By J.R. Miller
There is wondrous uplift in the thought of the glory of the fatherhood to which we are introduced in Christ. Fatherhood itself means love, tender, strong, and faithful; but when we put divinity behind of all the love and goodness--Father in heaven--we make the vision infinite and eternal. Human fatherhood, as beautiful as it is and rich in affection, is frail and uncertain. Tomorrow it may be gone. God is our Father in heaven's eternal glory. Yet though he is in heaven--he never forgets us. Our names are always before him.
"Our Father who IS." This is one of the great present tenses of the Bible! God is. He is not a being who merely was in the remote past, and is now only a memory. Nor is he a God who is to manifest himself sometime is the future as our judge. He IS. He is the living God. He is our Father--and he is evermore our Father. There is never a moment when he is not near us, when his ear will not hear our faintest cry, when his hand is not ready to help.
This truth of the living God who is our Father, is wondrously rich in its meaning. In these learned days, some men like to talk of the God of the universe as a great mysterious force, at the center of things, which in some way keeps all words and all the things in being. But they deny to this great power--the elements of personality. They scoff the Christian teaching, that this God loves all his redeemed children, that he gives personal thought to any individuals, that he knows our needs or concerns himself with any of the perplexities of our life.
But this naming of our God as, "Our Father who IS" reveals to us a God who is the same yesterday and today--yes, and forever. All these nineteen centuries, his children have been calling him in the same precious way. Moreover, the name Father sweeps away all vague thoughts of God as mere force or power. Father means love, not love merely for a race--but love for his own children, a distinct love for each one of them! It means thought and care and providence. Our Father knows us by name--and carries each one of us in his heart! This is our Father's world, and wherever we go--we are beneath his all-seeing eye, near to his omnipotent hand, and within the circle of his infinite love.
It is the part of faith, to realize this truth of the living God, "Our Father who IS,"--a Father not far off--but close around us always. We never can get away from his presence! He is a very present help in time of trouble. The Scriptures seem to labor--to make this truth plain to us. Underneath us are the everlasting arms--again the present tense gives added preciousness to the teaching. The words are spoken directly to every Christian who reads or hears them.
We are told that the Lord holds us by the right hand, and we hear his voice saying, "Fear not; for I am with you!" With all the glory of his fatherhood, he is personally with every one of his children--for all their days. Our hope and confidence, are in God's ever-nearness. No human friend is half so close.
It is our Father who is heaven--to whom we pray. Thus our thoughts are lifted up above this earth. The Heidelberg Catechism, in answer to the question why the words "in heaven" are added, says, "In order that there may not be anything earthly in our conception of the heavenly majesty of God." While the blessed name assures us of all tenderness, affection, and accessibleness; the place of God's abode suggests to us his glory, greatness, and holiness. He is not like one of us. We faintly bear his image--but he is infinitely above us. All the visions and representations of God in the Scriptures, show him to us as dwelling in light to which no man can approach. Thus we are assured, also, of the power of God. He is our Father--infinite in love--but infinite also in strength, omnipotent! We are safe in his hands. No power can harm us--if we are sheltered in his strong keeping!
This revelation of the fatherhood of God, suggests to us what an exalted privilege prayer is. It is free and open access into the presence of the God of heaven! In our continual approaches to God we are in danger of forgetting the stupendous meaning of prayer. Moses was bidden to take off his shoes before the burning bush, because the ground whereon he stood was holy. Isaiah was awed into deepest reverence, as he beheld the vision of God in the temple. Yet these are only glimpses of divine manifestations. Every time we speak to God in prayer--we are in the very presence of a glory greater and more real than that of any theophany which human eye ever saw! It becomes us, therefore, to be reverent, to be sincere, to be true-hearted, when we pray. We may come boldly and with confidence, for it is to our Father we are drawing near; but we should come remembering that he is our Father in heaven--the glorious One before whom highest angels veil their faces while they sing.
We need to think deeply of this. We are so assured of our welcome to God's throne and of his love, mercy, and grace--that we are much in danger of forgetting the glory of the presence into which we come. If for a moment, while we are praying, the veil were withdrawn and we had a glimpse of the stupendous scene--could we ever again pray heedlessly, or irreverently?
On the other hand, this revelation of the fatherhood of God, assures us of the infinite love that continually surrounds us. There is nothing in the divine majesty and glory, that should ever make us afraid--if we are truly trusting in Christ and faithfully following him. To some people, the thought of God's presence brings terror. Children are sometimes told that 'God sees them'--as if this should make them afraid. God always sees us--we cannot hide from him for a moment. This should lead us to live ever to please him. Yet it is in love that he watches us. "You O God, see me" meant mercy and deliverance to Hagar and her child. No truth should bring greater comfort and joy to the Christian, than this thought of God's ever nearness. It means all of a child's privilege in a father's house--safety, care, help, satisfying communion, all of love's blessedness.
A story of some little children alone during a thunderstorm, relates that each stated a favorite Scripture verse. One of them chose, "The Lord of glory thunders!" And when she was asked why she gave these words, she said: "Once I heard a great crash of thunder, and I was so sorely frightened that I screamed with terror! My father was near and he called, 'Don't be afraid, Margie; it's only Father!' Now when it thunders and I begin to be afraid, God seems to say to me, 'Don't be frightened, Margie; it's only Me--your Father!' and all my fear vanishes!
Fatherhood assures us of wise and loving discipline, "What son is he--whom the Father does not chasten?" This true of earthly fathers. Children who are not brought up under restraints, who are not taught nor disciplined--are brought up for sorrow and failure in life! Our heavenly Father does not permit his children to grow up--without correction and chastening. He does not give them their own way--when their own way would work only their hurt, perhaps their ruin!
Sometimes children of God complain at what seem hard things in their experience. They ask, "Can it be that God loves me--and yet lets me endure these losses, disappointments, and trials?" Really it is just because he loves--them that he deals thus with them--he would save them, train them for spiritual life, teach them higher lessons.
This revealing of God's Fatherhood, suggests also--the true glory of the Christian life. We make too little of this--we fail to recognize the dignity of our calling as God's children! "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1
There is a picture which shows a man dying in a wretched garret, on a bed of straw, amid the poorest surroundings. That is the earth side--what merely human eyes saw. But a closer inspection reveals a vision of angels waiting to receive the dying man's spirit unto heavenly glory. That is the heaven side of the same picture! That is truly what takes place whenever a Christian dies. "Absent from the body," and then, in a moment more--he is forever "at home with the Lord." We should think more of our privileges as God's children in this world, and should walk worthy of our high and holy calling.
The fatherhood of God also implies the brotherhood of all who are God's redeemed children. All are members of one family, and should therefore should dwell together in love. It was said of a good man, "He treated every man--as if he were a blood relative." That is true brotherhood. The strong--should help the weak. Those who have plenty--should share with those who lack. The joyous--should sing their songs of gladness in the ears of the sad. The victorious--should help those who are still struggling in life's battles.
The world today needs nothing more, than the realization of the true spirit of brotherhood among men. All social problems would find easy solution, if the love which Christ taught were to become indeed the law of life in all human relations. Society would be regenerated. Wars would no more devastate this fair earth. Business would be made holy, each man thinking of the good of his brothers as much as of his own. Heaven would be brought down to earth, if the great lesson of the brotherhood of all God's children were only learned and realized in life.
These are but hints of the vast and deep meaning of this wonderful invocation. We have found enough, at least, in it to assure us of welcome whenever we come as children to our Father. We need to strive more and more after the child spirit; for only when we have it--can we find our way to the innermost warmth of divine love!