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A Father Often Mentioned

This man is one of the most popular characters in the Bible. In fact, aside from our Lord Jesus, he is the most mentioned man in the Bible! His name can be found in 968 verses of the Bible. The Bible records that he had 19 sons and 1 daughter (not counting the sons of his concubines). He was one of the earthly ancestors of Jesus Christ. He was a king in Israel. Need another clue? He defeated the giant Goliath. He is none other than King David.

There is no doubt that, as a man, David was one who loved God. He holds the distinction of being called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). The Scriptures even reveal that David was a man who went “fully after the Lord” (1 Kings 11:6). No wonder David is someone whom many admire and aspire to imitate.

Despite being a man after God’s own heart, King David was, frankly speaking, not the best dad. We only need to look at the problems within his household, the infighting among his sons, and the evil deeds that his sons did to see David’s failure as a father. David’s household problems were partly a consequence of his sin with Bathsheba, after which the prophet Nathan prophesied that divisions and evil would rise up from within his house (2 Samuel 12:10-11). It didn’t help that David did not always play his part as a father to his sons.

David: his failure as a dad

1.  David was a permissive father

David was a father who did not actively discipline his children. In 2 Samuel 13:1-20, we read of the horrific account of David’s firstborn son, Ammon, who raped his half-sister Tamar. Ammon’s evil deeds show that he had not been well trained or disciplined growing up. Furthermore, when David heard of what Ammon did, the Scriptures tell us that “he was very wroth” (2 Samuel 13:21). Yet, he did nothing. The Septuagint has the following addition to this verse: “but he did not vex the spirit of Amnon his son, because he loved him, because he was his first-born.”

There is also evidence that David was a father who spoiled his children. When David was old, his son Adonijah sought to exalt himself and make himself king. The Scriptures tell us that “his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” (1 Kings 1:5-6). In other words, his father David had always let him have his way. No wonder his sons grew up wicked and rebellious.

David failed to discipline his children well, but instead spoiled them. Fathers (and mothers) today must not make the same mistake as David. As fathers, we have been tasked to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV). When our children stray away from God’s way, we cannot be permissive. While they are young, we need to train them in the right way, so that when they grow up, they will continue to walk in that right path (Proverbs 22:6).

Training our children while they are young involves discipline. Any man who calls himself a father will surely discipline his child (Hebrews 12:7). As it is written by the wise man: “The rod and reproof give wisdom…” (Proverbs 29:15). While many modern parents shun the use of the rod, the Bible teaches us that the rod gives wisdom! We may be tempted to withhold the rod when we see the child crying, but we are reminded that the rod will not kill the child; yet, when we exercise the rod, we can potentially save his soul from Hell (Proverbs 23:13-14).

2. David was an absent father

After Ammon sinned against Tamar, his half-brother Absalom plotted to murder him. After successfully carrying out his scheme, Absalom fled into exile (2 Samuel 13:23-29). For 3 years, David missed Absalom but never reconciled with him (2 Samuel 13:37-39). Even after David finally recalled Absalom from exile, he did not meet his son for another 2 years (2 Samuel 14:28). Perhaps we should not be surprised that Absalom would later revolt against his own father.

Aside from those years when David avoided his son Absalom, it is often suggested that David did not spend adequate time with his children due to his kingly duties. How can a father train his children when he does not spend time with them? Absent parents often lead to dysfunctional children. Christian parents who are absent from their children’s lives should not be surprised when they stray away from God when they grow up.

In the midst of our busy lives, it may be challenging to spend adequate time with the children. However, we do not want to look back years later with the same regret as King David. The time we spend with the children during their growing up years is invaluable and precious. There is a reason that women are called to be “keepers at home” (Titus 2:4-5). Fathers have not been called to be “stay-at-home,” but we have also been tasked to train up the children (Ephesians 6:4). Let us not be absent parents, but present and active, especially during those crucial early years.

David: his success as a dad

1.  David taught his children

Much has been said about David’s failure to train up his children. Nevertheless, he had at least one son who became a success story: Solomon. Solomon would later on become the wisest man on earth, due to wisdom bestowed from God (1 Kings 4:29-34). We do not read much about David’s time with Solomon growing up, but we do read about David’s last words to Solomon before his death. In his parting speech to Solomon, he reminded Solomon to “keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies” (1 Kings 2:3). David taught his son to serve God.

As the children grow up, there are many things we want to teach our children: maths, science, language, music, arts etc. etc. However, the most important education they need is spiritual education. Young Timothy was able to own a genuine faith because he had been taught God’s word since he was a baby (2 Timothy 3:15). We know that faith comes by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). Hence, we need to actively teach our children God’s word so that they can grow up to own their own faith.

Fathers need to be personally involved in the spiritual education of the children. We may be tempted to leave it to the mother, since they are often the ones who spend the most time with the children. We may be tempted to leave it to the Sunday school teachers. However, God has specifically called out the “fathers” to bring up the children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV). Just as God condemned Eli for failing to restrain his sons, God will hold the fathers accountable if we fail to instruct our children in the way of the Lord (1 Samuel 3:13).

2.  David set an example for his children

There can be no doubt that David set a good example to follow. Obviously, David was neither perfect nor sinless. However, he always put God first in his life, and his heart was right in God’s eyes. Hence, he was called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). David’s children need only to look at their father to see how they ought to conduct their own lives.

The example that David set for his children would resonate for many generations after him. In fact, many of the future kings would be compared to their forefather David; in other words, David set the standard for what a faithful king should look like, and this standard lasted for generations after him…

  • In Solomon’s early life, he was described to have “loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father” (1 Kings 3:3).

  • In Solomon’s later life, it was said that “his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4).

  • King Abijam, David’s great-grandson, was described to have a heart that “was not perfect with the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 15:1-3) 

  • King Asa, David’s great-great-grandson,  “did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father” (1 Kings 15:11).

  • King Amaziah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not like David his father” (2 Kings 14:1-3).

  • King Ahaz “ did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD his God, like David his father” (2 Kings 16:2).

  • King Hezekiah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:1-3).

  • King Josiah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father” (2 Kings 22:1-2).

It is perhaps surprising that David, as a father, is mentioned so often in Scripture, given his imperfections as a parent to his children. Nevertheless, his example of faith would set the standard for generations to follow. We may not realize it ourselves, but our example of faith will go a long way in teaching our children to love God. It is often said, “I would rather see a sermon than hear one.” We may verbally teach our children to love God, but it would not be believable or effective unless they can see it with their own eyes. By our example, we are teaching our children how to love God practically and experientially.

David: success or failure?

The jury is out as to whether David was a successful dad or not. When we consider the sad ending of many of his sons, we are likely to say that he failed. Yet, when we consider his impact for future generations, he appears to have succeeded. Perhaps what we can say for certainty is that David was not a perfect dad. If we were honest with ourselves, neither are we! Although we may be imperfect, God’s word gives us wisdom so that we can succeed as parents. From the examples found in Scripture (like King David), we can also learn important parenting lessons: we want to learn from their positive example and avoid their negative example.

A time will come when the children grow up, and they will decide for themselves which path to walk. Hopefully, when that time comes, we can watch our children with confidence, and not with regret. May God grant us wisdom so that we can train up our children in the right way. May all fathers (and mothers) be diligent in our parenting journey, so that we can give our children the best possible chance of growing up to own their own faith in God.


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