(This is the first in a week-long series of entries on fathers in the Bible. Some turn out to be good role models; others offer us examples of fathers who messed up badly. I offer this series as a lead-up to Father’s Day this Sunday.)
The assignment seemed simple. Find a biblical father who did it right.
Sounds simple but it isn’t because the Bible doesn’t tell us everything we’d like to know. For most of the men of the Bible we’d have to say, “We don’t know whether they were good fathers or not.”
But if one criteria of good fatherhood is whether or not your son follows in your footsteps, then I would nominate Asa, King of Judah, as one father who did it right. To begin with, Asa did not grow up in a godly home. His father was a man named Abijah, about whom the Bible says, “he committed all the sins his father had done before him.” But that takes us back to Rehoboam who introduced idolatry into Judah. And that takes us back to Solomon, a wise man with a divided heart.
So when Asa came onto the scene, he entered as the third generation after his great-grandfather. His father and grandfather had brought evil into the land. What would Asa do? The Bible says that he “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done.” That takes us back four generations to his great-great-grandfather. 1 Kings 15 tells us that Asa cleared out idolatry from Judah because he was fully committed to God.
What legacy did he leave behind? A son named Jehoshaphat. Which way would he go? According to 2 Chronicles 20:32, “He walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them.” I cannot imagine a better compliment. No wonder the last part of the verse says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”
The Bible tells us that Jehoshaphat picked up where his father left off. He set up a system of religious instruction throughout the towns and villages of Judah. He commanded the judges to serve “faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord.” And when attacked by three different armies, he prayed a magnificent prayer and then sent his army into battle with the male singers at the front. As the men began to sing, the Lord “set ambushes” among the enemy armies causing them to attack each other, leading to a dramatic victory for the men of Judah (2 Chronicles 20). No wonder even the pagan nations began to fear God. And no wonder that Jehoshaphat is remembered as one of the best kings Judah ever had.
Perhaps you are the first Christian in your family or the first one in several generations. Are you worried about whether your children will follow you? The best thing a godly father can do for his sons or daughters is to give them an example worth following. By God’s grace, the pattern of sin can be broken and a godly heritage established. Asa did, and so can you.