Three Generations

by Wayne Greeson

One of the greatest gifts God gives us is children. The Bible teaches, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is his reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate" (Psa. 127:3-5).

With this great gift comes an awesome responsibility. Christians are commanded to bring their children "up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). What makes this job more awesome than most is its serious, far-reaching and often irreversible consequences. With most responsibilities if one fails there is usually opportunity to back up and start or try all over again. There is no second chance in raising our children. If parents fail to properly raise their children, once grown they are likely to be beyond hope. As the wisdom of Proverbs instructs, "Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction" (Proverbs 19:18).

The Bible is full of examples of successful and unsuccessful fathers. But the awful and far reaching consequences of a father that failed are no more dramatic than the failure of Jehoshaphat as a father. As king of Judah, Jehoshaphat ruled during the days of the "Divided Kingdom." During the twenty-five years of his reign he sought to worship only Jehovah. He cleaned out the idols and false places of worship from Judah and sent men throughout the land to teach his people the Law of the Lord. Because of his faith and effort the Lord blessed Jehoshaphat and Judah with prosperity, power and peace (2 Chron. 17:3-19).

With all of the blessings the Lord had given him, Jehoshaphat was not content. He sought to make an alliance with Ahab,the king of Israel. Ahab was the wickedest king that ever ruled over either Israel or Judah. He did "evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him." Ahab married the evil Jezebel of Sidon and built a temple to her idol Baal, which king Ahab worshipped (1 Kings 16:30-33). Jehoshaphat foolishly made a military alliance with this king by having his son, Jehoram, marry Ahab and Jezebel's daughter, Athaliah.

All of the good Jehoshaphat had accomplished during his reign was destroyed by his singular failure as a father to provide the proper guidance and influence for his son, he did not recognize the truth, "Evil company corrupts good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33) and invited evil companionship and wicked influence into his own family. Jehoshaphat's failure with his son brought wickedness, misery and death to his children, grandchildren and even his great grandchildren.

After Jehoshaphat's death, his son Jehoram took the throne and murdered his own brothers, the other sons of Jehoshaphat. Jehoram followed in the path of the evil Ahab "for he had the daughter of Ahab as a wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord" (2 Chron. 21:4-6). Jehoram ruled only eight years yet during that time his wickedness and foolishness was so great that his enemies killed all of his sons (Jehoshaphat's grandsons) except one, Ahaziah. When Jehoram died a painful death no one was sorry to see him go (2 Chron. 21:16-20).

The wicked influence unleashed by Jehoshaphat lingered on. When Ahaziah was made king he continued the reign of evil for his mother, Athaliah the daughter of Ahab, "counseled him to do wickedly" (2 Chron. 22:2-3). Within one year Ahaziah was killed and his mother, Athaliah, seized power over Judah by murdering all her grandchildren (Jehoshaphat's great grandchildren). Only one child, Joash, survived the massacre and was raised to king after seven years of wicked rule by Athaliah (2 Chron. 22:10-23:21).

Jehoshaphat was successful in every area of his life but one. He failed to raise his son "in the way he should go, (that) when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). This failure overshadowed and ultimately eclipsed all Jehoshaphat's successes. Three generations were destroyed by this one mistake.

What kind of inheritance will you leave to your children? Money? Property? Stocks and bonds? Your old car? A few antiques and photographs? Many a parent works all their life to leave a few dollars for their children to fight over and spend. How pitiful an inheritance this is in comparison to the father and mother who leave to their children "the training and admonition of the Lord." As the wisdom of Proverbs tells us, "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous" (Proverbs 13:22).

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