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Restoring the Hearts of Families



The last prophecy of the of the Old Testament is found at the very end of the book of Malachi. Its positioning at the end of the Hebrew Scriptures gives it special significance. God is telling His people to remember and keep His teaching, and then to turn their hearts to teach their children. This was God’s intended pattern for families. And as they would restore their hearts to do this, there would be healing and reconciliation.




“Be mindful of the Teaching of My servant Moses, whom I charged at Horeb with laws and rules for all Israel. Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the LORD. He shall reconcile parents with children and children with their parents, so that, when I come, I do not strike the whole land with utter destruction” (Mal 3:22-24 JPS).[1]

The New American Standard Bible says, “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” And in the Message Bible, “He will convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents.” Also, a Jewish teacher named Rashi proposed, “that he may turn the heart of the fathers back to the Holy One . . . through the children. He will say to the children affectionately and appealingly, ‘Go and speak to your fathers to adopt the ways of the Omnipresent.’ So, we explain, ‘and the heart of the children through their fathers.’”[2]

The act of reconciliation is literally “restore the heart.” Throughout the book of Malachi, God is speaking of the restoration of the hearts of His children to Himself as their Father. And at the end of the book, He is speaking of the restoration of the hearts of parents and children.


The prophecy of Malachi was quoted in reference to John the Baptist (Luke 1:15–17). However, this prophecy also refers to “the day of the Lord,” pointing to the time of Jesus’ return. In both cases this restoring of the hearts of families is of vital importance.


Parents were always expected by God to love Him and keep His words; and they were expected to love and teach their children. Children were to honor their parents and to keep the instruction of their father and mother. This relational commitment is emphasized in the Hebrew Scriptures and again in the New Testament teaching. Our Heavenly Father’s plan for families has never changed. And the Holy Spirit reminds parents to “nurture your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:2).


Now, through Jesus, the Holy Spirit is given, bathing us in the love of our Father. We are told to pursue after this love, to receive and abide in it, because love will “restore the hearts of the parents to the children.” God’s relentless and other-centered love is the foundation of all relationships, and especially the relationships of family.


In love, our Heavenly Father gives us His instruction. The first thing parents are to do is receive and drink in the love of God and abide in His Word. Then in love, parents are to teach their children. God is working to turn the hearts of parents to their children. He is restoring their hearts and restoring their desire to teach and nurture their children. God is turning the hearts of children to their parents, to receive their love and instruction. For in this relationship children truly thrive.


God is delivering families from the influences of surrounding cultures that promote other ways of thinking with the intent of forming the character of children. For the heart was made to abide in the love of God, and the mind was created to think in line with His Word.


The apostle Paul became a good spiritual father and teacher because the other-centered love of Christ controlled him—it formed him, equipped him, and motivated him (1 Cor 5:14). Parents can become good teachers of their children as they receive and are motivated by the unconditional and ever faithful love of God in Jesus Christ.

 

[1] Note that the Hebrew Scriptures do not make a chapter break in the book of Malachi at the end of chapter three. In Christian Bibles this passage would be found in chapter four, versus three through six.

[2] Rashi on Malachi 3:24, Abraham Cohen, Soncino Press, 1948


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