RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
II. GOD A FATHER, AS REVEALED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
PARENTAL relationship, whether natural or spiritual, is of
God, who has been pleased to originate the former before introducing the
latter, so that when such a spiritual relationship should be revealed and
formed, His people might the better understand the privileges and blessings
connected with it. For as we see the unfolding in the Word, step by step, of
God's thought and provision for the welfare of His creatures upon earth, we
come to discern what surely must have been in His mind, and the joy for His
heart to which He looked forward.
Who can now doubt, that when Adam was put by the Lord God in the garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it, and all the animals were brought to him to be named, that Jehovah was looking forward to the day when the Son of Man shall appear in glory, and all creation be subjected to His sway? Again, reading, as we are privileged to do, of what passed in God's mind as He looked on His creature Adam, then alone in the garden (Gen. ii. 18), it is not too much for us to declare that He had already in His thoughts the accomplishment of that purpose (which is still future), to make a marriage for the King's Son. So when instituting the relationships of parent and child, it can be no presumption on our part to assume that He had before His mind the day when He should be able to announce that such a relationship could exist between Himself and some of the children of men. For by Him, as was fitting, it was first made known. In both Testaments we read of it. In the Old, it is in connection with the people of Israel: in the New, it is in connection with those who are really His saints on earth; and therein we learn that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Father of those who believe on Him.
This distinction, just noticed, it is important to bear in mind. In Old Testament times, in keeping with the dispensational teaching of the day; when God took up the nation of Israel to be His people, and He to be their God, the redemption enjoyed and the relationship known were national, not individual. Israel was God's son. With us it is different. Each saint now is God's child, and He is his Father ; and every one who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins is to know, by the gift of the Holy Ghost bestowed on him, what it is to cry, " Abba, Father." Further, it is helpful to remember that, in the Old Testament, it is God who is the Father of Israel: in the New Testament, the first person of the Trinity is the One whom we address by that name ; He is God the Father. Let us trace this out a little more in detail.
To Exodus iv. 22, 23 we must first turn, in which we read God's message by Moses to Pharaoh, King of Egypt - "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, even My first-born ; and I say unto thee, Let My son go, that he may serve Me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy first-born." It was significant and instructive that God sent this announcement to the proud Egyptian monarch, and not to Israel. To him was it to be made known ; he was to hear that the nation of slaves, over whom he had ridden roughshod, was the son, the first-born of Jehovah of Hosts. It was significant, because it showed that God was not acting in accordance with the thoughts of man in such a matter. For who could have supposed that He would have passed by the dominant, highly-civilised, and cultivated race of the day, to espouse the cause of, and to form so close a tie between Himself and a nation of slaves? It was instructive, likewise; for, considering the condition of that people, the announcement of such a relationship to God in heaven was a manifestation on His part of pure, sovereign grace. What had they done to deserve it? Nothing. In what condition were they when that revelation was announced? In that of hopeless and abject misery (Ex. i. 13, 14; ii. 23) and announced it was, not to them to nerve them for the conflict, but to their taskmasters, the Egyptians, to make them set the people free. The people's condition, then, was no barrier to the existence and assertion by God of such a relationship to Himself. The Egyptians looked down on them, and abhorred them (i.12); but Jehovah was not ashamed to be the Father of such a people, and He would make the proud and haughty monarch know it, and subsequently have proof of it. Pharaoh might disavow all knowledge of Jehovah (v. 2), and refuse compliance with His commands ; but the night of the I5th of Abib would come, in which he should bewail the death of his first-born, and learn in that bitter way what a wonderful privilege it is to be in such a relationship with the One, true, and living God.
This tie once formed, God never broke nor disowned. The failure of the people could not dissolve it, nor will God ever forget it. Hosea (xi. i) reminded them of it in the past; Jeremiah (xxxi. 8-9) predicted that which will give them joy from it in the future : - "Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them : I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble ; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born."
Of this relationship Moses had reminded the people, ere they crossed the Jordan (Deut. xxxii. 6) ; and Jeremiah in his day sought to impress it on them (iii. 19), but all to no purpose, so captivity had to be their lot, and centuries of sorrow have that people now known. Indissoluble, however, is that tie. Of this Isaiah, too, bears witness in the language put by the Spirit of prophecy in the mouths of the godly remnant of the future:- "Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer ; Thy name is from everlasting" (Ixiii. 16); and again, "But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father: we are the clay, and Thou our potter ; and we all are the work of Thy hand " (Ixiv. 8).
Of everlasting grace this speaks ; of the unchangeableness, too, of God's purpose it is a proof. Israel did not deserve such a favour, that is clear. If they could ever have deserved it, they have certainly forfeited all claim to it. But it was not, it is not, a question of deserts. The question is one of God's sovereignty ; He formed the tie of His own will. He will never break it, nor will He cease to avow it. What comfort is all this for us, who now know God the Father as our Father as well as our God.
A Father! What are the thoughts connected with the enjoyment of such a blessing? On this we are not left in doubt. Each of us who have known our natural father may form some idea of what is involved in that parental tie. Some, however, there are who from circumstances have never known an earthly father's care or love, though they bear in life their parent's name. Such a state of things should not be the experience of God's children in these days. He desires that they should know the Father; so the Holy Ghost is given to us, whereby we cry, " Abba, Father." And what each of His children may find Him to be, He desires them to understand directly from Himself; so He graciously teaches us about it.
"A Father of the fatherless, ... is God in His holy habitation" (Ps. Ixviii. 5). He cares for and protects those who have no natural protector. On this His people can count. Pity, too, for His children He feels, and as is needed will give proof of it, for "like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame ; He remembereth that we are dust" (Ps. ciii. 13, 14). What consideration on His part thus to speak, calling attention to that earthly tie, which is of Himself, and to the feelings towards the offspring which are implanted in the breast of an earthly parent. What should we think of that parent who had no pity for his children? An unnatural father, all would call him. Alas, amongst men such a character is not unknown ; yet it is but natural and right for an earthly father to feel compassion for his children. The relationship in which he is towards them should call it forth spontaneously, as circumstances require it. Now. all that such an one should feel for his own, that God our Father really feels for His children, only, of course, with an intensity and depth beyond the capability of the creature to exhaust, or even to fathom. " He knoweth our frame ; He.remembereth that we are dust." Precious, surely, should that word " remembereth " be. An earthly parent may forget it or ignore it; God never will. His compassion can be always counted on by those who fear Him.
But other characteristics there are proper to a parent. He trains his child as is needed, chastening him, too, betimes, as wisdom, combined with love, may direct. Such, too, are the dealings of our Father with His children. " If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." How the Spirit of God would encourage the saint, when passing through trials and sorrows here for the truth's sake. Would any cry out in bitterness, "Hath God forgotten to be gracious?" The answer comes - "We have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure ; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness" (Heb. xii. 8-10). Many an earthly parent acts capriciously ; our Father does not. Many a trainer of the young deals with them without telling them why ; but if God puts His children to school, as He surely does, He graciously intimates the object He has in view - viz., that we should be partakers of His holiness - and He gives a word of encouragement, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him : for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (ver. 5,6).
Again, not only has He tender pity for His own, and takes such pains with their training, but, like an earthly father, He delights to enrich them by tokens of His parental love. Of this we are taught in the Gospels:- "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you ; for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" (Matt. vii. 7-n). These, be it remembered, are the words of the Only-begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father when He uttered them. They are part, too*, of the revelation of the Father by the Son, given to us in the New Testament, and so would carry us into another branch of the subject, teaching not only what is implied in the thought of a father, but what is unfolded to us of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Father, too, of all who believe on His Son.
Go To Chapter Three
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