19. God, our Father.
In the 22nd psalm, which so deeply expresses the atoning sufferings of the Lord, and which shows the blessings consequent upon those sufferings, the adorable Substitute says, “Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorns” — the horns of the altar to which the sacrifice was bound. From the depths of the cross His prayer was heard. The deliverance of His beloved people from the power of the enemy was accomplished. His griefs, His pangs, His blood, have wrought redemption. All has been taken out of the way that was against us. The wrath of God against sin has been poured out upon Him. By Him the bitter cup has been drained. The sword of divine justice has been sheathed in His bosom. And now, risen from the dead, Jesus announces the Name of His God and Father to His people, and leads their praises.
The Name of Father.
God revealed Himself to Abraham as the Almighty God. To Israel He made Himself known as Jehovah. “I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by My name Jehovah was I not known to them.” (Ex. 6:3.) To the christian God makes Himself known as the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When God gives Himself a name in connection with His people, He associates His people with Himself according to the special relationships the name involves. The Name of Father, with the blessings and relationship it implies, is one of the great pillars of the christian faith. The words of Jesus lead us to the knowledge of the Name He declared. Jesus, that Eternal life, is the expression and the evidence of who the Father is. The Lawgiver did not proclaim the Father, neither did the prophets; but the Incarnate Son explained the Father, so that He said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9.)
And here let us observe that the name Universal Father, which is so common in some circles, is utterly at variance with scripture. Apart from the Son, God is not our Father, and unless we are connected with the Son we are not connected with the Father. Rationalism denies the Eternal Son, and rejects the holy truth of His atonement, and disbelieves Him, risen and glorified in heaven. It was the disciple, who chiefly shows us the Father's love, that uttered these solemn words, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” (1 John 2:22.) And that which denies the Son has not the name of the Father of the Son in its “Universal Father.” To speak of God's goodness and grace apart from the Son, is to falsify God's character; “He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” (v. 22.) There is no knowledge of the Father's Name save as there is knowledge of the Person of the Son; “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” (v. 23.)
Our Lord often declared His Father's Name, but His disciples understood not its fulness, neither could they do so, until the foretold hour had arrived, when, in resurrection, in a peculiar way, He communicated that Name to them and to us. The chosen messenger for this service was the one whose heart was true to His Person. “Touch Me not,” He said to Mary; Handle Me not; as it were, Detain Me not on earth. For thenceforth Jesus was to be known in a new way by His disciples. Not simply as the Messiah in connection with promises of blessing to men upon earth, but as the Risen One ascended to His Father, and in connection with heavenly things. Accordingly we read, “Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore, if any man be in Christ He is a new creature (or there is a new creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:16, 17.) It was then, in a peculiar way, that the risen Jesus declared His Father's Name when he said, “Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God. ( John 20:17.) Having accomplished redemption, having borne the wrath due to their sins, and being the First-born from among the dead, He linked His people with Himself in the blessings of the Name; and associated them with Himself to learn the Name and the love which He knew so well.
He had separated Himself from the earth, He had gone through death and the grave for their sakes, and was about to go back to glory, and now in the power of His resurrection He could bring His own into heavenly blessings in company with Himself. “He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee,” (Heb. 2:11, 12; see also Psalm 22) It is as the One who is victorious over sin and death and Satan, that He is not ashamed to call us His brethren — “Go to My brethren.” Let us not call Him our elder Brother, as if, because He was born a babe into this earth, He were our brother, for not only is such language irreverent, but it results from ignorance of His grace in dying for us, and in His separating us to Himself in resurrection. It is as the risen One that He is the First-born of all whom He has redeemed. As the Incarnate Jesus we could have had no part with Him, even as He said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” Our link is with Christ, where Christ is; not with Christ before atonement, but after an accomplished redemption.
Israel received special blessings from God according to the Name by which He was pleased to reveal Himself to their fathers, and we receive the blessings peculiar to christianity from God as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the thanksgiving which heralds the unfolding of the deep things in the epistle to the Ephesians is to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3.) Also the two prayers of that epistle — pleading in the one case for spiritual understanding of these blessings, and in the other for heart knowledge of the love which blesses — are addressed, the one to the God (Eph. 1:16-23), and the other to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 3:14-21.)
We receive the power practically to enter into the blessings of the Father's Name by the Spirit of God, Who, by indwelling our hearts, forms within us the spiritual affections of children, and He it is who enables us to draw near in love and in liberty to our Father, and to rejoice in His Name of tender relationship — the Name of God which removes all fear, and which satisfies every desire.
Knowledge of the Father is the common portion of all the family.
The apostle John divides believers into three classes, fathers, young men, and babes, and of the last he says, “babes . . . ye have known the Father.” (1 John 2:3.) This knowledge should be the joy of all; it is a privilege common to the weakest and the youngest in the family. In natural things — long before a babe can speak, years before it can understand the fulness of its father's love, the babe knows the father himself. This knowledge is the instinct of nature, the father's arms, the father's bosom, the father's voice and smile are the joy of the babe. And so the Father's presence is the joy of those, who are sons of God, by faith which is in Christ Jesus. To know the Father is the throbbing of divine life.
Ignorance may hinder this joy. Unless we know that God is our Father how can we enjoy the relationship? There may be within us yearnings after the enjoyment, when we hear of other believers who are happy in their Father's love, while our hearts lament their deficiency. A lost child might be recovered from the destitution of the streets, and be brought into a family circle, without knowing a father's love, and as it saw the children of the house gather round their father, and enjoy his pleasure, and he theirs, the child would look on and long, that it, too, was not only the object of compassion, but that it had itself a father. But let us suppose this child to discover that his benefactor, who rescued him from starvation and ruin, is also his father, and that he himself, the child longing for a father's love, is the lost one found! Immediately joy springs up within his breast, and the latent feelings of the child gush out. And is it not so, that many of God's children regard God rather as a Benefactor than as a Father? But because we are children, the Spirit of God has put within us the feelings of children, and nothing save our Father's love can satisfy those feelings. And God is our Father, and we are His children, which blessed assurance opens the fountains of our affections to flow towards Himself with whom the love originates. We that were dead are alive again we that were lost are found.
The Father seeks the worship of His children. The Jews had their divinely planned temple, with its divinely given ritual, and they worshipped Jehovah. The Samaritans had their mountain and their traditions, and they worshipped they knew not what. But the days for sacred localities are gone by. The darkness is passed, the true light now shineth. “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24.) And such worshippers the Father seeks. His love is such that He seeks hearts true in love to Himself. He seeks for affection formed by His Spirit in His children,which shall respond to His love in the way in which He has pleasure. Now we, with the woman of Samaria, can easily discuss religious questions. How readily her heart argued, even before the Lord of all, upon such subjects as sacred mountains, cities, and wells. But when the conscience was touched by His divine power, her religious pride gave way to a broken spirit, and she owned herself a sinner and Himself the Christ. Alas! there are many hearts too occupied with tradition's sacred things to dwell upon these words of Jesus, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.” (John 4:23.) God's children are indwelt by His Spirit, and the Father seeks the intelligent and spiritual worship of His children. It is in this that He has pleasure. And what is worship, but the heart filled with the Spirit, overflowing with the love which the Father has generated within His children?
The Father's love.
This will be the ceaseless spring of our eternal joys. The Father's love was the Lord's constant theme. The record of His words to His people is chiefly given by the disciple whom Jesus loved, who declares those depths of love in words so short and simple, that the simplest may understand them. It was leaning upon the Master's bosom that John learned the love, which Jesus uttered from the bosom of the Father. The Father's love ever filled the Lord with joy, and into this joy the Lord would lead His people. As we read, “And I will declare it (Thy name), that the love wherewith Thou lovest Me may be in them and I in them.” ( John 17:26.) It is this joy that the Lord would have fulfilled in us. He would have His people enter into the love of His Father to them, which love is measured and characterized by the Father's love to the Son. “Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.” (v. 23.)
The Father's love is the great preservative from the world, its influences and entanglements. When that love satisfies the longings of the heart there is no room left for the world. All that is around us is not of the Father, but is of the world; and so long as the love of the world is within the heart, the power of the Father's love is displaced. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” John 2:16.)
There is no witness so powerful to the world as moral oneness with the Father in the hearts and minds of His children. In a day of doubt and distrust, these are the evidences of christianity to be coveted. Unity of desire, fellowship with the Father and the Son, and the practical results of this secret power, are the all-convicting testimony to the world that the Father sent His Son into it. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” ( John 17:20, 21.)
We will now touch upon our Father's love as connected with the circumstances of earth.
Our Father's care.
We shall not require our daily bread in heaven, nor need deliverance from temptation there. But, while upon earth, it is the happy privilege of each child to know that he is verily under the loving care of his Father in heaven. Heavenly Father is a name which implies our being upon earth. How often did the Lord teach that our heavenly Father knows all our need! It is in such assurance of earthly parents that little children rest, for if aware that their father knows what they want, they are satisfied. Their simple hearts are content in the wisdom, the resources, and the love of their father. They do not question; they do not plan; and the fact that our heavenly Father knows that we need the things of life, should quiet our hearts before Him. It would be a strange and an unnatural spectacle to see a child endeavouring to right those things which the father's hand was itself arranging. Our Father in heaven has planned out our path. He has numbered the very hairs of our head. Not one single incident, of however trifling a character, can occur to us without His knowledge. Many would be the anxious hours spared if the child's heart simply accepted and acquiesced in his Father's care — many the disappointments and sorrowful results avoided, if the child of God had waited for his Father's time to act on his behalf. He who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, has, in His wisdom and love, appointed for His children their due of food and raiment, their bodily strength and mental power. “Seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. . . . Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.” (Luke 12:29, 30)
Our Father's government.
“We have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb. 12:9.) God oftentimes by the trials of life brings His children to the subject mind. The world is the school for the children of God. Life, the time for experiencing many strange dealings, the reason of which eternity will disclose. Trials are portioned out by perfect wisdom, and their ultimate object we know, though their present pain may be a mystery. Our Father's chastenings are for “our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.” (v. 10.) God does not always explain the reason of His governmental dealings with us, but He has fully unfolded His heart to us, and thus it is our privilege to walk by faith.
He who has been educated in the school of affliction, is readily distinguished by a brokenness of spirit, a humbleness of mind, and withal a trust in God. “No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (v. 11.) The exercised spirit, and the peaceable fruits, betoken the good and perfect work of God within the soul.
As we conclude this chapter, let us remember that the day is near when the care of our heavenly Father for His weak and needy children, and the government of His hand for His, too often, ignorant and wilful children, will not be called for. Life's lesson will soon have been learned. The school time will be over. The circumstances of the scene wherein we are suffered to want, and wherein we are humbled and proved,will be exchanged for the peace and joy of the Father's house. Then no good thing shall be lacking, and none shall lack the grace to enjoy the good. Then we shall know the Father's love in its fulness, and shall continually enjoy His presence, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then, in a deeper way than we have ever learned upon earth, shall we apprehend these wonderful words of Jesus “Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.”