It has become typical for us to refer to God the Father, so much that we really don’t even think about this term. This term, however, was not always used for God. When you go back to the Old Testament, there are only about 15 references to God as a father and a few more descriptions. When Jesus comes to this world, however, everything changes. Jesus preferred to address God as Father. In the Gospel of John alone, Jesus address God as Father over 100 times. John 1:18 says that Jesus came to explain God and when He came, one of the things He explained was God as the Father. From this point on God is referred to frequently as Father in the Bible.
Even in the Old Testament, we see this was a way God wanted to be known and His actions towards Israel were very much like the actions of a father towards his children. Consider the following ways God has acted as a father to His children, so that we can be better fathers to our children.
1. God protects His children
The first depiction of God as a father comes from Exodus 4:22-23. Here, God is not called a father, but His actions are described as that of a father’s. In this passage, God is telling Moses to say to Pharaoh: “Israel is My son and you are going to let My son go.” When Pharaoh doesn’t respond positively to this request, God flexes His muscles and sends the plagues down upon Egypt until Pharaoh let His child go. As a father, God was not going to let His children remain any longer than necessary in a situation where they were being abused. Like God, a father ought to be watching out for his children and protecting them from harm (from others and from themselves).
2. God cares for His children
Moses also spoke of God as a father in Deuteronomy 1:29-31. Once again, we see that God is willing to fight for his children, but He does more than merely protect His children. It describes Him taking care of the Israelites in the wilderness like a man carrying his son (cf. Hosea 11:3-4). There is a loving, caring, and tender relationship explained in this verse. As a father, God is out there serving our best interests, He is protecting us, He is caring for us. So complete is His care Jesus commands us not to worry in Matthew 6:25-34 because God knows how to take care of us. Like God, a father should care for his children in such a way that they are not worried about tomorrow. Yes, we need to train them to be able to stand on their own when they move out, but they need to know they will be taken care of in their father’s house.
3. God leads His children
In Deuteronomy 8:1-4, Moses explains how God tested them to know what was in their hearts and led them to see if they would follow His instructions. He wanted them to know that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He tells us why in verse Deuteronomy 8:5—God wants them to know in their hearts they were being treated as sons. In Jeremiah 31:9, Israel has rejected God, but God is looking forward to the time when His people are going to come back to Him. He says I’m going to lead them again. I’m going to lead them by straight paths and they are going to follow me as it should be because I’m their father. A caring father doesn’t just let his children go off and do whatever they want. He doesn’t let them eat whatever they want. He doesn’t let his children watch whatever they want on T.V. He provides guidance for them. God provided that guidances. He directed His people in a certain way, as a father directs his children. Like God, a father needs to direct and lead his children in the paths of righteousness.
4. God gives to His children
Jesus encourages us to ask God’s help because as our Father He is able and He wants to help. In Matthew 7:7-11, He shows this by reflecting upon the father-child relationship. Even imperfect, human fathers, know how to give good gifts to their children. Most fathers won’t chuck a stone at a child asking for bread or put them into danger instead of providing for them. James tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights (James 1:17). God especially wants to give His children good gifts (cf. Jeremiah 3:19). Like God, a father ought to give his children good things. This doesn’t mean spoil them, but they do need to know we think about them, their wants, and their desires.
5. God disciplines His children
In 2 Samuel 7:14-15, God is telling David about Notice what God says about Solomon in these verses. As God is speaking to David about Solomon, He says: “If he commits iniquity, I’m going to discipline him. I’m not going to remove him (although this was within God’s right), I’m going to discipline him.” Think about the life of Solomon. It starts off very well as he makes the wise choice to ask for wisdom. Even with all his wisdom, however, he also committed great iniquity. He married many wives, many wives and we are told they turned his heart away from the Lord. Ecclesiastes, however, shows that Solomon turns back to God at the end. Later, Solomon reflects upon the discipline from the Lord he has received, he says it is something to be desired. It is a father taking care of his sons (Proverbs 3:11-12). In Hebrews 12:4-13, the Hebrew writer also comes back to this idea emphasizing the fact that God disciplines us for our benefit. We are not always told what we want to hear. Sometimes we want to hear go ahead and lie, it will be easier, you won’t hurt other people’s feelings. Sometimes we want to hear it’s okay to indulge in the pleasures of sin. Sometimes we want to hear do what you want because God wants you to be happy. God doesn’t tell us these things. The Hebrews writers note that we respected the discipline of our human fathers, even thought they only disciplined us for a short while as seemed best to them. God doesn’t discipline us by what seems right, but by what is right and He does it so we can share in His holiness. While we cannot discipline as well as God can, as fathers we should still do our best to train our children (cf. Ephesians 6:4).
6. God wants His children
God doesn’t just have children, He wants His children. They are not an inconvenience to Him or an annoyance, He wants a relationship with them. As Paul is describing our adoption as sons in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:4-7, he explains that God wants us to cry out to Him “Abba.” Jesus used this term for God as well in Mark 14:36. It was a term that was often, but not exclusively, used by little children. It is a term of endearment and expresses closeness and love. God wants us to address Him not just as our Heavenly Father, but our Heavenly Father that we love and want to be with. We ought to realize it is a great honor to be a child of God because we are wanted (cf. 1 John 3:1). Like God, a father should express to His children how much he values them and wants them in his life.
The picture in the Bible is that we all start off as God’s children, but at some point we rebel against God in essence crying out you’re not my father. God, however,
In Luke 15, we have a series of parables about God seeking His lost children. The last of these is commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. . . God is always ready to take us back, even after we have rejected him.
7. He loves His children unconditionally
Our image of God as a father, must not be that of a harsh authoritarian father. This is not the picture given to us in the Bible. Instead, we see a picture of a father who is lovingly taking care of his children, providing for them, showing them love, mercy and compassion (Psalm 103:13). In Jeremiah 3:22, God is appealing His children to return to Him and they would receive healing. Later in 31:20, God shows His yearning for a child who has rejected Him. Yes, God has disciplined His straying child, but His ultimate desire is to show mercy. This is perhaps best illustrated in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Despite how the son has wasted his life and dishonored his father, his father still loves him. The father waits and looks for his son to return, and when he does, the father runs to his son, throws his cloak around him and celebrates. This is who God is as a father. God is always ready to take us back, even after we have rejected him. Like God, a father needs to love his children unconditionally regardless of what they have done.
The ultimate example of fatherhood is God Himself. His example shows us that fathers protect, care, lead, and discipline their children. He shows us that a father is generous towards his children showing them that he wants to have a relationship with them and loves them unconditionally.
by Jeremy Sprouse