraham had a very painful demonstration of obedience. God told him to circumcise himself and his entire household as a covenant at the age of 99 – Genesis 17:12, 23.
Imagine the pain of circumcising adults. He had 318 men who went to war, when Lot was captured. Circumcising close to 500 men in a day was not an easy thing for Abraham and his household. Who circumcised Abraham? Did Abraham circumcise himself at 99 years? It is possible Eleazar circumcised him. Can you imagine yourself, at 99, stripping naked for your servant to circumcise you? What if they were attacked at this time of great vulnerability, just like the children of Jacob did to the Shechemites?
Abraham demonstrated faith by obeying God; he trusted God for his safety. Obedience is an act of faith―faith that God will keep His word to reward or punish.
I can imagine blood everywhere and people screaming from pain. I was circumcised at about 8 years of age, and I know the pain. I had to put a 38-year-old man to sleep to circumcise him. Imagine how much pain throughout the night in order to obey God for a covenant relationship. The women must have had a lot of nursing to do the next few days.
It was a very dramatic school of obedience for his whole household.
4. Genesis 18 started with Abraham welcoming three men to his household.
He knew the form of God in this theophanic manifestation. He revered God, lavishly entertained God, and the two angels that went to visit Lot before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; he was not cajoled or prompted to entertain God. He had this sacrificial relationship with God. It was not therefore difficult for him to offer Isaac when God demanded he should sacrifice him. It was in his nature and was manifested in his obedience.
Abraham modelled and demonstrated obedience.
5. He did not allow the troubles Sarah gave to him to make him display aggression towards Sarah.
He was so distressed when Ishmael was to be sent away, and God told him to listen to Sarah. That incidence could have led to divorce. If Abraham had divorced Sarah, he will not be able make his household to obey God.
David slept with the wife of the late Uriah. Absalom slept with David’s concubines on the rooftop. His son also raped one of his daughters with a lot of catastrophic consequences to the whole household and kingdom.
Abraham was to behave righteously and justly, and his household was to follow his example.
From this perspective, we are going to look at some expected righteous and just behaviours expected from fathers.
1. You cannot drive against traffic and command your children to obey you and societal rules.
2. You cannot steal or destroy ballot boxes and tell your children not to steal.
3. You can’t come to your children’s school and bundle his teacher in the boot of your car after assaulting him, and expect him/her not to misbehave now and in the future.
A top politician came to bundle the vice principal of the school in the boot of his car with security men. I later saw him charged for corruption after their party was voted out of the presidency. He was brought shamefully to the court in a stretcher. He was a shadow of his arrogant behaviour.
4. You cannot belong to a secret society and instruct your children not to be cultists.
5. You cannot brutalise their mother at home and expect them not to be violent or beat their wives.
6. You can’t commit adultery and expect your children not to fornicate or be sexually immoral.
As fathers you must obey God, and it must be demonstrably done for your households to obey you.
The reality of Abraham’s world was that they lived communally, and everybody lived on agreed social and religious norms. The Jews, Muslims, Shiites, and Sunnis lived in the same areas. In fact, sections of cities were occupied by people of the same faith. Do descendants of Abraham―Jews or Muslims―still practice what they learnt from their ancestors?
At the community level, a child was collectively owned by the clan and also disciplined by the whole community. Today, it is quite different for the African community. We go out to work in our workplaces and children are taken to school from the age of two. Fathers don’t get home until evening because of work or traffic. From this age to the age of 16 years, the children hardly spend time with the father excepting maybe on Sunday at church. Maids and servants start to take care of your children because maternity leave is so short. Who is teaching your children in their school? Your drivers sometimes spend more time with your children than you do.
They spend more time with cartoons characters―Tom and Jerry―than with their fathers.
Finally, there was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah after he could not strike deal with God over the two sinful cities. He learnt the consequences of disobedience to God’s word in a cataclysmic way.
May God help all fathers who are struggling to make ends meet and coping with family challenges.
Happy Father’s Day.