We are fast approaching Father’s Day in the US this June 21. For much of my life, I didn’t really think much about Father’s Day. My father was killed in a car wreck when I was 12 years old; and from that time onward I stopped celebrating Father’s Day. It wasn’t until last year that the day had some significance again for me. I became a father myself when my son was born in July 2013.
At that time I began looking once again at what the Bible said about being a father. Specifically, I began looking at Biblical examples of fathers. I especially wanted to see king David; after all, he is said to be a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:23). What I learned is that the Bible is honest when it deals with Biblical heroes. It gives an accurate account, including the good with the bad. Let us look now at some lessons on fatherhood from the life of David.
1. Fathers Must Be Willing to Discipline Their Children When They Sin
(David Refused to Administer Justice to Oldest Son)–2 Samuel 13:1-21
The Biblical account in 2 Samuel 13:1-2 tells us that Amnon burned in his desire for his step-sister, Tamar. Amnon summoned Tamar to his bedroom through guile and then forced himself on her. Then, in guilt and anger, he banished her from his presence adding to her disgrace. Tamar reported these things to David’s firstborn, Absalom, her brother. Absalom told her to keep quiet (perhaps to avoid the scandal), and she stayed with him in his house.
The important thing here for us to see is how David responds to the rape of one of his daughters by one of his sons. As king, it was his duty to administer justice and righteousness to the people of the nation of Israel (2 Samuel 8:15). Deuteronomy 22:25-27 says that rape is a serious crime. It is “just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case.” Deuteronomy says that the man guilty of rape shall be put to death, just as a murderer is put to death. This was the standard that David was to uphold. He was not above the Law of God. In fact, he was to be the one to facilitate worship of God and obedience to His Law.
What does David do when he finds out about this wicked deed? 2 Samuel 13:21 says that he was “very angry.” David did nothing to punish his son or administer justice for his daughter Tamar. Why? One can wonder if David was still thinking about his own grievous sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12).
This issue for all of those who are fathers is that we do not get to ignore the sins in the lives of our children. Every godly father raises his children with the hope that that they come to understand their sinfulness and need for a Savior. What we cannot control is when our children disobey and sin against us and others. We should not be surprised at their sin; after all, “they were born that way” (with sinful hearts). It is our responsibility to discipline our children so that they come to understand and appreciate authority and to know that they must submit to God’s Law.
David, on the other hand, did not fulfill his role as father and as king. As a father, he should have rebuked Amnon for his wickedness. As king, he was the executive branch of the government, and it was his duty to administer justice. Since only the government can administer capital punishment, David shirked his duty. Think of it this way. If he had dealt with Amnon appropriately, then many of the issues in the following years of David’s life would have been avoided.
2. Fathers Must Forgive and Seek Restoration with their Children
(David Refused to Forgive and Be Restored to Absalom)–2 Sam 13:38-14:1-28
Absalom, David’s son, hated Amnon because of what Amnon had done to his sister (2 Samuel 13:22). Absalom concocted a plot to kill Amnon while he was drunk at a party that Absalom was having. This had been the intent of Absalom’s heart since the violation of Tamar (2 Samuel 13:32). If David had executed justice as he should, Absalom would have been satisfied and would not have taken matters into his own hands.
2 Samuel 13:37-39 says that Absalom fled to his grandfather the king of Geshur and stayed there with him three years. David, meanwhile, mourned for his son Absalom every day. 2 Samuel 13:39 says that he was comforted concerning the death of Amnon. He knew that Absalom did what he should have done, and David’s heart went out to Absalom.
In 2 Samuel 14 there is an interesting account of the wise woman of Tekoa who comes to David at the behest of Joab, the commander of the army. She makes an important accusation against David in 14:13. She says, “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God?” She is referring to David leaving his son Absalom estranged without any closure to the situation.
Absalom, the heir of David, is becoming more bitter against his father by the day. To leave one’s heir and potential rival in this state is more than just a family issue. It leaves the nation of Israel vulnerable to outside attack and civil war. David responds to Joab and brings Absalom back to Jerusalem. Yet, he still is not reconciled with his son. David refuses to see Absalom for another two years while he lived in Jerusalem. It took Joab intervening once again for David to finally send for his son and forgive him.
As fathers, we must not exasperate our children by refusing to forgive them and seeking restoration (Ephesians 6:4). We can learn from David’s example that when our kids do wrong, and they will, we must be quick to deal with them and their sin and then equally as quick to forgive them. Without forgiveness and restoration, our kids see us as harsh disciplinarians and not as loving fathers. Our job is to be God’s representative on this earth to our kids. The way we treat our kids is the way that they will understand God the Father. If we have been forgiven much (and we have), then why would we withhold that forgiveness from our children when they sin and disappoint us?
3. Fathers Must Acknowledge that their Kids Do Wrong
(David Refused to Acknowledge Sin in His Son)–2 Sam 18:33-19:7
Absalom was embittered against his father, David, and sought to undermine his father at every opportunity. He would go to the gates of the city and tell those who had come to David to seek justice that they would find none from his father (2 Samuel 15:3-4). He did this for years as he schemed to supplant David and be king. Eventually, this culminated in David being forced to leave Jerusalem.
David and his allies go to war with Absalom and his allies and David is victorious. In the battle, Absalom is killed by Joab when he gets stuck in a tree (2 Samuel 18). David responds to Absalom’s death by going into deep mourning. He was mourning to the point that the people that had fought for him were embarrassed at their victory. It was O.K. for David to grieve; the issue was that Absalom was a wicked man who sought to overthrow God’s ordained leader. He led the men of the tribes of Israel astray and caused the deaths of 20,000 in a needless civil war. Absalom was unworthy of David’s great grief and God used Joab to rebuke David.
David refused to see Absalom for what he was: a man who was seeking to overthrow God-ordained authority over the nation of Israel. It wasn’t his place to try to take the kingship through force. It was a position that only God could give, and David was God’s choice. David, even to the end of Absalom’s life, refused to recognize the wickedness and folly in his own son. As fathers, we must be honest with ourselves and others about the sinfulness that is found in the hearts of our children. They will do, and are capable of, wicked acts. What they need first and foremost is a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Fathers Must Restrain the Sinful Heart in their Children
(David Did Not Restrain or Question His Sons)–1 Kings 1:6
Now when David grew old, his son, Adonijah, exalted himself by creating his own private body guard. 1 Kings 1:6 says that David knew what he was doing, but did not restrain him in any way. The actions of Adonijah remind one of Absalom’s actions many years before in 2 Samuel 15:1. David should have restrained his son, especially after what had happened many years before with Absalom.
Instead, he let it go and did nothing. Adonijah gathered the commander of the army (Joab), one of the priests (Abiathar), and the king’s servants, and the others sons of the David together and had himself declared king. It is telling that he did not invite Solomon, the chief priest Zadok, and David’s mighty men. All of these were fiercely loyal to David and knew that Solomon had been promised the kingdom after David.
Once again we see one of David’s sons rebelling against his father and trying to usurp the throne. 1 Kings 1:6 says it best when it speaks of David not restraining his son. David refused to restrain the evil heart in his sons and he reaped the whirlwind that their unbridled life produced.
As fathers, we must be willing to deal with the sinful hearts of our children. Remember they are born with sinful hearts as a result of Adam’s sin. It is the father’s duty to teach his children that they are sinful and need a savior. It is the father’s duty to help retrain the sinfulness of his children by teaching them obedience to the Law of God and protecting them from themselves. An undisciplined and unrestrained child becomes an undisciplined and unrestrained adult.
5. Fathers Must Teach Their Children What Is Important in Life
(David Gave a Last Charge to His Son)–1 Kings 2:2
In his last moments before his death, David brings Solomon before him. 1 Kings 2:2 records this event in which David charges his son to live as a godly man. David admonished Solomon to Fear God and obey His Law. It came down to these final words. David didn’t tell Solomon to make sure that his army was large, or to cultivate good generals. He didn’t say build great alliances, or great wealth so that his kingdom would be secure.
What he did say was for Solomon to Fear God and obey His word. As fathers, we must be the example to our kids that we so desire them to be. In telling Solomon to “be a man,” David could emphasize a life lived according to the Word of God. He had his ups and downs, but David is described in Scripture as a man after God’s own heart. Knowing and obeying God is what is important in life — not wealth, nor popularity, or power.
Solomon learned that lesson the hard way after becoming king. He married foreign women and they led his heart away from the Lord. The book of Ecclesiastes says that he sought after women, wine, wealth, wisdom, and esteem throughout much of his life. His conclusion when all was said and done was all life is “vanity of vanities” without God. At the end of his life, Solomon remembered the words of his father, David, and finished the book of Ecclesiastes with this charge to his readers: “Fear God and keep His commandments.”
As we approach Father’s Day it is important for those who are fathers to do a self-examination. Are you living a life that is honoring to God? Are you the spiritual leader of your home? Are you the example that you want your kids to emulate? We can learn from the example of David and not make the same mistakes when it comes to parenting. We can disciple our children when they sin, for their own good. We can forgive them when they stumble and fall. We can acknowledge that they are sinful and need a savior. We can restrain their sinful hearts and compassionately lead them to know our Savior and Lord. And we can show them in our lives and speech what is truly the most important thing in life: to fear God and keep His commandments.