The Hearts of the Fathers

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," says the Lord of hosts, "that will leave them neither root nor branch.

"But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this," says the Lord of hosts.

"Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse."

(Malachi 4:1-6)

THIS is the final chapter of the Old Testament. It was written to a people of God who had become disheartened because of adversity. Their faith had no patience and in their discouragement they became cynical, and began to disregard the ways of the Lord. Their priests treated God very shabbily, offering Him the last and the least rather than the first and the best, and they neglected to teach the commandments of God to the people of the Lord. The people fell into adultery and idolatry, divorcing their wives and marrying the daughters of those who worshipped false gods. They disregarded their responsibilities in the tithe and the offering. In short, they broke covenant with the Lord, and this blocked the flow of His blessing into their lives.

But now, Malachi, whose names means "messenger," was calling them to repentance, to amend their ways and return to the Lord. "A day is coming," he prophesied, in which the proud and the wicked would be like burnt-out stubble, with "neither root nor branch." But for the repentant there would be healing and prosperity, and they would no longer be under the heel of the wicked, but on top.

The exhortation to remember the Law of the Lord was immediately followed by the promise that Elijah would come before the day of judgment to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." These powerful words reveal the key to diverting judgment away from a people. It begins with the hearts of the fathers — they must be turned to the children. That is no easy task. It requires the spirit and power of an Elijah.

This prophecy was fulfilled the first time in John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ. The angel Gabriel spoke these words to Zechariah concerning John: "And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also 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 a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:16-17).

Today, as we watch for Christ's return, the spirit of Elijah is needed once again. For we are in a time when many in the church have turned from the Lord to follow the wisdom of the world. They have offered God their least and not their best. They have become enamored with ideas and things instead of the heart of God. They have divorced their spouses to the detriment of their families.

It is time for the hearts of the fathers to be turned to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers. We need the Holy Spirit to do an Elijah work in us if we are going to divert the curse and break through to the full blessing of God on our families and our world.

We need Elijah because Elijah discovered something very important about fatherhood. He learned it when he was on the run from Queen Jezebel. He had done many miracles, won a great victory on Mt. Carmel, and was the instrument for turning the hearts of God's people back to Him. But Jezebel was still on the throne and in full rage after the prophet of God. Elijah choked! Blindsided by despair, he fled into the wilderness where he prayed that he might die. "It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers" (1 Kings 19:4).

The essence of fatherhood is in passing on an inheritance. Elijah knew how to be a son and receive an inheritance from his fathers, but he did not know how to enlarge it and make it greater. He had come to the end of himself and was tormented by an overwhelming sense of failure — "I've done all I can, yet I am no better than my fathers. I have added nothing."

But God had a solution.

Forty days passed and Elijah stood before the Lord at Mt. Horeb. A raging wind, an earthquake, and fire prepared Elijah to hear the voice of God as gentle as a breeze. The Lord instructed him to anoint Elisha as a prophet to succeed him (1 Kings 19:11-18).

Elijah obeyed. Finding Elisha plowing in a field with twelve yoke of oxen, he passed by and threw his mantle on him. The mantle was the symbol of Elijah's spiritual authority and power, and conveyed the tangible anointing of God upon his ministry — it was to Elijah what the rod had been to Moses. And now he was beginning the process of preparing someone else to receive it. What had been fathered in Elijah, he was now to father in Elisha.

Elisha immediately recognized the significance of the mantle being draped over his shoulders by Elijah. He begged leave to bid his parents farewell. Then he slaughtered his oxen and cooked them over a fire fueled by his farming implements. He arose and followed Elijah, leaving everything else behind (1 Kings 19:19-21).

So Elijah began fathering Elisha, depositing things in him out of the rich inheritance he himself had received from the Lord. As they walked together, Elisha grew in ministry. Elijah poured out as much as Elisha was willing to receive.

Finally, a day came when Elijah and Elisha crossed over the Jordan river together. Elijah said, "Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?"

Elisha answered, "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." These were words of inheritance. The "double portion" is the legacy a father gives to his first-born. Elisha looked upon Elijah as his father, for Elijah had birthed mighty things within his soul. Now he was requesting his birthright.

"You have asked a hard thing," Elijah said, "Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so" (2 Kings 2:1-10). Here is my paraphrase: "You are asking a very valuable thing, Elisha. Too hard for me; only God can do it. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken — if you can understand what my vision is, then you will walk in my inheritance."

Vision is a vital part of inheritance. "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). Or as the New King James Version puts it, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint." Many an inheritance has been lost or squandered because there was no vision given with it, no revelation of the heart of God. Elijah was saying, "If you will receive the revelation I have of the heart of God, then you can walk in the power of it. But if you can't, then you won't."

Elijah and Elisha continued on for a while and talked. Then suddenly, a chariot of fire appeared and Elijah was taken up to heaven by a whirlwind. Elisha cried out, "My father, my father" and ripped his garments in two. Then he took up the mantle of Elijah, which had been left behind, and with it he proceeded to do all the things Elijah had done, and more. You see, though Elijah was taken up to heaven, his anointing remained on the earth and was inherited by his son, and by inheritance became greater.

We need the Holy Spirit to do an Elijah work in us once more, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Or else there is only judgment which will leave us like burnt-out stubble with neither root nor branch — no fathers, no sons, no inheritance, no revelation of the heart of God. But whenever fathers will take unto themselves sons into whom they can pour their lives, and whenever sons will cry out, "My father, my father," then the powerful anointings of God will multiply upon the earth, and the heart of God will be made known.

Dear Lord,

Send us the spirit of Elijah once more to make us fathers who will teach our children in the ways of the Lord. Make us sons who will receive the work of God through our fathers and so have a powerful and godly inheritance to pass on to our children. Turn our hearts now, O God, we pray. In Jesus' name, Amen!

© 2002 Jeff Doles.
All rights reserved.

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“JEFF DOLES is a Christian author, blogger and Bible teacher. His books include The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew and Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles. He and his wife, Suzanne, are the founders of Walking Barefoot Ministries. Visit their website at”

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