A contrast of two parents
Most students of the Bible are familiar with Deuteronomy chapter 6, and its importance. To the Jews, this is a paramount and essential passage of scripture, especially verses 4 to 9. They call this passage along with Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-31 the Shama based on the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4. It is the Hebrew word shama which is translated hear. Jesus affirmed the importance of this passage when he was asked what the most important commandment in the scripture is (Mk 12:28-30). Deuteronomy 6 goes on to give parents an important instruction in verses 7-9: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” Parents are to incorporate teaching the word of God to their children into their daily activities and it is to dominate their home and what we call lifestyle. The tendency of religion is to externalize the spiritual meaning of things and lose the inner, spiritual purpose. This was very evident in the Jewish religious community in the days of Jesus Christ (Mt 23, Mk 7). They literally wrote these passages of scripture in small scrolls, placed them in little boxes, and placed them on the entryways of their homes and in their clothing, and wore them on their heads. The ones they wore were called phylacteries, and the ones they place on their doorways are called mezuzzahs. While it is good to honor the scriptures and give them a physical place of prominence, it is more important to God that His word is in our hearts and lives (Mt 23:1-5, Lk 11:28).
As important a passage as Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is in regards to the unity of the Godhead, keeping God’s commandments, and parenting, there is also another verse that is important for parents. It is Genesis 18:19. Abraham was called by God at 75 years old to go to a strange land which He would give him and to his descendants after him. They would become a great nation (Gen 12:1-3). The problem was that Abraham and his wife could not have children and were now too old (Gen 11:29). God reminded Abraham several times of this promise as the years went by, but there was still no child. 24 years after He initially spoke to Abraham, God told him the time for this was the next year (Gen 17:1 & 21).
Some time between this specific promise and its fulfillment, the Lord and two angels appeared to Abraham (Gen 18). How Abraham talked and acted toward the Lord shows a lot about his character. He ran to them, bowed himself, was unpresumptuous, called himself a servant, and showed impassioned hospitality. The Lord again spoke to him about His covenant promise to him. Then the Lord and the angels got up and headed toward Sodom. As they were heading out, the Lord spoke to the two angels and decided to show Abraham what He was about to do, which was to decide about the judgment of Sodom. There are two reasons God decided to tell Abraham. One was that Abraham’s nephew Lot lived there (Gen 13), but the main one was that God knew that Abraham was going to effectively command his children to keep the way of the Lord so that God could fulfill His purpose with them (Gen 18:19). Although there are many places in the Bible that talk about parents teaching their children (The Bible always and only assigns responsibility for teaching children to the parents - Gen 18:19, Ex 10:2, Ex 13:8-16, Deut 4:9, Deut 6:7, Deut 11:19, Deut 31:13, Deut 32:6, 7, and 46, Josh 4:5-7 and 20-24, Jud 13:1-14, Ps 78:1-7, Proverbs was written from father to son - 1:8, 2:1, 3:1, 3:11, 3:21, 4:1, 4:10, 4:20, 5:1, 6:1, 6:20, 7:1, 7:24, 8:32, 23:26, 24:13, Eph 6:1-4, Col 3:20, 1Tim 3:4-5 and 12, 1Tim5:14, Titus 2:5 and many others), this is the only passage where God directly commended someone for doing it right. After God told Abraham about the pending judgment on Sodom, he made intercession for the souls there (Gen 18:23-33). Although this passage does not mention Lot or his family, we can safely assume they were on his mind as he prayed.
The Bible then turns our attention to the angels arriving in Sodom to execute the judgment of God on it and the surrounding cities (Gen 19). Lot invited them into his home like uncle Abraham did. At first they refused, but he insisted, so they came to his house where he made a feast for them. Then the men of Sodom surrounded his house and demanded Lot produce his two guests so they could rape them. Here Lot begins to show how his character was not like Abraham’s. He shows what kind of parent he was. He offers to give his two virgin daughters to the sodomites instead of the angels who visibly looked like men. What kind of parent does that? The unfortunate answer is that it is one whose morals have been decayed by those they have chosen to surround themselves with and be influenced by (2Pet 2:7). While Abraham was abiding in the calling of God and preparing to raise his family for Him, Lot had moved into the city of Sodom which was full of wicked, abominable people. He knew this, but still chose to move in amongst them. He even became a city leader, possibly the mayor (Gen 19:1 & 9). Instead of being the man of influence for God, he became the influenced by sinners, and it brought spiritual and physical destruction to his family.
The angels had to remind him that he had married daughters and sons-in-law that he needed to go warn so they could escape the judgment, but he had already lost his influence with them. It seemed to them like he was just joking around when he told them. They all died in the judgment. When Lot returned home, the angels had to admonish and then physically remove Lot, his wife, and his two daughters after he continued to delay his escape from the judgment of God. He was in serious spiritual trouble and in physical danger with his family, but he did not take it seriously. He had two angels visibly manifested in his house warning him and performing miracles to spare him, and he still did not take any action. Then instead of following the angels’ instructions, he bargains for an alternative escape plan which he later abandons anyway. His wife disobeys the instruction not to look back after God had shown such great mercy and was destroyed. When Jesus was warning about His second coming, He said, “Remember Lot’s wife (Lk 17:32).” Once again, we see the contrast between Abraham and Lot. Abraham got up early in the morning, went to the place God appeared to him, and looked to see what happened to Sodom. Lot was only spared because of the life and prayers of Abraham (vs 29).
Now comes another sad chapter in Lot’s parenting. His oldest daughter made a lying excuse to have incest with her father. She got him drunk and did the act while he was in a stupor. Then she convinced her sister to do the same. The two children that were born were the forefathers of the Moabites and the Ammonites, which were pagans and perpetual enemies of Israel.
Genesis 18 gives us one of the greatest passages in the Bible about the importance of good parenting, and what it can do to bring great blessing on individuals, families, communities, the whole word, and the future. It is a commendation of Abraham. The very next chapter shows the stark contrast of Lot, his failed parenting, and the devastation it caused him, his family, the very city he embraced so much, and the future.
We hold the ministry in high regard, as we should (1Tim 5:17, Heb 13:7 and 17). We should give the proper amount of respect to civic leaders (Rom 13:1-7, 1Tim 2:14). However, in some ways, parents are the most important people in the world. If parents do not do their job right, it has a major negative impact on the church and society. God did not ordain anyone in His word to take the place of parents. There are certain exceptions, especially today since the status of the family is in such trouble. For example, couples that choose to adopt are not under some curse; and of course children are not responsible for what their parents do, although they are too often their victims. Although the influence of parents on their children is considerable, and although God often accounts children with their parents, the Bible does not teach that children can be
inescapably trapped in so called generational curses (Ex 17:16, 20:5, and 34:7; and Deut
23:3-4). There are many examples of children of wicked people who did not follow their
parents’ example, and found spiritual success. Abraham came from a family of idolaters
(Gen 12:1, and Josh 24:2). Although Korah rebelled against Moses, and he and his
company were destroyed (Num 16:1-35), apparently some of his sons heeded Moses’
warning in verses 24-27, and later became worship leaders (Num 26:11; Ps 42, 44-49, 84,
85, 87, and 88). Ruth the Moabitess followed her mother-in-law Naomi back to Israel,
became a worshipper of God, and married into the lineage of Jesus (Ruth 1:14-19, 4:13-
22, and Mt 1:5). Rahab the harlot accomplished the same thing (Joshua ch 2, 6:22-25, and
Mt 1:5). She was to have been destroyed with the rest of her people. Jabez overcame his
mother’s negativity towards him (she named him “sorrowful or grievous”), became the
most honorable of his family, and received blessings from God (1Chr 4:9-10). Several
good kings of Judah had fathers who were bad kings, such as Asa (his mother also – 2Chr
15:16), Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah.
The Bible clearly teaches that children shall not be punished for the sins of their
parents (Deut 24:16). King Amaziah applied this commandment in 2Kings 14:1-6.
Ezekiel 33:1-20 also teaches this principle. “The curse causeless shall not come” (Prov
26:2). God can also revoke blessings and curses (Ex 32:14, Lev ch. 26; Num 14:12 and
34; Deut 9:25, 23:5, and ch. 28; Jer 26:13; Joel 2:13-14; Mal 2:2; Mt 18:21-35, and Rev
22:19). It is interesting to see that Moses quoted Ex 20:5-6 when he prayed for
forgiveness in Num 14:18-20. A similar verse is found in Deut 7:9, but speaks of 1,000
generations, not just 3 or 4. This is longer than the entire history of man. Is this meant as
a literal counting that is irrevocable for each generation? Obviously it is not. Are the
previous scriptures in contradiction with these ones? Of course they are not. When read
properly, the scriptures always harmonize. The Bible teaches that parental influence is
very strong. It also shows that in times when major judgments occur, such as the flood,
Sodom, the conquering of Canaan, or the tribulation, the children are not spared. The
incident when the 10 spies discouraged Israel from entering Canaan shows how children
can be affected by their parents without being trapped in a curse. Although the children
could not enter the promised land at that time because of the unbelief of their parents,
they did later (Num 14:26-35, and Deut 1:39). They were the generation that conquered
Canaan and received God's promises. The Bible does not teach that generational curses
are passed down like some kind of unwitting and uncontrollable inheritance. God does
not delight in wickedness, but in repentance and righteousness (Eze 18:23, and 2Pet 3:9).
He is just and merciful, and is looking to empower people to do right, not to perpetuate
evil. God’s ways and judgments are not like man’s (1Sam 16:7, Is 55:6-9, Jer 29:11, Jn
7:24, 1Cor 2:9-16, 1Cor 3:18-21, and Rom 11:33-36), and he gives every individual more
than a fair chance (Mt 18:11, Jn 1:9, Jn 3:14-21, Lk 9:51-56, Lk 13:1-9, Titus 2:11, and
2Pet 3:9). God is love, not hate (1Jn 4:7-21). Even the disciples of Jesus misunderstood
this (Jn 9:1-3). God is not pleased with a judgmental attitude (Mt 7:1-5, Rom ch. 2, Rom
8:33-34, Rom 14:4 and 10-13, 1Cor 4:3-7, and James 4:6-12). He took our sins and
curses upon himself on the cross (Deut 21:22-23, Gal 3:13, and 2Cor 5:21). However,
God knows the propensity for children to take after their parents, and repeat their
behavior. Men do not have to be geniuses to recognize this obvious fact. The child of an
alcoholic is more likely to become an alcoholic himself. This does not mean he is cursed
to be one. Children that are victims of sexual molesters are more likely to molest. That
does not mean they must. God is gracious. The question for parents is: will you take the responsibility God gave you seriously and follow what the Bible says you are to do?