In 1 Chronicles 27:32, the writer tells us:
“Jonathan, David’s uncle, a wise and literate counselor, and Jehiel son of Hacmoni, were responsible for rearing the king’s sons.” (The Message)
They apparently did a spectacularly bad job with King David’s boys. One son raped his sister; one killed his brother, usurped his father’s kingdom and slept with his father’s concubines in broad daylight for all the neighbors to see; another one tried to usurp his father’s kingdom and sleep with one of his father’s wives only to be put to death by another brother; and one left his faith in the one, true God, because his sexual lust led him into at least 1,000 sexual relationships with women who worshiped foreign gods.
Where was the moral fiber that characterized their dad, “a man after God’s own heart?” Why didn’t these boys grow up knowing right from wrong? Why did they fail so miserably?
I believe the main reason is that you cannot substitute for Dad. Boys need their fathers. They need that intimate, male relationship in their lives to help them learn what it is to be a real man. Not a man who sleeps with the most women or who has the most money and toys or who always settles his problems with his fists. A REAL man. A man who submits to the authority of Jesus Christ; a man who puts other peoples’ needs (particularly his family’s needs) ahead of his own; a man who commits to one woman and honors her all the days of their marriage. A REAL man.
Ironically, David was many things that we admire. He was a warrior; a poet; a musician; a king and even a man who submitted to the authority of the Lord – but he was an abysmal father. During the years his boys needed him most, he delegated his parental responsibilities to other men. And while those men might have been wise and literate and many other good things, they weren’t Dad.
God has designed the family as the perfect way to disciple young children into mature Christian faith. When it works as planned, godly parents live their lives humbly before God and model powerful spiritual disciplines for their children. It takes place over years and years in real-life situations. Because it is lived in real life, its credibility is beyond reproach or suspicion. No teacher, preacher, mentor, friend, book, seminar or seminary will be anywhere near as effective at passing along spiritual wisdom and discipline. …that is, when it’s done well.
When it’s not done well (as in David’s case), it teaches equally powerful negative lessons. David modeled that work and personal pursuits were more important to him than his children. No wonder all his boys could think about was themselves. They had 20+ years of discipleship in selfishness.
Our boys need us, men. We can’t delegate fathering to their school teachers or their soccer coaches or even their youth group leaders. Those men serve an important role, but they cannot replace what God intended for us to provide.
And no, you don’t have to wait until you get your stuff together to start spending more time with your boys and being intentional about discipling them. Start now, and get your stuff together as you go. There are powerful lessons that our boys will learn as they watch us struggle against our sinful nature. In fact, if we pretend to be perfect, we will do more damage than good. Let’s just live our lives and invite our boys along for the journey.
Send the substitute home. Class is in session.