THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD
There is good ground to think that the relationships which exist among men on the earth were established by God for the special purpose of disclosing and illustrating His own interest in us. All are employed in the Scriptures to exhibit the riches of the love and care which the eternal God displays towards the children of men. Of these, probably none is more suitable to our lost, ignorant, helpless state, than that of God’s Fatherhood.
In one respect God is Father, as Creator and Preserver of everything. But He is in a special sense the Father of His adopted children. “Is not he thy Father that hath bought thee?” “Ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.” Christ purchased the believer’s privilege of calling God, Father. The Father draws him to Christ. “Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” Thus a man out of Christ has no right to this relationship in its highest sense.
Let us look a little more closely into this special Fatherhood. God is a covenant God, then a Father. He is Christ’s God and Father before He is ours. But when we are in Christ, the Father’s heart is a fountain of love and tenderness towards us. Christ set this peculiar feeling before us in the parable of the prodigal son. The poor, destitute, disreputable son, for whom nobody seemed to care when he had spent all that he had, was despised by his former companions after the way of the world. How different was the conduct of the Father, whose loving heart was touched! He did not walk coolly to meet him, keeping up a haughty bearing till a humble apology was made; but he ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
David spoke truly when he said, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them, that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” And knowing that we are dust, and grievously afflicted with the leprosy of sin by nature, His compassion, like that of a good earthly parent, is very tender towards the weak and sickly ones. His “strength is made perfect in weakness.” At the last day many may be glad to come in behind Manasseh whom people looked upon as the excellent of the earth, saved, yet scarcely saved.
God shows His Fatherhood in a marked fashion to the widow and the fatherless. “A Father of the fatherless and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” The Father’s sovereignty and love shines forth in His frequent choice of those who are despised to work out His great designs. David was the youngest of a large family, and in his early life only a shepherd, while some of his older brothers were warriors. When he enquired as to the words of
Goliath, his eldest brother’s bitter reply shows pitiless scorn and contempt. But God sees not as man sees, and He employed the despised David to slay Goliath and deliver Israel, thus showing both His sovereignty in the choice of His instruments, and His Fatherly feeling for David. David was conscious of God’s hand in the matter, for he said to the giant, “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts.” He knew that his strength lay in the mighty hands of his Father, God.
Many other instances might be given. Satan loves to present God to the human mind as a judge; and so He is to all who are out of Christ; but His everlasting Fatherhood is for those whom He sees in Christ. To such the Apostle Paul says, “Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s”.
The consideration of God as Father ought to give confidence in prayer; and yet how poor and selfish our prayers are. We seek chiefly to have our own wants attended to, whether temporal or spiritual, and then pride ourselves on our prayers as if we had performed a religious duty with perfect satisfaction. This is not treating God as a holy Father ought to be treated. “Hallowed be thy name” is the first petition in the prayer Christ gave as a directory of prayer, and Christ’s own words in addressing His Father correspond with this. He said, “Father, glorify thy Son.” But with what object? Â•’That thy Son may glorify thee.” What unselfishness! What deep spirituality! We see how far we fall short. It was His Father’s glory that Christ sought; and if that glory is not the highest aim in our praying, and if we seek some other object more earnestly than this, we are really making self into an idol. All prayer for benefit for ourselves must have God’s glory for its end. “If I then be a Father, where is mine honour?” It is He who has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son,” – us, who were His enemies, who fought against Him at Satan’s bidding! “Behold, what manner of love is this!”
Another consideration with respect to God’s Fatherhood is that there will be a family likeness to Him; not perfect, to be sure; that is impossible; but still the likeness will be there. As the Father hates sin, so will His child. As the Father delights in His child, so will the child delight in his Father. If the Father “delighteth in mercy”, so does His child. “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” The Father’s eye is always on His Son, in whom alone He sees His children. How the Father directs attention to Him! “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” So the children constantly have their eyes on Jesus, in whom is all their lope. Out of His fulness they receive the power to recognize the Father’s love. “Behold”, they exclaim, “what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of
God.” What dignity is this when we consider the ‘hole of the pit whence we were digged’! Born the children of wrath, even as others, slaves in Satan’s kingdom, yet so great is the Father’s love that He consents for His well-beloved Son to take our nature, and undergo a life of suffering and shame, in order to break our chains and bring us nigh to that Father against whom we have rebelled. Was ever Fatherhood so touchingly tender as this?
It is a solemn fact there is no intermediate state between the Fatherhood of God and the fatherhood of Satan. “Ye are of your father, the devil”, said Christ of empty religious profession. As it is a unique distinction, so it is an immense privilege to be able to call upon the Creator of heaven and earth as, “Our Father, which art in heaven.”
K. W. H. Howard