Men in Luke 1-3 – Turn the hearts of the parents to their children

I’ve decided to start reading chunks of the Bible looking to see what it says about a particular topic. As I’ve had an interest in in male roles and responsibilities I thought I’d start there, beginning with the Gospel of Luke. There are some passages which address the topic distinctly, which I shall get to, but there are also passing references to male responsibilities throughout. Today I read chapters 1-3. The Angel Gabriel is speaking to Zechariah in the temple telling him that his wife, Elizabeth, will become pregnant with a child who will be John the Baptist.

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:17)

John will be the new Elijah, preparing the way for the Lord to come in his cousin Jesus. Through John’s work, the hearts of the parents will return to their children and people will turn to righteousness, ready for Jesus’ coming. What does it mean for the hearts of parents to return to their children? Gabriel repeats what the Lord said through the prophet Malachi. (Mal 4:4-5)

Some commentators have suggested that it isn’t to do with natural parents, but with spiritual parents. After Jesus the spiritual parents – the patriarchs of Israel –  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will return to look kindly upon their child, Israel. This is not a good interpretation and gives the impression that our forbears are simply interested spectators of what is going on here on earth and doesn’t fit with the teaching of other parts of scripture on this.

A more likely interpretation is the more literal reading – actual parents.

As a result of mixed marriages (Mal 2:11) and easy divorce (Mal 2:14) family relationships have been disrupted. (William Hendricksen, Luke)

Hearing of God’s message through John and Jesus, and through the gospel preached throughout the ages causes hearts to be changed. Family life which can often be upset by separation or lack of interest can be reinvigorated. And when we have committed spouses and parents we get strong families, well adjusted children and a cohesive society. The message for men here is, as you hear the gospel, allow your hearts to be changed and committed to your family.

Why is this a preparation for the Lord? (Luke 1:17). Does the commitment of parents to children not echo the commitment of a covenant God to his people, and therefore witness to it? In fact, does it not echo the interconnected relationships of Father, Son and Spirit? The act of committing allows us to experience something of the love of God for us and to understand it for ourselves. As we love our children, God loves us – even more so. As we provide for our famlies, God provides for us. As we teach our children how to live, God does so for us.


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