As a grandfather, there is nothing quite like my grandson reaching up to grab hold of my hand as we walk. It is a special connection that speaks of a child's trust toward someone that loves him deeply. I remember holding my children's hands when they were small, and that same childlike trust. Their adoring eyes would meet mine as I would pick often them up and hold them tight. Ideally, attachment to our children is not supposed to turn into emotional and spiritual detachment. Children will continue to love and trust through pubescence and into adulthood if they are not disappointed to do otherwise. What will frequently initiate a severing of paternal ties with our offspring is a lack of care and concern for them, and an overriding preoccupation with ourselves. Oftentimes, parents can become so detached from their children that their self-absorption is evident to all, especially to our children. While our offspring often look to mothers for comfort, they look to their fathers for protection. A child will rightly feel grossly violated when a father fails to keep them from harm and without a sense of security.
Paternal trust by our children is as old as mankind itself. In the book of Jeremiah, we see a breach of this trust nearly 2600 years ago amongst Israel's ancient rival. As our lead verse implies, a horrific theme of forsaking had occurred which continues throughout the chapter. The prophet is speaking a prophetic word against the Philistine nation regarding their devastation by the hand of Pharaoh. Jeremiah's inference in this futuristic foretelling is that the Philistine fathers would abandon their children, being terrorized while running away from the onslaught. Upon the fulfillment of this prophecy, some had undoubtedly escaped Gaza (a chief city of Philistia) without concern for the welfare of their offspring. He spoke judgment to these weak fathers for their self-centered preservation, who would sacrifice their own children to their ruthless conqueror. The prophet characterizes their lack of strength as both a man and as fathers by the "limpness of their hands".
A day of forsaking such as portrayed by Jeremiah did not happen because of this solitary event. In order for fathers to forsake their children in a time of distress, they undoubtedly had forsaken them days, weeks, months, or years before in their hearts. Their lives had become so busy with their own pursuits that their children became pushed down the priority list. We see other examples in scripture of fathers forsaking their children in much more demonstrative and horrific ways. The Old Testament mentions the Ammonite god Molech eight times and it is always in conjunction with child sacrifice. Twice in the book of Leviticus, the Lord warns the children of Israel of this detestable practice of the nations they are soon to dispossess from Canaan (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5). Sadly, in the book of Kings, we see its establishment by none other than King Solomon (I Kings 11:7). Whether Solomon himself sacrificed any of his own children to Molech is not revealed in scripture. However, we can surmise that this was an invitation to all who desired to do so to complete this ghastly form of idolatry. We are told that two later kings of Judah, Ahaz and Manasseh, did indeed "make their sons pass through the fire" (II Kings 16:3; II Kings 21:6). One might ask, "How could someone do such a thing? It would never even enter into my mind to do a crime such as this against children!" Before we cast judgment on these ancient idolaters, let us first establish the fact that idolatry of ANY kind is an abomination before God. The Lord stated in His first commandment, "You shall have no other gods besides Me" (Exodus 20:3). While child sacrifice is horrific, it is merely a progression of idolatrous behavior that had become socially acceptable. To give a more contemporary example, we might say that we would never have participated in the holocaust against the Jewish nation in World War II Germany. However, once something becomes acceptable, there is no telling what atrocities will be awakened in the human psyche.
While this is a horrific thing for us to contemplate -- fathers abandoning their children to idolatry -- it is indeed a reality happening around us every day. Fathers with "limp hands" are giving in to their own desires rather than sacrificing themselves for their children. (Indeed, there will be a sacrifice, whether it is the father or the child!) We see it happen as children are allowed to grow up much too fast, exposed to the overt sensuality of this world. Through paternal blindness, their innocence is sacrificed in the name of social acceptability. "After all," both fathers and children might reason, "Everyone else is doing it so I guess it's okay, huh?" What they fail to recognize is that it's not okay. These fathers with no moral compass have allowed their children to "pass through the fire" and to be sacrificed to the god of this world, all in the name of compliance to social norms. What they fail to recognize is that they have run away from the enemy much like the Philistines before Pharaoh, sacrificing their children rather than protecting them. By not sacrificing themselves, they have created an insufferable breach in relationship that can only be healed by the Lord God Almighty. For those of us who have sacrificed our children to our respective "Molechs" by our neglect and selfishness toward them, there is always opportunity for healing. If we confess our sin of idolatry to the Lord, He will begin the restoration. We must be willing to tear down the altars of selfishness and do whatever it takes to bring reconciliation. May God give us all strong hands and tender hearts to bring the children back to a father's heart of love and sacrifice.
Heavenly Father, teach us to be remarkable fathers. Allow us first to surrender our lives to Your Fatherhood. Then, give us tender hearts and strong hands for those You've called us to father. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,