THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
If the fronds of the palm, by a beautiful Eastern
Christian myth to which we have already referred, were said to whisper the
name of Jesus, it may surely be averred of the true Heavenly Palm, that the
leaves were heard continually to whisper a name, well-nigh, if not
altogether, new to God's spiritual Israel—that of FATHER.
And yet, may it not be truthfully asserted regarding many
who live under the better dispensation, that there are often distorted
views entertained of the nature of God, little in harmony with this
Divine Fatherhood? Are there not many who think of Him only as a mighty
Architect who has piled infinite space with His handiwork—omnipotent,
omniscient—awe-inspiring in His holiness, unrelenting in His justice,
implacable in His vengeance. They have fully understood the partial
revelation of Him as the punisher of sin, but they have failed to gaze on
the glorious complement of His character, as the Gracious and Merciful, the
Father and the Friend.
This new paternal relation of Jehovah to His
people is manifested in the Person of Him who came to our world the
Incarnation of the Divine Spirituality—the unveiler of the essential
perfections of Deity. "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead
bodily." He is Himself the articulate answer to the query of His impatient
disciple, "Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."
"He that has seen Me," was the reply, "has seen the Father." As there
had been a patriarchal, a legal, an angelic, a prophetic dispensation—so now
Christ came as the founder and exponent of a filial one. To take the
significant opening words of the Apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews (not
as they are rendered in our version, but as they have been rendered in the
full force of the original), "God, who at sundry times, and in diverse
manners, spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these
last days spoken unto us by a Son."
Most delightful surely and comforting is this theme of
contemplation—Christ the Revealer of the Father! "The Word," says the
beloved Apostle, "was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (and then follows our
motto-verse), "We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who
came from the Father, full of grace and truth." Well may He be designated by
this appropriate term. For just as 'words' are the outward audible
expression of silent invisible thought, so Christ is the expression of
the Invisible God, the utterance and embodiment, in human shape, of Him
who revealed Himself in the dimness of an earlier dispensation as "Secret,"
"From henceforth," says Christ, pointing to Himself, "you
know the Father, and have seen Him" (John 14:7). How He dwells upon the very
name! How He delights to interweave it with parable and miracle, and
intercessory prayer, and last agony, and first Resurrection-words! Well He
knew the tender associations the image would call forth among the millions
who pondered the story of His incarnation. He would have the sacred earthly
relation transfused into the Heavenly. As He puts His people in the clefts
of the Rock, and makes all the glory of His goodness to pass by, the
proclamation is made, "My Father and your Father, My God and your God!"
The opening invocation of His own Universal Prayer is
"Our Father." He would have them to know and to feel, even in the house of
their earthly tabernacle, that they are pacing a Father's halls—a dwelling
frescoed and decorated with a Father's love! In seeing Him they see the
Father (John 14:7). In asking Him for some needed blessing, they ask the
Father. The names are interchangeable. "The Father will give you whatever
you ask in My name."
Oh, how near does all this bring the great God Almighty!
How it represents Him, as regarding with especial and individual love, each
member of His redeemed family; caring for their needs, sympathizing with
their sorrows, bearing with their infirmities; loving them—we had almost
said doting on them as a Father. How different from the heathen
conception of their deities, living in the isolation of a voluptuous calm;
far removed from the concerns of earth, devoid of all personal interest in
those from whom, nevertheless, they demanded cruel offerings, and over whom
they were often represented as reveling in bloodthirsty vengefulness.
"God in Christ," "God with us"—"with us," as truly as
Jesus was with the anxious Nicodemus, or with the sisters of Bethany, or
with the widow at Nain, or with the disciples tossed on their midnight sea,
or with the downcast wayfarers on the road to Emmaus. "God with us"—brought
down from the regions of infinite abstraction; challenging our perfect
confidence and trustful love. Even in our Gethsemanes of deepest sorrow, we
can take the cup as He did in His midnight watch, and say, "O my
Father! If it be possible!"
Realizing this glorious truth, we can breathe the
timeworn litany, with the consciousness of a new meaning and trust—"O God,
the Father of heaven, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!" O my
gracious Father! I will measure You no longer by any low human standard. Let
the gentleness and kindness of Him who walked this earth as Your Image,
teach me evermore to repose unhesitatingly in the everlasting kindness of
Your Infinite heart. Under this glorious shelter—the shade of this Palm of
Elim, "I will lay me down in peace and sleep;" for God is my Father;
and GOD is Love! Yes, and even though that love should at times be veiled,
and the leaves of the earthly palm tree be saturated with "the dews of the
night," I shall strive to remember the new sacred Covenant relation, and
with a child's unwavering trust breathe the words the Divine Revealer
Himself has taught me—"Yes, FATHER, for this was Your good pleasure!"
"O Father! not my will, but Thine be done,"
So spoke the Son.
Be this our charm, mellowing earth's ruder noise
Of griefs and joys;
That we may cling forever to Thy breast
In perfect rest."
"I delight to sit in His shade."