A Model Family?

August 16, 2014 | by: Shawn Hobson | 0 comments

Posted in: Family Series | Tags: family, model, Old Testament, faith

Family part 1 -- Family part 2 -- Family part 3

A Model Family?

The Old Testament is packed with examples of family life. Since all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching and training in righteousness (1 Timothy), does this mean we should be modeling our homes after the families we read about in the Old Testament? I would say yes… and no.

The Bible does talk about following examples of godly life that have been set before us. Jesus says "follow me" (Matt 16:24), and we are instructed to be like good teachers (Luke 6:40), to be like Paul who said "imitate me" (1 Cor 4:16), and to be like the apostles (1 Thess 1:5-6). In many places scripture also points to bad examples as a warning to us not to be like unbelieving ancestors (Luke 11:47-51), Lot's wife (Luke 17:32), or Cain (1 John 3:12). So if there is a good example lived in faith, we are to follow it. If it is a bad example lived in disbelief, we are to be warned.

But what is a “good example” and how do we identify it? The Bible contains instances of polygamy, abuse, divorce, rape, adultery, and concubines, as well as monogamy, love, long marriages, faithfulness, children, and a sense of purpose. But how do we determine what, if any, of these elements of family are to be used as models for us?

One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to interpret and apply scripture (a process called hermeneutics) is to disregard the genre of the text and it’s context and primary purpose in the overall message of the Bible--that is, the Gospel. Much of the Old Testament, especially the passages that talk about family life, are written as historical narrative. It is unwise, then, to read them as though they were moral tales or poetry designed to exemplify good or bad in the characters. Rather, they are accounts of real people, with real flaws, who made real choices--sometimes good and sometimes bad.

Even the most godly men and women in the Old Testament still made bad choices. For that reason, we need to consider individual examples of family life in light of God’s commands before following in their steps. Does God clearly affirm or denounce the behavior in the surrounding text? For example, although David was a man after God’s own heart, his relationship with Bathsheba was clearly condemned (2 Sam. 12). If the immediate text does not bring clarity, then consider whether God speaks to the issue elsewhere in scripture. For example, although Moses allowed for divorce in the Old Testament, Jesus is clear in the New Testament that marriage is intended to be for life. Finally, consider whether the specific example you are looking at is a demonstration of faith or disbelief (for anything not done in faith is sin).

In the end, Christ is our only perfect example. And that’s just it. The point of historical narrative in the Old Testament is not to give us a template of do’s and don’ts as we examine the lives of others. It is to point us ahead to Christ. God’s gift to us through these narratives is the constant reminder of the foolishness of disbelief, the futility of self-righteousness, our desperate need for a savior, and His abounding grace toward those who love Him.

So, as we look to our precious Bible, recognizing that it contains everything we need for saving knowledge, obedience, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, lets keep it in perspective. The Old Testament gives us helpful examples of family life, but it is more than that. It's ultimate goal? To bring men to repentance from sin and eternal salvation to God. Just like the families in the Old Testament, my family and your family also serve as examples to the world around us… whether an example of foolish disbelief or one of faith. What kind of example is your family?

Pastor Shawn

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