Published June 14, 2011

Paul's Epistle...

I have a heavenly Father
Watching over me each day...
I will not tremble in the dark shadows
When I cannot see my way
For I have a heavenly Father
Watching me each day.1

This coming weekend's broadcast will especially honor fathers, keyed to Father's Day, observed (amazingly) in about sixty countries around the world. The comments and music on the program will not only salute earthly fathers but also will remind us of our special relationship, as Christians, with our Heavenly Father.

Isn't it interesting that the God of the entire universe wants us to refer to Him with such a personal term as "Father!"

Why did He choose that term? I mean, He is the "All Powerful," the "Almighty," the "Creator God!" He could rightly demand that we refer to Him solely as the "Most High" (a common Old Testament term), the "Grand Exalted One," "Master of the Universe," "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (a term applied to Christ in the Revelation), or any other such awe-inspiring titles. All of these would, of course, be accurate. But instead of such awesome and grandiose honorifics, He chooses for us to think of Him as, simply, "Father."

Think about this! Don't take it for granted. Those of us who have grown up in the church have heard the terminology all of our lives, so its significance may slip right by us. This is extremely profound! The Creator of the universe wants us to think of Him, first and foremost, as "Father!" And a loving and gracious Father, no less.

The cry of God's heart even in the Old Testament can be heard in Jeremiah 3:19 (especially poignant in the New Living Translation) where God says concerning Israel, "I thought to Myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!' I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land – the finest inheritance in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,' and I thought you would never turn away from me again." We know that didn't turn out as He hoped, at least not back then. Perhaps Jesus' parable about the prodigal son was closer to His heart than we could imagine.

Although the concept of God as "Father" is presented in the Old Testament, it is offered little more than a dozen times. It's in the New Testament where the concept is fully developed, appearing at least 254 times (which, in fact, is almost three-quarters of the New Testament use of the term "father" in any sense).

So, why that term, "Father?"

Use of the term "Father" symbolizes as clearly and simply as possible the fact that God wants a relationship with us. He wants a personal relationship, just as a loving human father is to have a close relationship with his children, according to God's model for families. God created the entire physical universe to have a place for Adam and Eve to live so that He could have a relationship with them – and, by extension, their progeny – you and me.

We are, as Christians, God's children. Paul, writing to the Ephesian Christians, says of God, "He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace..." (Ephesians 1:5-6). Further, to the Galatians Paul wrote, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27). If we are God's children, it makes sense to call Him "Father."

Christ Himself made it quite clear that we are to refer to God as "Father" when we pray. When the disciples asked Him how they should pray, Christ didn't begin His sample prayer ("the Lord's prayer") with some grand, glorious and majestic invocation of Deity. He told them to begin this way: "Our Father which art in heaven..." (Luke 11:2.) Since He was showing His followers how to pray, all Christians are, by extension, given the right and privilege of addressing God Himself as "Father," on the word and authority of Christ Himself!

But there's even more to this. On the night of His betrayal and arrest, while in the garden of Gethsemane, Christ prayed, "Abba, Father, ...everything is possible for you..." (Mark 14:36). He was addressing God as "Abba," an Aramaic term of personal endearment and closeness which can probably best be translated as "dear Father" or even "Daddy." It's one of only a very few original-language words preserved in our Bible today, possibly because our language lacks a suitable rendering of the original term's nuances.

"Abba" is used only two other times in the Bible, both times by Paul and both times in reference to addressing God by Christians who are His children (in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6). The interesting part about this is that, according to the "NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words," Jesus' use of "Abba" in referring to God was a first. Such use is found nowhere in previous Jewish texts. The Jews believed it was far too familiar a term to apply to a Holy God. But Christ changed that.

"Abba" is still used in everyday Jewish speech to this day. Max Lucado wrote that while following a Jewish family walking through the old city of Jerusalem, a young girl, aged four or five, became separated from the rest of her family. She shouted, "Abba!" Her father heard her and immediately responded, finding her and taking her hand, assuring her as they continued their walk together. What a picture of God's response when we shout out to Him, "Abba! Father!"

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God..." (1 John 3:1.) "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:6.)

All of this is a fulfillment of a promise God made to King David's descendants through Nathan the prophet, and applied to all Christians in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians: " God said, ‘I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people... I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:16,18).

So, we are to think of God as our Father. But the flip side of this is that He thinks of each of us as His child. What a privileged relationship that is! Christ pointed out that if earthly fathers are kind to their children, "how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matt. 7:11.) We can each rejoice in the sentiments of this old hymn:

"I'm a child of the King,
A child of the King,
With Jesus my Savior,
I'm a child of the King."2

Have you checked in with your Father today? He'd like to hear from you.

- Paul

1. "I Have A Heavenly Father," Daryl Williams, Centergetic Music ASCAP (excerpt)
2. "A Child Of The King," Buell and Sumner, 1877 (excerpt)

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