Turning the hearts of fathers back to their children

In our advent reading, Luke 1:17 stood out to me.

17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Why did the angel tie turn the hearts of fathers to the children so closely to turning the disobedient to the wisdom of the just? Malachi does not make that connection in Malachi 4:6.

The summary phrase in verse 17 is: to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

Is this an example of the two ways God makes people ready for the Lord, i.e. fatherly instruction within the family and evangelism without? Is this an expression of the equal value and importance of both? Or are there better ways to understand this?


I think that particularly an Israelite context, these two would actually be one and the same (Deut. 6:1-8). Faithful fathers should be evangelizing their children (both in Israel’s day and ours). Israel so often fell away either because fathers failed to teach their children the statues of the Lord, or the children disregarded the instruction of their fathers.

I don’t think we can say that the two things are of equal value unless we say that fatherly instruction must necessarily include the proclamation of the gospel, which I think it does. It will obviously look different than public evangelism, however.

Fatherly instruction that’s missing the gospel is still of great value and will probably prepare a person to hear the gospel in a way they wouldn’t be if it were absent. But it’s not able to change a heart of stone into a heart of flesh the way that the gospel is. So in that sense, I don’t think we can say they are of equal importance.

I realize that Evangelical bone fides are selling at an all-time low, but I’m not eager to get rid of mine just yet. :slight_smile:

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No, I don’t think they’re one and the same. People were instructed by their fathers and by others. John the Baptist’s ministry itself was an example of the latter. But I agree that Israelite apostasy was a result of the failure of fathers to teach the Law, and of children to listen. It was also a result of priests and prophets failing in their duties (e.g. Micah 3:11).

Yes. And strictly speaking, this was the effect of John the Baptist’s ministry, since his message did not include the gospel as we know it (though neither did Jesus’s message before he died - Matthew 4:23). I think we can still apply the verse to the gospel, however. A people prepared for the Lord will be evangelised and discipled (and nothing in life is excluded by that term). This will be carried out by fathers and/or others.

What intrigues me even further is that a good father/child relationship (and father/son In other verses) is so closely identified with righteousness that it is evidence of righteousness, (and vice versa in Romans 1:30). Growing up in a very individualistic situation, verses such as Luke 14:26 have been my emphasis, and I’m still struggling to process that righteous humanity is not just a collection of individual people with the same Lord.

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I think I misunderstood you. I thought you were saying that fatherly instruction and evangelism were two separate messages without overlap. But it seems that your point was more about who is giving the instruction? I agree that instruction should be given and received outside a literal father-child relationship. But I think terminology of “fatherly instruction” and “evangelism” is what threw me. I don’t think it’s quite right. Godly fathers will evangelize their children and godly prophets, pastors, judges, and civil authorities will provide fatherly instruction to their people.

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