Every earthly father has an assignment from heaven. That assignment is caring for the sons and daughters that God has given them, whether spiritual or of the flesh. Earthly fathers are to reflect the image of their heavenly Father. So much so that God even invited His children to use the same word for their earthly fathers as they call Him!
For religious Jews in the days of Jesus, hearing someone use the Hebrew word Ab or the Aramaic word Abba—meaning Daddy or Dear Father—for God would have been shocking. They were too conscious of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of human beings. Yet Jesus modeled this for them, calling God His Father when He was with them. Jesus let everyone around Him know that God is a loving, compassionate and generous Father.
It is important for earthly fathers to call upon the name of the Lord for help. Being a father who reflects God's image is no easy task. Some fail. However, there is help for those who call upon the name of the Lord as described in Hebrew 4:16. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." All of us would do well to follow this Scripture to receive the grace and wisdom we need in order to walk out the call on our lives.
Father God cares so much for us that He sent Jesus as a model of His loving care. The prayer that Jesus taught His disciples that we still pray today begins with "Our Father in heaven..." (Matthew 6:9) He also shared the story we call "The Parable of the Prodigal Son" with those who gathered around him—both sinners and self-righteous religious leaders. (The Pharisees) The father in this story demonstrated the very heart of God and spoke to both the sinners and the Pharisees. (Luke 15:11-32) The younger son took his inheritance, walked away from life with his father and entered a foreign land where he squandered his wealth. As he was filling his stomach with pods that pigs were eating "he came to his senses." Since he felt entirely unworthy to be called a son, he planned to return to his father, beg for forgiveness, and ask to be given a position as a hired man.
Meanwhile, the father in the story never forgot his son and watched for him. As soon as he saw him returning he ran to him. This uncharacteristic behavior for a Middle Eastern father (lifting your robe to run and thereby exposing your legs) brought disgrace upon him. However, the loving father humbled himself in order to save his youngest son from the religious community. This community would have followed the law of Deuteronomy 21:21 and stoned the disgraceful son to death. The love of this father was demonstrated through his humility and generosity. He kissed his son, put the best rob upon him, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. He then killed the fattened calf for a feast to celebrate the return of the lost son.
Standing on the outside was the older brother—representing the legalistic religious society. He identified with being a slave instead of being a son and lacked understanding of the love of his father. Again, the father's response was one of humility. He left the celebration for his younger son in order to go to his older one, affirm his love for him, and extend to him undeserved grace.
The father in this story represents Father God who gave His very best for His children at the expense of His own dignity. Truly, our heavenly Abba is a humble, extravagant, grace-filled, loving Father who stops at nothing to give us His best. He already gave us His best in Jesus Christ, our Savior, and continues “to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine..." (Ephesians 3:20) He is worthy of our praise and worship and is delighted when we intentionally set aside time to spend with Him.
Joan E. Mathias