Turning the Hearts of the Fathers to Their Children -Malachi 4:6

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What did Malachi mean when he wrote about turning the hearts of the fathers to their children? What does Malachi 4:6 mean for fathers today?

A Father’s Impact

What did Malachi mean when he wrote about turning the hearts of the fathers to their children? What does Malachi 4:6 mean for fathers today? Fathers have a much greater impact than they might imagine, but how can they turn their hearts toward their children? What if they don’t? What impact does the father’s heart have toward their children? For one thing, they represent the nearest thing to God to their children, for good or for bad. Statistics prove what fathers mean to their families. Consider these facts:

Role of the Christian Grandparent

  • 7% of saved children will eventually lead their parents to Christ.
  • 23% of saved wives will eventually lead their children and husbands to Christ.
  • 94% of saved fathers will eventually lead their entire family to Christ.
  • 85% of Christians were saved: ages 4-14!

For those who have grown up without a father we know this:

  • Girls 2 and a ½ times more likely to become pregnant before graduation
  • Girls are twice as likely to commit suicide
  • Boys are 63% more likely to run away from home
  • It doubles boy’s chances of criminal activity and drug/alcohol abuse
  • It doubles the likelihood of boys dropping out of high school
  • And for both children, it doubles the chances of their children living at poverty level

Repentance or Destruction

As you can read, fathers play a pivotal role in the family and often the father determines the success or failure of the family. It shouldn’t surprise us then that Malachi wrote of John the Baptist, “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). For the most part, the Jewish father’s in Jesus’ day failed to head John the Baptist’s message of repentance. The word for “turn” that Malachi uses is from the Hebrew word “shuwb” which means “turn back to” or “return to,” indicating that the father’s hearts where not directed toward their children and they needed to turn their hearts toward them. They needed to turn or repent too.

John the Baptist

Repentance or turning is just what John preached about. John the Baptist pointed the father’s in Israel to repentance and also pointed them toward Jesus. John emphasized repenting or turning to God, and He saw Jesus as God and told others that Jesus was the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world. John the Baptist did come in that same spirit as Elijah, warning Israel to repent or face captivity (which eventually happened). It happened in Elijah’s day and it happened in Jesus’ day. Isaiah the Prophet also foretold of the day when John the Baptist would prepare the way for Jesus’ earthly ministry, writing, “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). John was that voice in the wilderness, and he prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry and was pretty straight about His being the only way. He was preparing the way for the expected appearance of the Messiah, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ by preaching a baptsim of repentance.

Catapulta, by Edward Poynter (1868). 70 AD

They Failed to Turn

The Jewish father’s failed to turn their hearts toward God and thus, they failed to turn their hearts toward their own children, so utter destruction did come for the Jews in the first century. And we know about the total destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Malachi, or really, God had warned them in Malachi’s day and God had warned them in Jesus’ day. That was when John the Baptist warned the Jewish leaders and all who would listen, but they failed to heed anyway. In fact, they also failed to heed Jesus’ warning where He prophesied that not one stone would be left upon another of the temple (Matt 24:2; Mark 13:2; Luke 21:6).

The Hearts of the Children

We have good advice from God’s Word in Proverbs 22:6 where parents are commanded to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Charles Spurgeon wisely said we should train up our children in the way they should go, “but make sure you go that way yourself.” If parents don’t go “that way,” then they can’t expect their children to go that way either. More will be caught than taught. They cannot hear what you say if your actions are drowning out those words. Unless fathers repent and turn their hearts back toward their children (or turn to them for the first time), then the land (or any nation) will eventually be struck down or face utter destruction.


A father must be a good example to his children (1 Peter 1:13-16). He must show the children that he loves their mother (Ephesians 5:25-33). He must be involved in his children’s lives (Matt 6:5-8). He must keep his promises to his children (Heb 6:17). He must allow his children to fail for their own good (Rom 5:1-5). He must be the encourager of his children and the entire family (Prov 15:23; 25:11). Father’s must also embrace and deeply love their children (Mark 10:13-16). A father must build his family upon the foundation of the Word of God (Matt 7:24-27), and a father must not exasperate his children (Eph 6:4) while still bringing them up in the admonition of the Lord (Prov 22:6; Eph 6:4). This means fathers bring up their children with discipline when necessary because it is for their own good. Discipline proves your love for them (Prov 19:18-28), as it does God’s love for us (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6).

Here is some related reading for you: The Father’s Mandate: 8 Things to Consider From the Bible

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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