Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction. [Mal. 4:5-6]
And then, boom, the Old Testament closes. It does seem we should heed attention to the final words that walk us into centuries of silence. And it is so interesting that these are in fact the words God chooses to close with. I don't think I have ever paid quite enough attention to them in fact, until I began reading John Sowers' The Fatherless Generation.
Perhaps, in this twentieth century, we are in fact experiencing the harsh reality of that prophecy, says John Sowers. Can it be that we are experiencing the kind of fallout Malachi warned against some twenty-five hundred years ago? The hearts of the fathers are not turned to their children nor are the hearts of the children turned to the fathers. Can it be we now bear the full weight of this fatherless curse?
In Luke we see Jesus identifies Malachi's "Elijah" as John the Baptist. John's mission was to "make straight" and prepare the way for Christ by calling people to turn to God and by turning the hearts of the fathers to their children. So in this sense, Malachi's prophecy was specifically fulfilled in time and history in the person of John.
At the same time, there is the over-arching backdrop of "that great and dreadful day of the Lord" offering up some end-time significance. So even though the prophecy was fulfilled, suggests Sowers, it is still of current and ongoing relevance. There is a current, divine expectation for its fulfillment, which is the reconciliation between fathers and their children. According to the prophecy, this generational reconciliation prepares the way--as John the Baptist did--for the coming day of the Lord.
That's crazy to think about huh? That as this blackest midnight gives way to the light of day and reconciliation among fathers and children regulates back to the norm [whatever that might mean], we know the way is being more deeply paved into eternity and Christ's return coming. After all, His reconciliation to us is only manifest through love for His own Son, who has made a way for us to relate rightly to Him as Father. I am in awe of this image of fathers reconciling to sons and daughters being indicative of His coming, if that is indeed the case, because it could be starting here and now with us, the midnight fatherless bound to see the light of Christ sooner or later.
What a testimony to His glory, that He'd chose to us, the worst of the worst, the nearly 50% growing up without dad--to actually usher in His coming through the reconciliation of us to our fathers. What a picture. What grace & mercy to be found at His throne.
Commentary on Malachi's prophecy by Gordon Dalbey says:
Healing between fathers and children is not simply a psychological exercise to bring greater peace of mind; in fact, it's the essential pre-requisite to fulfilling God's purposes on earth. When fathers are reconciled with sons and daughters, God's saving power is released among us; conversely, when fathers and children remain at odds with one another, powers of destruction are beckoned.
We are witnessing the midnight of this generation, claims Sowers. And I'd have to agree. It's both a personal tragedy for so many of us and also a widespread epidemic which in some form often effects every single one of us--a fatherless generation determined to devour itself. Prophecy being fulfilled.
As we see, this epidemic plays out in the rage and violence of our fatherless sons and the decay and promiscuity of our fatherless daughters. The heart of this generation is being ripped out and left bleeding on the ground. Seeds of shame and despair have been sown into the gaping wound. And we are reaping a bitter harvest.
As I hear the stats rolling through my head of the suicides and prison populations and drug use and teen pregnancy and abuse cases that are all at least two to three times (often much MORE) higher for the boy or girl growing up without a dad, it just seems such a simple solution and yet the complexity of it all is overwhelming.
I hear my own story in these numbers and I remember being one. A nameless, worthless, predestined statistic on the clipboard in their hands. My behavior fell in line flawlessly with their calculations and projections for my life. I remember one doctor telling my mom to just admit me now, as it would save her much hassle later, as my life was irreversible and the damage done. Now, simply a case to be maintained by the state, a clipboard that scribed my identity (and lack there of).
I don't have it all figured out. I see the need to raise up men that know how to be men and I am thankful to see glimpses of it around me. Then there is the rescue of the ones, like myself, upon whom the fathers have already turned away. That's one reason I am so thankful for organizations such as The Mentoring Project and the body of Christ itself, just operating in it's fulness to pull in and care for those otherwise cast out, an experience that has largely been the catalyst to Christ's redemption in my own life. I also see the need for the curse to be broken in the next generation, the ones to be raised up by the midnight of the fatherless. A bit of a scary thought, huh?
I don't fully know where the wrestling ends and the action spurs to transformation but I do know that Christ is coming and so is reconciliation, eternally for each of us who have accepted Christ as Lord.
In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son,born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
And a few stats:
63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)
71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]