Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Perfect Father

“How great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” 1 John 3:1

My husband is a wonderful dad. While our children were little, we held completely different roles in our household. I was always bustling around preparing meals, cleaning up messes, washing clothes, and meeting physical needs. Steve, on the other hand, was working toward making our children’s childhood all it could be. He made up games that furnished hours of fun. He thought up trips and outings that gave them wonderful experiences away from home. He played football and catch and soccer with them out in the front yard. When the need arose, He disciplined with a firm but gentle hand. Steve was a nurturing, affectionate dad. I am thankful for what my sons were able to observe with a dad like Steve, so that in turn they, too, will be wonderful dads like my husband.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have fathers who loved us in our childhood have an insight into the character of God. The Lord refers to Himself as a father many times throughout Scripture. A particularly touching passage that touches on this is Hosea 11. My NASB translation entitles the passage “God Yearns over His People.”

The Lord recalls His relationship with Israel as a nation, which began when they were in bondage as slaves. Using Moses as His unlikely spokesperson, God called His people out of slavery into freedom. It was not a picture-perfect beginning. For before long, the people began to doubt their Heavenly Father. Like unruly small children, they were bold enough to test the most patient of benefactors. But God patiently dealt with all of their foolishness. “It is I who taught Ephraim to walk. I took them in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.” (Hosea 11:3)

The Heavenly Father continued to patiently meet the needs of His children, gently guiding them much as a father who takes his toddler by the hand. “I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love.” Consistent with His gentle guidance, the Lord supplied Moses to lead the nation. The opposite of a stern dictator who gloried in the forced submission of his people, Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).

God did more for them than call them out and give them a leader. He lifted the heavy burden of slavery off of their backs and delivered them into freedom. He then supplied all of their physical needs. Water and bread were faithfully provided in a barren and unforgiving desert. The Father provided every need for the children He loved.

Yet the nation persisted in going astray. Once settled in the land, their hearts quickly turned toward the gods of the Canaanites. God knew that their sin could not remain unjudged, because He was holy. Yet even in the face of their stubborn, wicked rebellion, God reveals His agony over what must be done: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? . . . My heart is turned over within Me, all my compassions are kindled.” (Hosea 11:8)

Anyone who has been a parent can relate to this kind of agony. Discipline is often as painful for the parent as it is for the child. Do you remember hearing “this hurts me more than it will hurt you” before a spanking as a youngster? Once I became a parent, I understood the reality of that statement. When you love your children, their pain is yours as well. Yet love without discipline is not love at all. It is self-indulgence. We go through the pain of disciplining our children because it is in their best interest, not ours.

God’s dealings with the nation of Israel were but a foreshadow of what would be accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ. Matthew demonstrates this when he attributes Hosea 11:1 as a prophecy that would be fulfilled in Christ. (Matthew 2:15) Jesus came as a humble servant, truly the meekest man to have walked the earth. He boldly led His people out of the slavery of sin into glorious freedom. The yoke of trying to please God was taken off of our shoulders, and Christ provided everything that we needed to live lives of service for Him. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us this: “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” All that God did for Israel as a nation was accomplished exponentially through Christ for us.

God remains our Heavenly Father. Jesus told His disciples to pray to the Lord as Father (Matthew 6:9) Paul again emphasized the Father-child relationship in Romans 8:15: “You have received the a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”

As wise children we listen carefully to the instruction of this parent who loves with a perfect love. We endure the discipline because we know it is in our best interests. And we glory in the relationship that has been freely given to us, especially in light of the kind of rebellious children we have been and will continue to be. He is truly the perfect dad.

1 comment:

dave said...

oooooh, new look!

go david cook!