Bible dads and the five key tools

7 June 2019

Parenting for faith isn’t a new thing. Here's a quick look at some Bible dads and dad figures to see how they, in the middle of their everyday up and down lives, parented for faith using the same key tools we have today.

Key Tool: creating windows

Elijah – a father figure and mentor

We read about Elijah in the book of 1 Kings. We don’t know if Elijah had any natural sons but we are told about his relationship with Elisha, a younger man God sent to help him and who eventually took over Elijah’s role in Israel.

Elijah was one of God’s prophets, but far from being an all guns blazing sort of bloke, he struggled with his ups and downs. He had great moments, like the epic calling down fire from heaven challenge on Mount Carmel (see 1 Kings 18 for full details!), but he also seemed to struggle with feeling low as well as sometimes lacking self confidence.

But one thing he did really well? He created windows into his life with God for Elisha to see, learn from and copy. Elisha came along and lived life with Elijah, seeing from him what life with God looked like – on good days, bad days and inbetween days. Simply by living life with Elijah, Elisha learned from him what a relationship with God looked like, and when the time came for him to take over from Elijah, he stepped naturally and easily into the role.

For more about Elijah’s life and his relationship with Elisha, you can read 1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 2.

Find out more about the key tool of creating windows.

Today’s question:

Who has God placed in my life so I can create windows into my relationship with them for them to see and how can I do that?

Key tool: framing

Jethro – a father-in-law

Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law. He first came across Moses when, as a young man, Moses had run from an angry Pharoah and ended up physically and mentally exhausted in Midian. Moses married his daughter Zipporah but stayed working for Jethro as a shepherd until he was 80. When Moses and the people of Israel left Egypt, Jethro joined them in Sinai.

Jethro was himself a leader, the chief priest of the Midianite people. He seemed to have a good relationship with his son-in-law, and when he saw how Moses was struggling with the responsibilities of leadership, was quick to step in. In Exodus 18 we read how, presumably drawing on his own experiences, he framed for Moses a better way to teach and help the people by delegating some of the responsibilities to others. By framing this he used his own journey to help Moses on his.

You can read about Jethro and Moses in Exodus 2, 3 and 18.

Find out more about the key tool of framing.

Today’s question:

What has God taught me or shared with me in my life that someone else might need to know?

Key tool: unwinding

Paul – a father figure and mentor

We have two letters from the apostle Paul which he wrote to his ‘true son in the faith’, Timothy. Timothy, although young, was one of Paul’s assistants and had been sent to various churches to continue Paul’s work there. It wasn’t all plain sailing for Timothy, who struggled to convince some of the churches, and the two letters are full of Paul’s best advice for his son in the faith.

As Paul was very aware, it was easy for new believers to slip into believing things about God that weren’t true, and substantial parts of the letters are concerned with making sure Timothy hasn’t been drawn into any lies and equipping him to unwind the wrong views others might have. So in 1 Timothy 4, we find Paul warning Timothy to ‘have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales’ and pointing out how they were inconsistent with what scripture says. By pointing to the Bible as the truth, and helping Timothy see how others had made mistakes about God, Paul was helping Timothy keep journeying well with God.

The two letters, 1 and 2 Timothy, paint a lovely picture of Paul’s fatherly concern for Timothy as he trains him up to fulfil his purposes in the kingdom of God.

Find out more about the key tool of unwinding.

Today’s question:

Can I spot any beliefs about God in someone else that may need unwinding? How might I do that?

Key tool: chat and catch

Eli – a foster dad

Eli was the elderly priest at Shiloh, where the people of Israel went to meet with God. Because of a vow a mum called Hannah made, he became effectively the foster dad of a young boy called Samuel. Although an ineffective and indulgent father to his own sons, Eli seemed to have raised Samuel diligently, who became the nation’s ruler and prophet after Eli’s death.

Although it was rare at that time for people to hear God directly, Eli realised one night – after two failed attempts to persuade Samuel to go back to bed! – that God himself was speaking to Samuel. Realising how important this must be, Eli quickly explained to Samuel what was happening and taught him how to respond. And although Samuel was reluctant to share what God had told him as they connected, Eli validated what Samuel had caught. And the Bible tells us that with this initial coaching from Eli, chatting and catching became an important way for Samuel and God to connect and communicate for the rest of Samuel’s life.

You can read more about Eli in 1 Samuel 1 – 4. The story of Samuel in the temple is in 1 Samuel 3; other examples of Samuel chatting and catching can be found in 1 Samuel 8, 9 and 16.

Find out more about the key tool of Chat and Catch.

Today’s question:

How can I encourage someone else in their connection with God?

Key tool: surfing the waves

Manoah – a dad

Manoah was Samson’s dad. He and his unnamed wife were unable to have children until one day an angel showed up and told his astonished wife that she would have a baby boy. But no ordinary boy. They were to dedicate this boy to God as a Nazirite from birth, which meant he would never drink alcohol or cut his hair, because ‘he will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines’.

Even though the angel’s instructions were very clear, Manoah was anxious to do his very best to help his son fulfil God’s purposes. Recognising that as a baby and child Samson wouldn’t know how to ‘surf the wave’ God had for him well, Manoah prays: ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.’ Manoah knew that his little son would need their support to become what God wanted him to be and because of his commitment to help his son surf the Nazirite wave, Samson grew up as God intended and did go a long way towards delivering Israel from the Philistines.

Manoah’s story is in Judges 13, with a lovely picture of a dad struggling to cope with his teenage son’s behaviour in Judges 14!

Find out more about the key tool of surfing the waves.

Today’s question:

Who might need my support to surf a wave God is growing in them?

Happy Father’s Day! Whether you’re an old hand at parenting for faith or just beginning, take inspiration from these Bible dads.  Be confident that God has placed you in the lives of those you love, care for and mentor for a purpose and is walking alongside you as you walk alongside them.


Acknowledgement: Image by Olichel Adamovich from Pixabay