No Perfect Fathers

Bible Book: Exodus  20 : 12
Subject: Father's Day; Father; Dads; Parenting

I can hear an old neighbor of ours who lived down the road from us on another farm. Even though he was illiterate, he had a lot of common sense and he was a good neighbor. Our church was located about sixty to seventy yards from his house and since we had no restrooms in the little mission church, it was not unusual to see a church member walk the short distance down the road to Lenny’s house, and then go behind it to visit the “out house.” One Sunday night, a young man started into the church and as he approached the door a friend of mine asked him for the cigarette he was about to throw away. Benny looked at him and said, “Son, if I give it to you your daddy will be mad at me. If I don’t give it to you, you will be mad at me.” So, Benny turned to the side and thumped the cigarette onto some grass and walked on into the building.

My friend, I will call him Billy, picked up the cigarette up and headed for Lenny’s house. It was dark behind his house and there were a couple of small building, a tractors with implements, and maybe a cotton trailer back there. His out house was in the middle of all of that. Out house? That’s an outdoor bathroom, even though I have never heard of anyone taking a bath in one (unless it was raining really hard and the roof leaked). As soon as Billy left and headed toward Benny’s house I knew where he was going! He was going to Lenny’s out house to smoke the cigarette. I turned to my friend Charles and said, “Let’s go surprise Billy!” Charles liked the idea so we walked out there until we were close to the door to the out house and then we slipped up to the door and when I was right in front of it I slapped the door and yelled as loud as I could. Mrs. Bertha Jones screamed! If anyone had been checking our speed there is no doubt that we would have set the record for approaching that church.

There were many amusing stories associated with that little church, and with our neighbor. Lenny took a tractor engine to dealership some 25 miles away to have it overhauled, and after the service manager told him it would cost a certain amount per hour and it would take four hours for the job, he took a seat and watched the mechanic. After a while someone called that mechanic and told him he had a phone call. When he started to go to leave the engine Lenny asked him where he was going. The mechanic told him he had to take that phone call. Lenny said, “Then write down your time when you leave and when you return write it down again. I’m not paying you to talk on the telephone.” The mechanic stopped for a coffee brake and Lenny said, “Write down you time. I am not paying you to drink coffee.” That happened several times that day. I am sure that mechanic remembered Lenny for a long time. I never asked Lenny what he thought on the subject of fathers, but I can imagine what he would say if I asked him if he had ever seen a perfect father: “They ain’t no such thang as a perfect father.” And he would be right.

The word “father” is found 1,111 times in the Holman Christian Standard Bible. There are 207 references to fathers in the Book of Genesis alone. The first person created was the father of the human race. His name was Adam. One of the Ten Commandments tells us that we must honor our parents (Ex. 20:12). I caught a few minutes of the AFR Radio program on May 21, 2013, and host Tim Wildmon and his guest host for the day interviewed a man who heads up a national ministry to fatherless boys, and a regional director who is headquartered in Columbia, Mississippi. The national director offered the shocking statistic that there are 12 million fatherless boys in America. There are twelve million boys living in a home with no father there in the house! This means single mothers are raising many of the boys in America, or they are being housed in some facility, like a Children’s Home, or a legal detention center. Why are they fatherless? Some are orphans, many more are boys living in a home without a father. In many cases, there has been a divorce, in other cases the parents were never married. With all the predators there are out there today, especially when there is no father in the home, both boys and girls are at risk.

This ministry to boys is church based, it is not a para-church movement. They go to churches and share information and offer suggestions as to what individual men may do to help reach out to fatherless boys in America. The men must be faithful members of the church, they are subjected to a background check, and they must have some basic training. One of the guests told about a man who promised a young boy in a fatherless home that he would take him hunting the following winter. The young boy lived for that time, but when the time came the man had obviously forgotten. That seemed to have influenced these men to get involved in a ministry that would not let them forget a promise to a young boy.

Tim Wildmon’s co-host for this particular program announced, “I grew up in a home like that. My father was in prison and there was no man in the home.” He had no godly man who assumed, with the approval of his mother, a relationship with him. He said he watched boys with fathers and he watched men who seemed to be good men in order to learn how to be a man. His story resonated with me because my father was orphaned when he was four years old. He was reared by his grandparents, and after the death of his grandfather, his grandmother. At age 12 or 13, he dropped out of school and made a living for himself and his grandmother, and at times his sister and younger brother, by pulling a cross-cut saw ten hours a day with grown men. My father-in-law told me his father was six feet, five inches tall and weighed two hundred, forty pounds back when a six foot man was called “a giant of a man.” At age 26 he caught pneumonia and died. The family doesn’t even know where he is buried.

I don’t know what my father learned from the men with whom he worked, or from neighbors and relatives, but by the time I came along, there were certain convictions he had developed and he was very close to uncompromising in his convictions. For one thing, he was honest with his word and with money or other possessions , down to the last cent. He expected no less from his three sons and his daughter. For another thing, he was determined that all four of his children would get a college education: “You are going to finish high school and college. If you want any more after that it is up to you, but you are going to get a college degree.” It never occurred to us that we would do any less. He had strong convictions about the things a father should do with his children. He took me hunting, fishing, and taught me to work. As soon as he felt that I could handle livestock I had a new chore. My father never abused us, but we knew he meant what he said and accepted no arguments.

My father was one of a diminishing number of farmers who did not farm on Sunday. One Saturday, a man who lived on our farm came to see him and said, “I know you don’t work on Sunday and I know you go to church. I don’t go to church and I don’t see anything wrong with working on Sunday, so why don’ you let me pick up a tractor and plow out my cotton while you are in church tomorrow?” My father said, “I don’t work on Sunday, my tractors don’t work on Sunday, and my land is not worked on Sunday.” I don’t know whether the tenant was impressed or not, but my father made an impression on me that day.

I often stood and listened to my father when he talked with a neighbor or friend. I watched him to things that translated into lessons about character and integrity to me. A man came to our house to see my father and me one time when I was home from seminary. The neighbor said a man had given his niece a present and hugged her, and that his brother, the young girls’ father was angry. Actually, he said, “He is fightin’ mad!” He wanted my father and me to be there when they got together at the church. He thought I might be a calming influence on his brother. I didn’t want to go but they assured me that my presence could help keep the peace. We attended the meeting, as uncomfortable as it was for me, and as my father and I drove home I said, “Daddy, I will help you with anything I can when I came home, but don’t ever ask me to go through anything like that again.” After reflecting for a few minutes, my father said, “Son, if a man cannot resist the temptation of a young girl like that he is not much of a man.” He was right. He was not perfect, but he was my father.

When I was about thirteen or fourteen, I came in and told my father something my History teacher and coach said. I have no idea what it was now as I look back, but I remember being impressed, and I remember that my father was not impressed. I said, “Oh, yes, sir!" My father said, “I still don’t believe it.” We went through two or three rounds of this and finally, my father looked up from something he was working on and pointed his finger in my face and said, “Boy, you don’t argue with me!” I said, “Yes, Sir.” I don’t’ remember what the subject was, nor do I know whether my coach or my father was right, but I do now that my father was right not to let me argue with him. I thank the Lord for the privilege of growing up with Joe B. Sanders. When I wrote my commentary on Philippians, UNDEFEATED: Finding Peace in a Word Full of Trouble, I dedicated it to him.

I would like for us to look to the Bible to see that there are no perfect fathers.


A. There Is Godless Esau.

What do we know about Esau? Whatever it is, we learn it from the Book of Genesis. The Lord blessed Abraham and Sarah with a miracle child in their old age and they named him Isaac. Isaac was blessed with a wife, Rebekah, whom the Lord provided in response to Abraham’s quest for a wife for his son. Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel and sister of Laban of Paddan-aram, about whom we may read as we continue in Genesis. Rebekah was childless for twenty years and:

“Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord heard his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. (22) But the children inside her struggled with each other, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. (23) And the Lord said to her: Two nations are in your womb; two people will ⌊come⌋ from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Gen 25:21-23, HCSB).

Isaac favored Esau and Rebekah favored Jacob, which must have been a factor in the tension between the twin brothers. In time Jacob committed himself to the Lord, whereas Esau rejected Him. The Genesis record tells us that “When Esau was 40 years old, he took as his wives Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. They made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.” (Gen 26:34-35, HCSB) Esau was the founder of the nation of Edom, which nation was constantly at war with Jacob’s descendants, the Israelites.

B. There Is the Godless Jeroboam.

Jeroboam was a very capable man and Solomon appointed him over his entire labor force (1 Kings 11:28). In time, he rebelled against Solomon and fled to Egypt. The prophet Ahijah tore his new cloak into twelve pieces and told Jeroboam to choose ten pieces, which he Ahijah interpreted as meaning Jeroboam would be king over ten tribes (1 Kings 11)

After the death of Solomon, Rehoboam became king and people brought Jeroboam back to see if he could get the son of Solomon to back off is father’s strict, demanding labor policies. Rehoboam refused and Jeroboam led ten of the twelve tribes in a revolt against Rehoboam. The Ten Tribes assumed the name Israel, leaving Judah and Benjamin to make up the kingdom of Judah. The first thing Jeroboam did as king was to set up a new type of worship to keep the ten tribes from going to the temple in Jerusalem to worship. Jeroboam was an evil king and all the godless, evil, idolatrous kings who followed him were compared to him. Not very flattering, was it?

C. There Is Godless Ahab.

Ahab epitomizes evil, especially evil power at the head of a nation. The late R. G. Lee painted, in his famous sermon, Pay Day Some Day, described Ahab as a toad squatted on the throne of Israel, and Queen Jezebel as an adder coiled by the throne. They spread Baal worship, and blood across Israel, but that is not all. They had a daughter, Athaliah, who became an especially evil queen over Judah. She learned her evil ways at the feet of her evil parents.

D. There Is Godless Manasseh.

Can you believe that one of the most godly kings Israel would ever have was the father of one of her most evil kings? Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, was King of Judah (696-642 B.C.), thelongest reign king in Judah’s history. “He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did a great amount of evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking Him” (2 Kings 21:6). Picture a father throwing his own son into a fire built for that purpose in the abdomen of a statue of the idol Moloch?


A. There Is the Godly Adam.

You may be surprised that I would start with Adam. After all, he was the one whose sin brought abut the Fall that is still having a horrible impact on the human race. We do know that Adam was a brilliant man, a husband, who for some time walked, with his wife Eve, in fellowship with the Lord in the Garden of Eden. Everything changed after the Fall, but we are not told what kind of father he was. He was the first father to grieve for a son who had been murdered. In fact, he grieved for two sons: Abel who was murdered and Caan, his murderer. He also saw his son Seth assume his role in the plan of the Lord for the human race, especially for those who would recognize the Lord.

B. There Is the Godly Enoch.

What do I know about Enoch? Why would I list him? Name someone else about whom you can read something like this: “Enoch was 65 years old when he fathered Methuselah. (22) And after the birth of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and fathered ⌊other⌋ sons and daughters. (23) So Enoch’s life lasted 365 years. (24) Enoch walked with God; then he was not there because God took him” (Gen 5:21-24). Like the prophet Elijah, Enoch was simply translated from life on earth to life in heaven. He never died physically. That is amazing. I once heard an old Bible quiz in which someone asked, “Who was the oldest person who ever lived, even though he died before his father?” Methuselah’s father never died! I would assume that if Enoch had not been a godly father the Lord would not have taken him on to heaven without his having to die first.

C. There Is the Godly Abraham.

Abraham. The Father of the Faithful. What a legacy! How many men are better known today, four thousand years after he obeyed the voice of the Lord and left his home in Ur of the Chaldees to go to a Promised Land? His name is mentioned 272 times in the Bible. Two thousand years after his life, Paul would be writing about Abraham’s faith (Rom. 4). In Genesis 12, we have the Abrahamic Covenant, which promised Abraham a great name, the Promised Land for his descendants, more descendants than one can count, and a Seed who would bless all nations, and that Seed is Jesus. Abraham and Sarah were promised a son and they were blessed with Isaac. Moses would introduce Pharaoh to the God of Israel as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was an amazing man, father, and leader.

He is still remembered as the Father of the faithful. The Lord tested his faith when he told him to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar. Abraham simply obeyed the Lord, believing He would fulfill all his promises, even if it mean the death of Isaac. The Lord stopped the sacrifice when it became obvious that Abraham was obedient to His commands. We read in the New Testament that when Abraham took Isaac up from the altar it was a prophetic promise that one day the Lord would place his only begotten son on the cross where He would die, but after His death He would be raised from from the dead by the heavenly Father.

D. There Is the Godly Isaac.

The son of Abraham and Rebekah was a godly man, a quiet man whom some picture as a man who spent time with the Lord in meditation and prayer. The sad thing in his life was that both he and his wife practiced favoritism. Isaac favored Esau and Rebekah favored Jacob. I will still list Isaac with the godly fathers. I believe we have grounds for that.

E. There Is the Godly David.

All you have to do is read the Psalms of David to get a picture of the depth of David. Then, when we read the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7) and realize that the Messiah would be a descendant of David, you know he was a special person. The Lord declared that there was no one like David: “For David did what was right in the Lord’s eyes, and he did not turn aside from anything He had commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:5)

Picture David weeping for his son Absalom. Picture David weeping for the baby born to Bathsheba, but remember what he said after the baby died and he prepared to eat: he cannot come to me but I can go to him. I wonder how many times that Scripture has been read at the funeral of a baby or small child. Here is anther thing to remember about David: all the kings of Judah were compared to David.

“Abijam walked in all the sins his father before him had committed, and he was not completely devoted to the Lord his God as his ancestor David had been. (1 Kings 15:3)

Of Amaziah we read: “He did what was right in the Lord’s sight, but not like his ancestor David.” (2 Kings 14:3)

Of Josiah, it is written: “He did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or the left.” (2 Kings 22:2) The same was said of Hezekiah.


A. There Is the Imperfect Jacob.

Jacob was a man of God, but it took him a while to get to the point that the Lord could use him. What I would like to mention today is that Jacob (trickster), whose name was changed to Israel (prince with God). The negative side was the favoritism, a failure he must have learned from his mother and father. That favoritism led ten of his sons to resent Joseph and eventually sell him into slavery. One of the greatest days in Jacob’s life must have been the day he was reunited with Joseph. Joseph asked his father to bless his own sons.

B. There Is the Imperfect Eli

Eli was a man of God, a priest in Israel, a mentor for Samuel, a pivotal figure in the history of Israel and a remarkable man himself. Ely had one major failing. He did not control his own sons, and he and his whole line were rejected by the Lord from that time forward. He was a good man, but not a good father.

C. There is the Imperfect Samuel.

Samuel grew up in the home of Eli, watched Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas, violate the altar of God, abuse worshipers, and profane the worship of God. He saw all of that, but saw his own sons stray away from the Lord. Samuel was one of the spiritual giants of the Old Testaments. I am convinced that Joseph and Samuel manifested the spirit and character of a New Testament saints more than most anyone of whom we read in the Old Testament. Yet, he was so busy with God’s people that he neglected his own sons. A busy pastor has better be busy with his own children or they may see something like that.

D. There Is the Imperfect Solomon.

No king ever got off to a better start than King Solomon, whose father David made sure he was anointed king in his place, after his death. The Lord gave the young king an opportunity to make a request of Him and rather than asking for money and power, Solomon asked for wisdom to rule the Lord’s people. The Lord granted his request and both his wisdom and his wealth were spoken of through out the known world. His marriages and his compromises had a devastating effect on his nation, and on his son. Because of the arrogance and foolishness of his son Rehoboam, the kingdom was divided and Jeroboam became king of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel.


The number of children growing up in a home without a father is increasing and future generations are going to pay a price for it. Boys need a godly father, and if there is no godly father in the home, he needs a male influence and when there is no one to fill that need there is a good possibility that he will fill it with someone who may not be a Christian. When that happens he may be hard to persuade to commit himself to the Lord.

One of the guests interviewed by Tim Wildmon and his co-host on the AFR radio program I mentioned earlier, explained that when a man volunteers to reach out to a fatherless boy he will cultivate a relationship with him, often taking him fishing or hunting, or to a ball game. When the boy comes to trust the man there will come a time when the friend can say, “Billy, you are going to have to forgive your father for abandoning you and your mother.” To which, the boy may well say, “There is no way I will ever forgive him!” That will be a good time for the man to say, “You know, Billy, if you don’t forgive your father your Heavenly Father is not going to forgive you.” He may then share the message of salvation with the boy. Many are saved when they hear the Gospel presented by a godly man who loves the Lord and loves his young friend.

There are many more fathers in the Bible from whom we may learn valuable lessons. There are the Godly fathers like Job, Abel, Seth, Lot, Joshua, Moses, Joseph, Gideon, Isaiah, Hezekiah, Josiah and Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth. There are the ungodly fathers like Cain, Esau, Saul, Ahaz, and Herod the Great. There are also some imperfect fathers like Nimrod, Aaron, and various prophets, kings, and priests. No one is perfect, but some are very effective while others do a lot of damage to young boys. Some boys live in homes with fathers who are addicted to pornography, some to alcohol, some to drugs, some are given to violence, and many seek to do good things and feel they are doing a great job. However, if a father does not teach his children about their need to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to receive eternal life, he fails his children, no matter how well he motivates them to succeed, where he sends them to school, or how much money he leaves them.

Years ago, somewhere in Texas, I walked into my health club, and even though I was used to hearing some profanity and some obscene words, I heard something that day that one does not normally hear. I walked right through the middle of a group of good ole boys, each of whom seemed to be trying to out do his buddies with tales of their romantic conquests. One of the managers broke in and said, “I have a little girl out there somewhere!” I forget a good part of everything I hear, but I have never forgotten those words. Within a short time of that experience, I had finished a workout and swim, taken a shower, and had gone into the dressing room to dress. Suddenly, I heard a man shout out from the showers, using God’s name in vain. The water was cold and he seemed to want everyone in Texas to know he was not happy. He was a body builder and he had a good personality, so he received a lot of attention at the health club.

I waited prayerfully for my acquaintance to come into the dressing room. Should I mention it to him? If so, what should I say? How might I expect him to react? Before I had a clear answer, he came into the dressing room. I said, “Jim, I believe I heard you mention the name of someone who means a lot to me a few minutes ago.” Jim asked, “Really? Who was it?” I said, “I believe you have known me long enough to know that I am not a wise guy, but I thought I heard you call God’s name back there, and I am not trying to be critical, but if you had used my mother’s name like that it would hurt me. And when you use the Lord’ name like that it hurts me.”

This man was friendly enough, but as I said, he was a body builder, and he looked the part. I had a feeling that he could be confrontational with a little encouragement. Instead, he said, “I am so sorry. I know it is wrong and I am sorry.” There are a lot of boys out there who grow up around men who use profanity and tell dirty jokes, drink, and hang out in bars. Some are bullies and others are arrogant and love to advertise their manhood. A godly example will mean a lot to young boys.

Father, from the depth of my heart I would like to urge you to do everything you can to see that your children come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It really is simple if you start when they are young, and if you live the Gospel before them: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
(John 3:16, NKJV).

Father, if you would be the kind of father God expects you to be, remember these inspired words from Solomon: “Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov 22:6)