For a patriarchal society that greatly valued tradition, family, legacies, and birthrights, the ancient Israelites held a chequered track record when it came to fatherly relationships. Yet the shortcomings of the heroes of faith contrast so greatly with God’s example of Fatherhood, that we cannot fail to be assured that we can look to Him for the Father’s love, leadership and care we need.
The great patriarch Abraham comes to mind as man devoted to God yet capable of making choices that are difficult to comprehend in light of wisdom he often demonstrated. When Abraham and his wife Sarah were in their old age, God promised them a son and Sarah gave birth to Isaac.
Later, God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac as an act of obedience to Him. Just before Abraham sacrificed his son, God told him to spare the boy’s life. God recognised Abraham’s absolute willingness to follow Him, as though he had carried through with the act. This story is infamous. Ultimately, Abraham is shown to be both a good father to Isaac and devoted to God.
Discussed far less than this part of his story, is a chapter in Abraham’s life preceding Isaac’s birth. After God promised Abraham a son in Genesis 15, he and Sarah took matters into their own hands. Sarah told Abraham to use her handmaiden, Hagar, as a surrogate. Hagar gave birth to a son, who they called Ishmael. Unfortunately, Sarah grew jealous and treated Hagar cruelly. Afraid for her life and the life of her son, Hagar fled into the wilderness.
While on the run, the Lord appeared to Hagar and told her to return to Abraham and Sarah, promising to protect her and Ishmael. Not only that, but God assured her He would turn Ishmael into a great nation. Nonetheless, the time came when Hagar and Ishmael would have to separate from Abraham and eventually, the descendants of Ishmael became one of the steadfast enemies of the Israelites. The consequences of Abraham’s poor fatherhood of Ishmael, were unavoidable.
Next, we consider David, the great King of Israel. David, the husband of many wives, was the father of many other children. As King and military leader of the nation, David lacked he time to develop healthy relationships with his many children. With plenty of privilege but no fatherly discipline, these children grew to display gross character defects.
David’s son Amnon abused his half-sister Tamar, and when her brother Absalom found out, he killed Amnon and went into exile. Upon returning from exile, Absalom staged a coup against his Father. Finally, he was killed and the kingdom returned to David, but neither David nor his reign returned to previous glory.
These are incredibly disappointing examples but we are filled with hope when we compare them with that of the perfect father, God, who lavished glory and honour on His Son Jesus. Jesus was the one by whom God created everything, and He was the only one through whom God could fulfil His plan to redeem mankind.
Jesus, being a perfectly obedient and submissive Son, followed His Father’s plan. He was immaculately conceived, born of a virgin, and lived a sinless life. Yeshua then died for the sins of mankind, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. From that point on, everyone who put their faith in Yeshua would be forgiven of their sins and be able to spend eternity with Him and His Father.
That sounds somewhat simpler and gentler than it was in reality. To follow His Father’s plan, Jesus had to endure betrayal, injustice and brutality ending in crucifixion. In atoning for sins of the entire world, Jesus experienced more pain and suffering than anyone before or since. The sacrifice was not just one made by Jesus at the command of His Father, it was also a sacrifice on the part of God. He ordained His own perfect Son to die in the place of all the guilty people in the world.
The scripture states clearly that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)’. This everlasting life is explained by the apostle as adoption: ‘As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)’.
It is overwhelming to grasp but such is the love of God, and perfection of His fatherhood, that He has sacrificed the joy of His heart, His beloved Son, that we may also be His very own children, co-heirs with Jesus! Whilst we honour our earthy Fathers today, let us also show them grace, as they have done the best they are able to do. Let us glorify God that He is perfect in all His ways and so for perfect Fatherhood, we look to Him!
Contributed by E. Black and extensively edited by R Ballagan-Evans