…For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:9–10—NKJV)

There is a reason that God created men and then revealed Himself to mankind using the male gender. It is not a mistake Jesus is quoted in John 20:17 as saying, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” Do not dismiss out of hand the gender specific references found in Scripture. They are not simply a product of an old-fashioned paternalistic society, but are purposely utilized in divine wisdom. God specifically chose the time and era in which His Son was born (Galatians 4:4) along with the culture and its context. God chose His words precisely, and unerringly inspired the Bible.

Children know innately that a father has a distinct relationship with regard to them. There is something that attracts a child’s notice because of their father’s clear-toned, level male voice, the size of his hands, his strength which can whisk them off their feet, and whose reactions and discipline are generally consistent. The child is in wide-eyed wonder of a daddy’s ability to fix just about any mechanical contrivance, and the noise of his tools. The child’s attention is focused on the one in their life whose highest, reserved praise is craved and hard won. Upon this early perception of a father’s place in a child’s life can be built a fruitful, solid, lifetime relationship between father and child. This evolving connection invites inspection, even while the physical relationship gives way to the intellectual and spiritual, and is what approaches the idea of a legacy.

Knowing the uniqueness between parental roles from our own childhood leads today’s men to understand the significance of a father’s legacy. Godly men know the task of faithfully portraying God’s peerless fatherhood is a commission well above their human limitations. We need God’s help to make up for our lack. We need God’s help to maintain a Godward focus in order to serve His interests in our loved ones lives, just as He does.

Our text teaches that a father’s legacy may be bad or it may be good. The iniquities of the fathers have a far reaching effect in the lives of their descendants. If a father fails in his obligation to love God, there are consequences that reach beyond his personal life and out to the generations. Thankfully, the thought does not end in a threat, for God promises that His faithfulness extends to thousands of generations to those who love Him and keep His commandments. Even when a believer fails, there is sufficient mercy and great hope in God. How important it is to live your faith so that all can see the Holiness of God!

Once a man recognizes the unique and indispensable role of a father, he is equipped to take appropriate action in his own life for the sake of his loved ones. Ezra 7:27 says, “blessed be the Lord God of our fathers” and Paul states, “so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14) There is a rich legacy afforded to your descendants and disciples when you make it known that you walk with God.

Fatherhood takes on all shapes and sizes from fathering children, to founding a nation, to being the grandfatherly patriarch, and to discipling a believer. Lead in example and direction. First, there must be a recognition and ownership of your role in the relationship. Then, take up the natural building blocks of the relationship: your maturity, strength, clarity, consistency—all which must invite inspection. Learn to fear God together, obey the Scriptures, cherish the Great-heart of God, and be imitators of Christ together.

What legacy are you leaving for those who follow after you? Is the strength of your faith visible and known? Trust and obey.