We’ve often heard that the Old Testament primarily uses the Father-child relationship to picture God’s relationship with a nation (Hos 11:1). It is a collective, chosen family that is given the hope of a mysterious King/Son who then in turn is referred to as “Everlasting Father” (Psa 110:1) ( Isa 9:6).
But it is primarily the New Testament that encourages us to think of our God in the most intimate of terms (Rom 8:15) (Gal 4:6). Even today in Israel you can hear little children calling their father “abba” in the sense of “daddy” or even “papa”.
We’ve talked in the past repeatedly about this wonderful-problematic way of speaking of our God. Some find it helpful and are moved toward God through personal experience with a healthy (though far from perfect), loving, protecting, and providing father. Others find that they can’t think warmly of God using such a term because they cannot shake the memories of emotional distance, abuse, or abandonment that is a part of their story.
So why does the New Testament take such a risk while acknowledging the difference between God and human fathers? (Heb 12:9) Am guessing that the answer, whether we think it works for us or not, is that Jesus came to renew and redeem our understanding of what it means to have a Father who loves us perfectly (Hebrews 12:5-12).
That answer does not require us to admit that everything that Jesus did and said is endearing. As we have noted together in the past, because of what we don’t understand about his love and wisdom, so many things that Jesus said, can sound off-putting, alarming, and even unloving.
Yet that’s why its so important for us to see how this Story plays out at the foot of a Roman Cross; at the mouth of an empty tomb; and then on the lakeshore of Galilee where Jesus restores and expresses his love for those who had abandoned and even denied him in his darkest hour, and deepest expression of love (Heb 12:2).
It was when he suffered and died in our place to bear the condemnation in our place for all of our sins, that he redeemed the word “papa”, “daddy”, and “father”, in the most infinite, eternal, and personal of terms.
The price to redeem our fallen relationships was messy. It was bloody, and agonizingly more terrible than the awful, inhuman, things that happen in war. Yet that’s the realism of how far our Father went to make it possible for us to know that (even if we can’t feel it now), the term Father will eventually enable the whole Family in heaven and earth to know and honor what it means to have a Parent—in the best of terms–rather than the worst.