What Does It Mean That God Is A Father?
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:13
“It is a sad fact but it is true,” writes John Nagle, “when people today hear of God being referred to as ‘father’ it often creates more mental barriers than open hearts. Unfortunately for more and more in our culture, the term ‘Father’ causes individuals to think of someone who was absent, abusive, addicted, or all of the above.”
He’s right. More than a few times I have had people, usually young women, tell me how thinking of God in terms of being a father to them, in spite of the fact that He is God, is difficult if not outwardly painful because of the distrust and anger they have towards a dad who wasn’t there, who didn’t care, who abused them, ignored them, and let them down.
“So can I expect the same thing of God?” asked one person. How sad that in a culture of brokenness the picture of a loving Father who is there for his children has become so maligned, so abused and out of focus. But there is one powerful truth that you need to confront: God is not a man, weakened by the failures, scarred by the passions of the flesh. Moses put it like this: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19). What does it mean when we address God as Father? Among many things, focus on several truths.
Calling God “Father” means there is a relationship with Him. He’s not your “uncle” nor is God “the Man Upstairs,” or a “weak-kneed, bearded Old Man. Jesus taught us to pray saying, “Our Father….” The relationship of a father to a child can come through natural generation or adoption. From the days of Roman law to the present, courts recognize both as having equal force, but adoption brings with it beautiful pictures. It means that you were chosen. Adopting parents made decisions and when they adopt, it is because they want the child. Does that tell you something? Writing to the Ephesians, Paul said, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:4). God had a plan which included you even before He spoke the Word and brought our world into existence.
Calling God “Father” brings an intimacy with Him, a connection whose links are chains of love and compassion. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that we are to look to our heavenly Father for “our daily bread”—the most basic of our needs. He taught not only that Father knows best, but He knows what you need even before you ask. The New Testament also promises that your Father will provide for your needs.
Calling God “Father” also means He will be there for you! He sent His Son as His personal representative to show you the way back home. Like the prodigal, though, we have wandered far away from home, and the loving Father sent the gentle shepherd to pick us up, give us robes of righteousness, and provide the means of finding a new relationship with God, the Father. Jesus said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Don’t base your relationship with the Father on your feelings but on what the Word tells you about God. A final thought. In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, there is a rather sad lament. God says of Israel, “How gladly would I treat you like sons…I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me” (Jeremiah 3:19-20). Find out about what it means to know God as Father, and then call Him “Father” with joy and gladness.
Resource reading: Jeremiah 3:19-25.