Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NASB)

While this verse is fairly straightforward, I like how it is translated for the Amplified Bible.

Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 AMP)

There are literally shelves full of books on how to do this. Of course the first one, by the Author of family relationships is the best. Look for a moment at Deuteronomy 6.

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NASB)

The first part of these verses are called “The Shema” in Hebrew. THE SHEMA is the central prayer in the Jewish prayerbook (Siddur) and is often the first section of Scripture that a Jewish child learns. During its recitation in the synagogue, Orthodox Jews pronounce each word very carefully and cover their eyes with their right hand. Many Jews recite the Shema at least twice daily: once in the morning and once in the evening. Parts of the Shema are written on a small scroll which is then rolled up and put inside a mezuzah. Thus the literally put this on their door posts.

A godly heritage is a most precious gift, and is something that should be treasured by those of us who had godly fathers who taught us the Word. That is why there is such a huge emphasis on this in Hebrew culture. Notice that this teaching was to occur while normal everyday conversation took place. This assumes that fathers are talking to their children. The way to provoke a child to resentment and wrath is to have rules without relationship. Only when there is a trust built up will a child believe that rules are for their good and spoken in love, rather than arbitrary. In that context, this generational passing down of the law of God is very intentional. I believe it is no accident that Jehovah is not just referred to as “the God of Abraham”, but calls Himself “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

But what about those who did not have the advantage of a Christian father? Is there provision for them? Yes!

There are many examples in scripture of young men being mentored in the things of God, or discipled, by those who are older in the faith. We have examples from the Apostle Paul of Silas, Titus, and Timothy. Barnabas even took John Mark under his wing and turned him from an unreliable travel companion to someone who was “useful in the ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11
Paul differentiates between these relationships and those of strictly a teacher. In 1 Corinthians Paul wrote,
For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:15-17 NKJV)
In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 3:27-28, Jehovah instructed Moses like this.
Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.
I like the way Phil Ware from Heartlight describes what happened in his “Today’s Verse” devotional.
“Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and in the wilderness, but did not get to enter into the Promised Land because of his sin. Yet, for all those years, Moses nurtured and prepared the person who would do what he could not do. That person was Joshua. Who are you training, molding, encouraging, motivating, and calling to do what you won’t be able to do? What successor will take your dreams farther than you can? Who is your Joshua?”

May we make it our mission to come alongside those who have had no spiritual heritage and disciple them. As we help them to grow in the things of God, we will also reap an eternal benefit!

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