“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
When God called Abraham into his covenant of grace, he promised to bless all the families of the earth through him (Genesis 12:1-3). God planned to accomplish this universal blessing by making his covenant with Abraham and his offspring: “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Genesis 17:7). Keeping in mind that God’s promises come to fruition in the lives of God’s people through the use of divinely-appointed means, Genesis 18:19 tells us that the means for making Abraham’s family a blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 18:18) is his leading his family in the ways of righteousness as a faithful head of his house.
To put the matter succinctly, God’s choice of Abraham was both for the sake of his family (“that he may command his children and household after him to keep the way of the LORD”—Genesis 18:19) and for the sake of all families (“all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him”—Genesis 18:18).
Thus we learn that the God-ordained means of blessing both our families and other families is for elect heads of houses to command their families to keep the ways of the Lord. God chose Abraham and his family to be set apart from cities like Sodom and Gomorrah which were known in those days for their wickedness (Genesis 18:20-21). Abraham and his family were to be known for righteousness and justice.
God loves making his covenant of grace not merely with isolated individuals but with whole families in successive generations. And it is worth pointing out that this continues in the New Testament. One example is the godly heritage of Timothy. Paul writes, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5). In this case, Timothy’s faith was the result of successive generations of faithful mothers (Timothy’s father was a Greek, but his mother was a Jewish believer—Acts 16:1). Timothy had been trained in the Scriptures even from his infancy (2 Timothy 3:15).
It is without question that God has saved many individuals apart from any connection to a covenant family, but God’s ordinary way of working is through the covenant family where heads of houses deliver the faith from one generation to another. Many Christian men bewail the sin in society today, especially among our rebellious youth. But if Christian husbands and fathers abandon their role to lead their families in righteousness, then what right do they have to deplore the wickedness of the surrounding society? God’s plan for reaching our youth for Christ is not a youth group but a holy father.
Although God’s dealings with Abraham were unique in many ways, as the father of the faith, his leadership in the home is instructive for Christian husbands and fathers today. God has chosen men to lead their families in the ways of righteousness and justice. Christian husbands must love and lead their wives in order to sanctify them as Christ loves and leads the Church in order to sanctify her (Ephesians 5:25ff). Christian fathers must assume responsibility for the covenant nurture of their children. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
God has told us plainly how he plans to bless our families and all the families of the earth. He does it through faithful covenant families whose homes are ruled in the ways of God.
God’s plan to bless all the families of the earth is ultimately realized in Jesus Christ who is the offspring of Abraham (Galatians 3:16). Thankfully, even if God did not plant you in a covenant family from your earliest days, he is able to plant you in Jesus Christ who is the source of all the blessings of Abraham. And if God places us into the family of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ (for you are all sons of Abraham through faith in Christ—Galatians 3:7), then let us continue to walk in the footsteps of our forefather and command our households to walk in the ways of righteousness, holiness, and love. The world and the next generation of believers will be the better for it.