Father and Son

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

Father’s Day
June 19, 2022

Scriptures – 1st Kings 19: 1-15a and 2nd Kings 5: 1-19a

Two brief statements before beginning today’s message.

First, today is Father’s Day, so the message will focus on the relationship between father and son.  This message does NOT ignore or discount the relationships that parents should have with their children, whether it is father and daughter, father and son, mother and daughter, or mother and son.

Second, today begins a sermon series on the “Prophets of the Old Testament.” Today’s message will focus on the father/son relationship between Elijah and his protégé, Elisha.

He was a Baptist preacher at a church in the Deep South.  His mentor served as the senior pastor, but this man encouraged the younger man to find his preaching voice, to participate and to lead various activities in the church, and to do all the things that good pastors did for their churches and for their communities. 

When the senior pastor died in 1931, the young preacher became the senior pastor of that church and served in that role for four decades.  During his significant tenure, the preacher attended the Baptist World Alliance conference in Germany in 1934 – where he saw Nazism first-hand.  It inspired him to study more of the works of the great German reformer, Martin Luther.  This influenced him for the rest of his life and his work.

The preacher also “trained up” his own three children: one older daughter and two younger sons.  All three were given significant duties in the church, just as their father had been given.  But their father frequently sent them into the nearby fields to work so that they could “gain a healthier respect for their forefathers.”  Later in life, the middle son remarked that his father “set forth a noble example that I didn’t mind following.”

Sadly, that preacher saw his own wife murdered in cold blood as she played the organ in his church; she was shot by a man who actually wanted to kill the preacher but couldn’t find him that day.  That preacher also lost one of his sons to an assassin’s bullet.

Despite these emotional blows, the preacher continued to serve, lead, and witness to his church, his community, and even his nation until he died at the age of 84.

His name was Rev. Martin Luther King SENIOR…the father of the civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King JUNIOR.

When a father and a son have a righteous relationship, their ideal is for the father to set a noble example, the son to follow it, and both to love and respect one another.  Yes, things always get in the way of this happening, and the list of those things is too long to contemplate.  So, focusing on the ideal is the best I can do in this message.

Also, we focus on the ideal, I am reminded of the words of the great NFL coach, Vince Lombardi, who told his players: “We are going to try to be perfect; we will not achieve perfection, but in trying to do so, we will be very, very good.”  Fathers and sons can achieve this, even if the ideal is not within their grasp.

The Bible gives us examples of this ideal father/son relationship:

Jacob and Joseph

Eli and Samuel

David and Solomon

Elijah and Elisha

Zechariah and John the Baptist

And of course: Joseph and Jesus.

But let us not forget what went wrong in those relationships:

  • Joseph mocked his brothers.
  • Eli was a good mentor to Samuel, but his own two sons were “scoundrels.”
  • Solomon was at one time married to over 1000 wives, some of them not believers who led him to worship other gods.
  • Elisha was teased and mocked for his appearance, so he sent bears to kill his tormentors – right after his father, Elijah, was taken up into Heaven in a whirlwind right before his eyes.
  • Zechariah refused to believe the angel who told him that his aged wife would conceive and give birth to the messenger for the coming Messiah.
  • And 12-year old Jesus left Joseph and Mary behind for three days when they were at the festival in Jerusalem.

If you read the stories about these fathers and sons, you will most likely find difficulties in each of their relationships.  Nothing was perfect – not even the one between Joseph and Jesus.  Each one of them had something go wrong, had someone stray away from the ideal.  Each of them is still seen as righteous today because of the body of work that both men achieved in their service to the Father of us all.

And in case you refuse to see the bad with the good, refuse to accept the difficulties and only see the ideal, remember the words from one of the Books of the Law, the Book of Deuteronomy, specifically chapter 21, verses 18-21:

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out 

to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. 20 They shall say to the elders of his town, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So, you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid.

They had trouble between fathers and sons even back in the “good old days” of Biblical history.  So, we should not worry too much if it happens in our modern times too.

The secret to each relationship is the same secret that Jesus expressed openly to us: love. 

When Elijah took Elisha as his protégé, theirs was a strong bond between the two of them.  Elisha had his own parents, but for whatever reason, he left them and went with Elijah who served as his mentor for at least six years.  In that time, can you imagine what young Elisha saw?

  • Elijah standing up to kings, queens, leaders, military generals and telling the brutal truth about what they were doing or what they needed to do.  This often occurred under threats of death to Elijah.
  • Elijah bringing his message of repentance to the people for at least 30 years. 
  • Elijah had to flee for his life because he challenged the priests of Baal that the king, queen, and people worshipped.

Elisha was not only shown events in the life of that amazing prophet, but he was also “trained up” as Martin Luther King Senior had done for his own three children.  In doing so, Elijah ensured that his work would continue through the work of Elisha.

When they were about to part forever, Elisha realized how much he had needed Elijah and his love and his influence.  He asked Elijah for a double-portion of his spirit.  This might ensure that Elisha’s doubts were misplaced.  When Elijah was taken up into Heaven, Elisha saw the flaming chariot and the horses – the sign that his request had been granted. 

Elisha mourned the loss of his father, Elijah.

But he picked up the mantle of Elijah.

He began to serve immediately in the ways of Elijah.

He served twice as long as Elijah and performed twice as many miracles.

He had been trained up to follow a noble example that his father had set for him.

In the end, all that any good father can hope for is to set that noble example for his sons – and his daughters.  This is what is expected, but this is also not always modeled in effective ways in our society.

Currently, there are over 11 million single parent households in the United States with children under age 18.  Over 8 million of those single-parent households are headed by women.

On just about every comedy show on television, the father is portrayed as the fool, the goof, the bumbling parent who may have a loving heart but is often the clueless adult in the room.

Ninety-two percent of parents in prison are fathers. Most – two out of three inmates – will reoffend and be back in prison, leaving their children without a father again.

It would seem that we need a lot more than prayer and lectures – and self-righteous sermons.  We need the dads of God to step up.

I was so blessed in my own life with fathers.  I had not only my own father, but I also had a beloved grandfather, a father-in-law, loads of uncles and great-uncles, wonderful mentors, and even family friends who each set their own version of that noble example for me to follow.  In my own life, I have stitched together the best of what they had to offer when it comes to living my life and hopefully being an example to my own son and grandsons – as well as my daughter and my future granddaughter.

If a father is not in the picture, does that mean the child will fail?  Certainly not!  Please remember the words I said at the beginning of this message.

But it’s still important for young people to have a noble example to follow.  If the example they follow is not noble, God help us all!

So, let me sum up what I read and learned from the Scriptures today:

  • The father loves the son.  That is the ideal.
  • The son loves the father in return.  That is the ideal.
  • Both are loved by their Heavenly Father. That is the ideal.
  • Both love their Heavenly Father in return.  That is the ideal.