The last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi, declares something very important concerning the essential reformation that must take place in the family of God’s people in these last days of world history:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse., .
In the life of Jacob, we find very objective lessons regarding the revival and reformation in the family.
The life experience of Jacob wasn’t an easy one. During his meeting with Pharaoh, after traveling to Egypt, the king asked Jacob: “How old art thou?” Jacob answered to the Egyptian king: “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years life been.” Genesis 47: 8,9.
He started facing problems while still at his parents’ home. The Bible says that “Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.”. This unwise preference from their parents would create serious problems in the life of their children. Sadly, today the parents repeat the same mistake when they manifest preference for one child over their brothers and sisters.
When Isaac was already old and deficient in his vision, Rebekah and Jacob joined to deceive Isaac and Esau. This deception produced terrible consequences for the entire family. Jacob had to flee from the wrath of his brother Esau. In the house of Laban, in Padan-aram, Jacob was bitterly deceived by his father-in law. Instead of giving him Rachel, Jacob received her sister, Lea. The seed of deception he sowed, produced a big harvest that made his life miserable. He stayed far from his home for 20 years. When he returned to see his parents, Rebekah had died already.
The fact that he married two wives also created an unhealthy environment in their home. The frequent disputes between the two wives affected the education of their children. Later, when Joseph was born, he became the center of attention from Jacob, what provoked the wrath of his other children.
In Shechem, “Dinah the daughter of Leah, …went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.” Genesis 34: 1, 2. That temerarious adventure of Dinah produced terrible results.
After Dinah had been raped by the prince of Shechem, his brothers Simeon and Levi murdered all the man of that place. Idolatry had been introduced in the family, the brothers, sons of Jacob, had serious fights among themselves. What would be the solution to those problems?
“God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.”.
The preparation for meeting in Bethel, a historic place where Jacob slept when fleeing from his brother Esau, became a good motivation to make a spiritual reformation in Jacob’s family.
“Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments.”.
The appeal of Jacob for putting away the strange gods received a positive response from his family. They must “put away the strange gods”, purifying themselves, and change their garments. Maybe they were imitating their pagan neighbors in their life style and in their garments. A complete reformation was essential for their spiritual life. And Jacob continued his appeal to his household: “And let us arise and go up to Beth-el; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.” Verse 3.
“And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.” Verse 4.
What was the immediate result of that reformation? “And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.” Verse 5.
That reformation involved: 1. Returning to the Lord and the recovering of the family altar; 2. Removing the false gods from their home; 3. Purification in and out of their life; 4. Change of garments and removing of their earrings which were in their ears.
“Jacob felt that there was cause for deep humiliation. Cruelty and falsehood were manifest in the character of his sons. There were false gods in the camp, and idolatry had to some extent gained a foothold even in his household. Should the Lord deal with them according to their deserts, would He not leave them to the vengeance of the surrounding nations?
“While Jacob was thus bowed down with trouble, the Lord directed him to journey southward to Bethel. The thought of this place reminded the patriarch not only of his vision of the angels and of God’s promises of mercy, but also of the vow which he had made there, that the Lord should be his God. He determined that before going to this sacred spot his household should be freed from the defilement of idolatry. He therefore gave direction to all in the encampment, ‘Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: and let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.”
“With deep emotion Jacob repeated the story of his first visit to Bethel, when he left his father’s tent a lonely wanderer, fleeing for his life, and how the Lord had appeared to him in the night vision. As he reviewed the wonderful dealings of God with him, his own heart was softened, his children also were touched by a subduing power; he had taken the most effectual way to prepare them to join in the worship of God when they should arrive at Bethel. “And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.” Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 205, 206.
Necessary revival and reformation in our homes today
The spiritual condition of the church is directly attached to the spiritual condition of the church families. And what is the spiritual condition of our homes?
Are there strange gods in our family? Are we worshiping the Lord in the family altar? Are we practicing morning and evening worship with our children? Do we dedicate time to pray and to praise the Lord in our homes? Are we welcoming the holy Sabbath at the right time according to God’s clear instructions?
We must follow God’s instruction given to Jacob. First, we need to rebuild the altar. Then other reforms will come: Removing the strange gods, purifying our homes from all that hinder our spiritual life, changing our garments. If we really accept the garments of the righteousness of Christ, everything that is contrary to God’s will, will be removed. Our families being revived and reformed, the blessed results will be felt in the church. The natural relation between cause and effect will be seen in the church. Trying to correct the evils starting with the fruits won’t work. We need to start with the basic: seeking the Lord and doing His will.
According to the prophecy of Malachi 4: 5, 6, this work needs to start with the parents. These being converted, they will have the power to work for the salvation of their children.
The parable of the lost coin found in, gives us also similar lesson from Jacob’s family experience. The woman who lost the coin lighted the candle, swept the house, and searched for the lost until she found it.
“The piece of silver was lost in the house. It was close at hand, yet it could be recovered only by diligent search.
“The parable has a lesson to families. In the household, there is often great carelessness concerning the souls of its members. Among their number may be one who is estranged from God, but how little anxiety is felt lest in the family relationship there be lost one of God’s entrusted gift.
“The woman in the parable [of the lost coin] searches diligently for her lost coin. She lights the candle and sweeps the house. She removes everything that might obstruct her search. Though only one piece is lost, she will not cease her efforts until that piece is found. So, in the family, if one member is lost to God every means should be used for his recovery. On the part of all the others let there be diligent, careful self-examination. Let the life-practice be investigated. See if there is not some mistake, some error in management, by which that soul is confirmed in impenitence.
“If there is in the family one child who is unconscious of his sinful state, parents should not rest. Let the candle be lighted. Search the word of God, and by its light let everything in the home be diligently examined, to see why this child is lost. Let parents search their own hearts, examine their habits and practices. Children are the heritage of the Lord, and we are answerable to Him for our management of His property.
“There are fathers and mothers who long to labor in some foreign mission field; there are many who are active in Christian work outside the home, while their own children are strangers to the Savior and His love. The work of winning their children for Christ many parents trust to the minister or the Sabbath school teacher, but in doing this they are neglecting their own God-given responsibility. The education and training of their children to be Christians is the highest service that parents can render to God. It is a work that demands patient labor, a lifelong diligent and persevering effort. By a neglect of this trust we prove ourselves unfaithful stewards. No excuse for such neglect will be accepted by God.
“But those who have been guilty of neglect are not to despair. The woman whose coin was lost searched until she found it. So, in love, faith, and prayer let parents work for their households, until with joy they can come to God saying, ‘Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me.’.” Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 194-196.
Did you imagine meeting Jesus at His second coming with our family saved forever? Is it really a possibility? Yes, for sure. Let us follow God’s instruction. Our salvation and of our family must be the absolute priority. Jesus declared in His sermon on the mount:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”.
What constitutes the righteousness of Christ and how can we obtain it?
“The righteousness which Christ taught is conformity of heart and life to the revealed will of God. Sinful men can become righteous only as they have faith in God and maintain a vital connection with Him. Then true godliness will elevate the thoughts and ennoble the life. Then the external forms of religion accord with the Christian’s internal purity. Then the ceremonies required in the service of God are not meaningless rites, like those of the hypocritical Pharisees.” The Desire of Ages, p. 310.
One of the most essential missions we were entrusted is the salvation of our family. Let us fulfill our mission by God’s powerful grace!