This is one of my favorite pictures. It’s my dad and I when I was about six months old. We were visiting my Mom’s grandparents in Colorado. The picture was taken at the Big Thompson River. My parents got divorced when I was four, and Dad moved halfway across the country two years later. That was 1970. We talk every Sunday evening, but I haven’t seen him in eight years. I hope to change that this summer.
This Sunday is Father’s Day. It is a day that we have set aside to pay tribute to our fathers, grandfathers, and father figures. So, what better time to talk about God, the Father?
According to Bible Gateway, the word “father” is used 1103 times in the Bible. As you might imagine, many of those uses are “this person was the father of that person, and he was the father of the next person, etc”. I wondered though, how many times scripture refers to God as “Father”. Yes, I actually counted them, so my numbers might be a little off, but here is what I got.
Of the 753 times the word “father” is used in the Old Testament, it is used a reference to God only fifteen times. In the New Testament, 230 of the 350 uses of the word “father” refer to God.
That’s quite a difference.
God is YHWH (I AM), Elohim (Creator, Lord God), El Shaddai (The Almighty), and El Elyon (God Most High), but He is also Abba (Father). Let that sink in if you can.
For some of us, thinking of God as our Father doesn’t help us much. Some of us had fathers who were absent, emotionally distant, critical, or abusive. So the idea of having God for a father either doesn’t mean anything, because was have no experience, or it leaves us with a sickening sense of fear and dread.
So how do we get past that?
First ask God to open our hearts to what he wants us to know. Then get into His word. Ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Find believers who can share their experience with God the Father. I’ve also discovered that learning from people who have good earthly fathers, or are good earthly fathers can help me fill out that picture of God, the Father too.
For me, reading scripture out loud can help the words sink in better. Try it.
Let’s start here:
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts (Psalm 103: 1-18)
Wait, there’s more.
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3)
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:9-11)
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”(Rom 8:15)
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.(Proverbs 3: 11-12)
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Heb 13:5)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (1 Cor 1:3-4)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9)
Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts: 14:17)
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. (Psalm 36:5)
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14)
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling (Psalm 68:5)
In this parable, often called “The Prodigal Son”, Jesus depicts God as a father who lets his son make his own choices and reap the consequences for those choices. Yet He waits for him to repent and come back; not so that He can say “I told you so,” or berate him for his mistakes, but to forgive him and joyfully welcome him Home.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:11-32)
We could go on for days, but here is a final scripture.
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14: 8-10)
I don’t know about you, but reading the first sentence of Jesus’ answer to Philip gives me goosebumps. I wonder how Philip felt? At the time, he probably didn’t really understand. He, and the other disciples, had been with Jesus for three years. They had seen Him heal the sick, raise the dead, bless children, and reach out to hurting people with love and compassion. They had been watching God the whole time!
God is a tender, compassionate Father, who loves us beyond measure, blesses us with good things, and disciplines us when we need it. He loves giving us gifts, and spending time with us. He wants us to talk to Him and He wants to comfort us as only He can. He is kind, patient, faithful, and He is Love.