Turning Hearts

One of the blessings of the ‘stay at home’ order is that families have been spending a lot of time together. Rita and I go on walks together and we often see husbands and wives along with children walking or riding their bikes together, dads shooting baskets with their kids, building things with them, kicking soccer balls…In the midst of a global pandemic and a weakening economy, many families have actually been strengthened.

One of the more perplexing prophecies is found in the final words recorded in the Old Testament from Malachi.

5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” – Malachi 4:5-6

God sent the angel Gabriel to Zechariah and foretold that he would bear a son (John the Baptist) who would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:16-17). Jesus identified John the Baptist as fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy (Matthew 11:14, 17:10-13). John preached a message of repentance and his ministry prepared the way for the Lord Jesus who would ultimately bear the sins of the people.

This brings us back to Malachi’s prophecy and the emphasis of the father’s hearts turning back to their children and vise versa. Of all the possible ramifications of John’s message, why was the turning of the hearts of fathers and their children so significant? Perhaps it’s because healthy families are critical to healthy societies. Every person enters the world as part of a family and God’s design is for families to be a place where there is love, nurturing, training, and where Godly character is forged (Ephesians 6:1-4). When this is absent, the result is devastating. Broken and dysfunctional families have a way of bleeding into society. As described in Romans 1:24, 26, 28, where unrepentant sin led God to ‘give them over’ to the inevitable consequences of their sin, likewise, when fathers neglect their children, God allows the natural consequences to take place which is utter destruction!

Since God causes all things to work together for the good (Romans 8:28), the silver lining in this unprecedented global pandemic is the unprecedented potential to strengthen our family relationships. For some this may mean praying together or introducing a family devotional time. For other families, your first step might be just enjoying each other through games or taking a walk and having a deeper conversation about life. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are healthy families, but each day provides the opportunity to lay down another foundation stone towards that goal. The healthiest families include the Word, prayer, meaningful conversations, laughter, fun activities, solitude, serving one another and caring for others, with Christ at the center of it all. Ask the Lord to show you what your family needs today that will turn your hearts toward one another.