Our Father Revealed in The Word

This is an addendum to the series on the Lord’s Prayer that we have been camping out in. I think it is very revealing and encouraging to see all in one place what the Word says about Our Father. I think I have found all the places where “Our Father” appears. Let me know if not.

Our Father is our Redeemer (Isaiah 63:16) 

Our Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) 

Our Father sees and hears what is done and prayed in secret (Matthew 6:4-6, 18) 

Our Father knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8) 

Our Father is in heaven (Matthew 6:9) 

Our Father will forgive our sins when we forgive (Matthew 6:14, Mark 11:25) 

Our Father sees us as valuable (Matthew 6:26) 

Our Father knows all our needs (Matthew 6:32, Luke 12:30) 

Our Father gives us good things (Matthew 7:11) 

Our Father is pleased to reveal the hidden things to His children (Matthew 11:25-26, 16:17, Luke 10:21) 

Our Father is Lord of heaven and earth (Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21) 

Our Father was revealed to us by Jesus (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22) 

Our Father alone knows the day and hour of Jesus’ return (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32, Acts 1:7) 

Our Father can do anything. All things are possible with Him (Mark 14:36) 

Our Father is merciful (Luke 6:36) 

Our Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11:13) 

Our Father delights to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32, 22:29) 

Our Father loves the Son and has given Him all things (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 15:9, 16:15) 

Our Father seeks true worshipers (John 4:23) 

Our Father is always working (John 5:17) 

Our Father raises the dead (John 5:21) 

Our Father judges no one, but has given judgement to the Son (John 5:22) 

Our Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself (John 5:26) 

Our Father sent Jesus and commanded Him what to say (John 5:36-37, 6:57, 8:16, 18, 12:49-50, 20:21) 

Our Father has placed His seal of approval on Jesus (John 6:27) 

Our Father gives us Jesus, the True Bread from heaven (John 6:32-33) 

Our Father has given us to Jesus and we will not be rejected (John 6:37) 

Our Father draws us to Jesus, we cannot come on our own (John 6:44) 

Our Father glorifies Jesus (John 8:54) 

Our Father knows the Son and the Son knows Our Father (John 10:15) 

Our Father is greater than all and no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:29) 

Our Father and Jesus are One (John 10:30) 

Our Father set apart Jesus as his very own and sent Him into the world (John 10:36) 

Our Father is in the Son and the Son is in Our Father (John 10:38, 14:10) 

Our Father will honor those who follow and serve Jesus (John 12:26) 

Our Father has put all things under Jesus’ power (John 13:3) 

Our Father is glorified in Jesus (John 14:13) 

Our Father loves those who love and obey Jesus, and Our Father and Jesus will come to them and make their home with them (John 14:23) 

Our Father sends the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, Ephesians 1:17) 

Our Father is greater than Jesus (John 14:28) 

Our Father is the Gardener (John 15:1) 

Our Father is glorified when we bear fruit (John 15:8) 

Our Father loves us (John 16:27) 

Our Father was with Jesus to the end and did not leave Him alone (John 16:32) 

Our Father is holy (John 17:11) 

Our Father is righteous (John 17:25) 

Our Father gave Jesus the cup to drink (John 18:11) 

Our Father is “Abba, Father,” to whom we cry by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6) 

Our Father is the one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:6) 

Our Father is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3, 11:31, Ephesians 1:3, 1 Peter 1:3) 

Our Father is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) 

Our Father is the glorious Father (Ephesians 1:17) 

Our Father is the God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:6) 

Our Father loves us and by his grace gives us eternal encouragement and good hope (2 Thessalonians 2:16) 

Our Father treats us as His children (Hebrews 12:7) 

Our Father has lavished great love on us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1) 

Our Father sent the Son to be Savior of the world (1 John 4:14) 

Our Father willed that Jesus give himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age (Galatians 1:4) 

Our Father gives grace and peace (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:3, Philemon 1:3) 

Our Father loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16) 

Our Father gives grace, mercy, and peace (1 Timothy 1:2) 

Our Father in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3) 

But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. Isaiah 63:16 

Image, Baby’s hand, by Fruity Monkey on flickr https://flic.kr/p/99tqDR

Our Father – Where We Grow Up

Our Father, I know from long experience that I do not do well in the candy aisle.

OK, here I am at the campfire still. I’m getting stinging smoke in my eyes now, and some mosquito bites. But let’s keep looking at the Lord’s Prayer from the point of view of a child.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13). I read a commentary on this verse that I thought was definitely a child’s point of view of the Lord’s Prayer. It compared God not leading us into temptation to a mother avoiding the candy aisle when shopping with her children. “Praying, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ is like praying, ‘God, don’t take me down the candy aisle today.’ It’s recognizing that we naturally grasp for unprofitable things and that God’s wisdom can avert the unpleasantness of our bellyaching.” 

You know, there are myriad examples of ways we keep children from temptation. There is a whole industry devoted to it – baby gates, toilet seat locks, cupboard and drawer latches. Even with all of that, we sometimes have to chase them down as they run, giggling, toward a busy street. For a toddler, that is temptation – doing something forbidden (actually, for grownups too!). And so, we have to put blocks in their way to keep them safe.  Maybe sometimes when we find blocks in our way it is God answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation. 

God always has a purpose. Remember the commentary from the first blog on this subject: “Through ongoing sanctification, the believer more and more resembles their heavenly Father – i.e. each time they receive faith from Him and obey it, which results in their unique glorification.”2 Through ongoing sanctification, through obedience and yielding we become like Him.  

The word above translated “temptation” also means testing. Ellicott’s Commentary3 notes that “[t]he Greek word includes the two thoughts which are represented in English by ‘trials,’ i.e., sufferings which test or try, and ‘temptations,’ allurements on the side of pleasure which tend to lead us into evil.”  

This is where the child learns that some things are “nos.” This is where she learns to yield to the will of the Father. Learning to choose obedience. To not play in the toilet water. To begin to grow up. 

Receiving a place in the family of God, receiving daily spiritual and physical sustenance, receiving forgiveness: this is like being the little baby child, drinking the spiritual milk. But forgiving others, sharing what we have been given, yielding daily to God’s will for our lives, obeying His commands to love even our enemies, passing the test – the enduring, the waiting, the sanctification part, the becoming like Jesus part – that is where we grow up. 

Perhaps Jesus is saying to me in this part of the prayer: You are a little child of God. He is your loving, strong Father. Pray like a child who knows her weakness and vulnerability. 

“But those who are conscious of their weakness cannot shake off the thought that they might fail in the conflict, and the cry of that conscious weakness is therefore, ‘Lead us not into such trials,’ even as our Lord prayed, ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass away from me’ (Matthew 26:39). And the answer to the prayer may come either directly in actual exemption from the trial, or in ‘the way to escape’ (1Corinthians 10:13), or in strength to bear it.”3 

Our Father, I know from long experience that in myself I am weak. I do not do well in the candy aisle. I do not endure trials patiently. And after very bad days I even sometimes find myself playing in the toilet water again. Oh Father, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me! 

“We beg for forgiveness, protection, and deliverance just as a young child asks for help and safety as she prepares to fall asleep at night.” — Jeremy Linneman, The Lord’s Prayer is Meant to Be Lived4 

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)  

Our Father … 

1Lead Us Not into Temptation, but Deliver Us from Evil | The Lord’s Prayer Petition 5 By Stephanie Soderstrom and Terry DeYoung https://www.faithward.org/how-to-pray-like-jesus-the-lords-prayer-petition-5/  

2HELPS Word Studies by Discovery Bible 

3Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

4Blogged by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2022/08/07/the-lords-prayer-is-meant-to-be-lived/  

Photo of candy aisle by Tiia Monto https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Candy_in_store_2.jpg  

Our Father – The Gentle Transition

This part of the prayer clearly leads us back to the very first word of the prayer. It leads us back to the “Our.”

I am still camping out in the “Lord’s Prayer” this week, focusing on the amazing fact that I am a child of Our Father. In the first post I saw myself as a child imitating the Father, with the wonderful potential of resembling Him. And then, in the second post, I acknowledged that I am completely dependent on His care. Today, as I sit around the campfire, I think I’m getting into some harder parts, and I think Our Father is taking away the milk bottle and putting some solid food on the grill (Hebrews 5:13-14).  

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12). I am going to look at the child in this part of the prayer from a grandmother’s point of view for a moment. If you’ve ever cared for active toddlers – especially if the toddlers are your beloved grandchildren – you know what I mean when I say that they arrive at your house already forgiven for any naughty things, or just kid things, they will do that day. Your heart has already handed over to them clean floors to be dirtied, clean clothes to be spit up on, furniture to sticky hands and muddy feet, trinkets to be knocked over and broken.

God Our Father is like that. Revelation 13:8 proclaims Jesus “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world,” or “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made (NLT).” Before we were ever received into His house He had forgiven us.  

But this part of the prayer doesn’t only teach us that we will be/have been forgiven. This part of the prayer introduces an outward responsibility, an “other” focus – as we also have forgiven our debtors. And it is here as I look at the Lord’s Prayer, that I become aware of a gentle transition happening in the lives of the little children. Jesus is leading them/us into “growing up.” Give us this day our daily bread may hint at being thankful, as we are teaching our grandchildren to say “thank you” when we hand them food and drink that they ask for. It may even hint a little bit about sharing. But this part of the prayer clearly leads us back to the very first word of the prayer. It leads us back to the “Our.”    

The Name, the Kingdom, the will, which is to be done on earth as it is in heaven, belong to God. The Father, the daily bread, the debts – and the debtors – are ours. That He is Our Father means we are part of a family which brings acceptance, identity, security, purpose. That He gives daily bread means we are completely dependent, yet have all that we need and something to share. That we have debts and debtors means that we have been forgiven and accepted into the family, and that we have the opportunity, and the command, to mimic Our Father in forgiving and loving and bringing others in.   

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32  

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ … Ephesians 4:15 

the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

Still at the campfire …

Image, free download from Pixnio by Bicanski 

Our Father – Total Dependence

The Father wants me to acknowledge my total dependence on Him. Even more, He wants me to realize the implications of this.

Last week I started looking at the “Lord’s Prayer” from the point of view of a child. I’m still camping out there and I’m seeing things I have never understood before. It’s so easy to just repeat it with everybody else at church without paying attention. But that’s the good thing about camping. It gets you out of your usual environment and helps you to “be still and know.” 

Your Kingdom come, your will be done (Matthew 6:10). What does the Kingdom of God coming to earth have to do with children? It turns out – everything! Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).  This kingdom is the Kingdom of a Father, and a Kingdom of His little children who believe and obey His word, children who do His will and resemble their Father. You know how little children watch every move and mimic everything they see their parents doing? Of such as these consist the Kingdom. Father, let your Kingdom of little children come! 

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV) 

Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). Jeremy Linneman has written about this part of the prayer. 

“There’s no way to honestly live the Lord’s Prayer without seeing that we’re hungry, needy children at the feet of a good and loving Father. Yet the Lord’s Prayer only makes sense within the context of childlike faith and dependence. We acknowledge it’s God’s kingdom we live in, not ours. We ask humbly for daily provision, knowing we can’t ensure our own survival and flourishing apart from him.” 1  

The Father wants me to acknowledge my total dependence on Him. Even more, He wants me to realize the implications of this, consciously, from the beginning of the day and all the day through. This would really change my days if I did this. It would take away all my trust in my own abilities and successes (and any performance burden). It might also pry my clutching, possessive hands off what has been freely given. All that I have comes from the hand of the loving Father. He wants me to mimic His overflowing generosity. He wants me to have confidence in Him, to know that He is worthy of my trust in His love. No matter what happens. 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35 

Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8 

I will still be sitting by the campfire next Thursday if you want to join me. 

1Blogged by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2022/08/07/the-lords-prayer-is-meant-to-be-lived/   

Image, mmm, num, num by Naomi https://flic.kr/p/4cdp1q 

Our Father

I am going to camp out in “Our Father” for a couple of weeks. And I will share what I find with you in case you need to camp out there too.  

I was trying to pray and I felt so inadequate, so un-able. I asked God to teach me how to pray right. I could feel His smile as He said, “I already have.” Oh yeah, I thought. I started to pray the Lord’s Prayer but I couldn’t get past “Our Father.” I broke down crying at that. Our Father. 

Maybe it is because I just lost my dad in May of this year and am feeling bereft. Maybe it’s because I am going through a tough time in my life and I long for a father’s comfort and care. Maybe it is the Spirit wanting me to dig deeper. But I am going to camp out in “Our Father” for a couple of weeks. I am going to look at it from the point of view of a child. His child. And I will share what I find with you in case you need to camp out there too.  

First of all, Jesus called God Our Father (Matthew 6:9). Jesus taught us to pray a prayer which has become known as the Lord’s Prayer, and He started it by addressing God as “Our Father.” The word for father is patḗr in the Greek:  

“the one who imparts life and is committed to it; a progenitor, bringing into being to pass on the potential for likeness … He imparts life, from physical birth to the gift of eternal life through the second birth (regeneration, being born again). Through ongoing sanctification, the believer more and more resembles their heavenly Father – i.e. each time they receive faith from Him and obey it, which results in their unique glorification … [patḗr is] one in ‘intimate connection and relationship.’” 1 

There is so much here to meditate on. He imparts life to us and is committed to us. Stop and think about that for a minute! He passes on the potential for likeness that grows each time we receive faith from Him and obey Him. We, His children, can resemble our heavenly Father. He is in intimate connection and relationship with us. Hallelujah! 

Next, Jesus addressed Our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:9). That may make it sound like God is far away, but, for me, it is comforting to think of Him being over me, standing over me, over everything, in charge, in control, yet leaning down to hear my feeble voice. I can imagine standing with my back to Him, leaning back against Him, feeling His strength. When I look up to Him, as a child looks up to her father, His face is near. There is no distance, only glory. He is in heaven but in intimate connection and relationship with me.  

Third, Jesus said that Our Father’s name was to be hallowed. Hallowed be your name (Matthew 6:9). We honor the Name, ha-Shem, of the Father. We recognize and affirm that His name is Holy, His name is the essence of the Father imparted to us. Jesus made the name known to us. “O righteous Father … I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:25-26). Psalm 75:1 says that His Name is near. And Proverbs 18:10 says, The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.  

God told Moses that His name was YHWH and to tell the Israelites that I AM THAT I AM had sent him. I think that this means that His name is more about who He is than a title. And the name Our Father in particular reveals his character and nature. 

“What is that name of God which the revealing Son declares? Not the mere syllables by which we call Him, but the manifested character of the Father. That one name, in the narrower sense of the word, carries the whole revelation that Jesus Christ has to make; for it speaks of tenderness, of kindred, of paternal care, of the transmission of a nature, of the embrace of a divine love. And it delivers men from all their creeping dreads, from all their dark peradventures, from all their stinging fears, from all the paralysing uncertainties which, like clouds, always misty and often thunder-bearing, have shut out the sight of the divine face. If this Christ, in His weakness and humanity, with pity welling from His eyes, and making music of His voice, with the swift help streaming from His fingers-tips to every pain and weariness, and the gracious righteousness that drew little children and did not repel publicans and harlots, is our best image of God, then love is the centre of divinity, and all the rest that we call God is but circumference and fringe of that central brightness.” — Alexander MacLaren2 

Creeping dreads, stinging fears, paralyzing uncertainties surround me every day. I always have wondered how a name could be near, how one could run into a name. But I can say with the psalmist that His name is near and is a strong tower, because when he says that he means that God, in His tender love, is near, that Our Father God is the strong tower.  He is right here near me. I can run into my Father’s strong arms and feel safe.  

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:13 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:16-17 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 

Until next time rest in the embrace of His divine love. 

1HELPS Word Studies by Discovery Bible 

2MacLaren Expositions of Holy Scripture 

Image by Andrés Nieto Porras https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuevas_aficiones_%287984692236%29.jpg

Fix the Value

I can only set his value as precious beyond anything in the heavens and earth, if I know, know, know what he has done for me.

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. John 5:22-23 

Jesus uses the word “honor” four times in this passage. The last time I read it the thought popped into my head: what does it really mean to honor? What does Jesus mean by “honor”? 

The word in the Greek is timaó (τιμάω), and the definition was surprising to me. It means “to fix the value or price of something.” It means properly to “assign value (give honor), as it reflects the personal esteem (value, preciousness) attached to it by the beholder.”1

The value and preciousness! Think of that and replace the word “honor” above. “… that all may value the preciousness of the Son just as they value the preciousness of the Father.”  

Now think about this. This is the same word used in Matthew 27 about the Pharisees giving Judas thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus to them, and then using it to buy the potter’s field when Judas returned it: 

Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price (timaó) of him on whom a price (timaó) had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.” Matthew 27:9-10 (ESV) 

Zechariah also prophesied about this fixing of a value, saying: 

And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potter in the Temple of the LORD. Zechariah 11:13 (NLT) 

Zechariah sarcastically called it a “magnificent sum” because thirty silver coins was the price or value of a slave set in Exodus 21:32. 

So, the value or preciousness of Jesus Messiah was set by the Pharisees as the price of a slave. The ironic thing, of course, is that Jesus agreed with their valuation, at least partly. He called himself a servant or slave. 

“… whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:44-45 

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he [Jesus] made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant (doulos = slave), being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:6-7 

Jesus said that he honored (timaó) his Father and that in doing that he was seeking to bring glory to the Father. 

“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory (doxa) for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. John 8:49-50 

Interestingly, the Greek word doxa, translated here “glory,” also has a meaning of valuation. Doxa means having a good opinion in the New Testament. It means “exercising personal opinion which determines value.” According to Joseph Thayer2, it literally means “what evokes good opinion, i.e. that something has inherent, intrinsic worth.” 

Inherent, intrinsic worth. Jesus honored, valued as precious, his Father – and pointed us to that same good opinion – because of the Father’s inherent, intrinsic worth. Just because of who He is. Because He is our enduring-loving forever, faithful and unfailing Father. Always and forever through all generations. And Jesus came as a slave that we might know the precious heart of God – a heart that is for us and loves us – and in knowing, have life. 

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10b 

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3 

This all made me think: what is his value to me? Is he precious to me? Does his value to me rest on his intrinsic worth, who he is? Or does it rest on what he can do for me? Like an insurance policy? A ticket to riches and success? A slave to fill my needs and obey my wishes and whims? A life preserver to be thrown out in case I get into trouble?  

For many, his value is less than even that. To them he is a well-meaning person who can be a good role model in some situations. Or he is of no value at all, like he was to those of his day who despised and scorned and rejected Him, walking by the cross shaking their heads. 

I can only set his value as precious beyond anything in the heavens and earth, if I know, know, know what he has done for me. If I have really understood and acknowledged and owned my sin and the ongoing, infectious horror of it. If I have fully comprehended from what dark pit his death on the cross has delivered me. Then I know his worth. Then I know he is worthy of all my honor, all my praise and gratitude, all my life. 

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19 

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor (value, esteem of the highest degree, preciousness, price) and glory (because of inherent and intrinsic worth) and praise! Revelation 5:12  

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound 
That saved a wretch like me 
I once was lost, but now am found 
Was blind but now I see 

Was Grace that taught my heart to fear 
And Grace, my fears relieved 
How precious did that Grace appear 
The hour I first believed 

— John Newton 

1definitions from HELPS Word-studies by Discovery Bible, 2021 

2Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament 

Image in the Public Domain, Judas Returning the Thirty Silver Pieces by Rembrandt https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Repentant,_Returning_the_Pieces_of_Silver#/media/File:Judas_Returning_the_Thirty_Silver_Pieces_-_Rembrandt.jpg  

The Good Gift

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 

At the beginning of the eleventh chapter of Luke the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. The first word of prayer that Jesus teaches them is “Father.” And one of the only five things that Jesus teaches them to request from the Father is “give us each day our daily bread.”  

Jesus goes on to tell a story of another father (“my children are with me in bed”) who also has the required and requested bread. This father, when his friend comes knocking and seeking and asking for bread, is reluctant to get up and give it. But he finally does “because of the man’s boldness.” Jesus assures the disciples that if they ask, seek, and knock on the Father’s door it will be opened and they will receive. 

We assume he means bread because he has been talking about bread, and because he then goes on to talk about more food, asking the fathers in his audience, 

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12) 

And then Jesus, after bringing us along skillfully thinking about needed daily sustenance, makes this stunning conclusion: 

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) 

What? Wait. I thought we were talking about food – actual food – bread, fish, eggs. But then Jesus says, what you are really hungry for, what you are really knocking, seeking, asking for, your Father will give you – Himself. The Good Gift. 

Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. Mark 10:18 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 

When Jesus promised, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” he dealt the fatal blow to what is called the “prosperity gospel.” 

Once I was in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Chicago on a Saturday afternoon. I was in a doughnut shop and I witnessed an orthodox father come in with his two sons after service. With great delight, he told them they could pick out anything they wanted. I could see this was a weekly tradition and the sons came with great expectation. What struck me was that, as wonderful as the doughnuts were, their real delight was in each other. The father’s delight was in his sons. The sons’ delight was in their father and this wonderful being-together time that they shared each Saturday. They would continue to delight in each other if the doughnut shop closed down, if there were no more doughnuts at all. 

I’m not saying that God doesn’t care for our physical needs. Jesus said not to worry about what we would eat or drink, that, like God fed the birds, he would feed us. And I know he will. But He doesn’t want food and drink to be my “Good Gift.”

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed [feeding bread to the 5,000], they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:14-15 

Jesus doesn’t want to be the King of Bread, the King of Stomachs, the King of Prosperity. Jesus wants to be the King of our hearts. If our “good gift” is prosperity, bread and fish and eggs, what will happen when the food is gone, when the supply is short and the bread lines long? But if our good gift, our delight, is the Holy Spirit – the Presence of God – then we will always have Him. For He will never leave us nor forsake us.  

He will be with us in the bread line. He will be with us when we lose our job, if we are homeless on the street. He will be with us in the cemetery, standing over the grave. He will be with us when we are mocked and persecuted. He will be with us in prison. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

In him [Jesus] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (ESV) 

Photo of doughnuts by Doriguzzi https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duck_Donuts.jpg  

Compassionate and Gracious

Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh.

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:7-8 (ESV) 

And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness … “ Exodus 34:6 

The psalmist says that God made his ways and acts known to Moses. God always wants to be known. I am thinking that I should pay attention when God defines himself. God describes himself this way: compassionate and gracious (or merciful), slow to anger and abounding in love. I looked at the first two attributes and was overwhelmed. I would like to save the second two for a future blog. 

The first two words are the Hebrew rachum and channun. These two words are each used thirteen times in the Old Testament. Linked together, to describe God, they are used twelve times. Alone or together, they are always only used as attributes of God. Rachum means full of compassion, merciful; channun means gracious, “as hearing the cry of the vexed debtor.”i 

John J. Parsons has this to say about these concepts: 

“Notice first that the LORD calls himself rachum v’chanun, often translated ‘merciful and gracious.’ The noun rechem means ‘womb’ in Hebrew, indicating that God’s compassion is like a mother’s deep love for her child. The word chanun (from chen, grace or favor) indicates that God is a graceful giver who is favorably disposed to help those in need. God is compassionate and favorable to those who call upon Him.” — John J. Parsons, Hebrew for Christiansii  

The adjective rachum comes from the verb racham, to love, to have compassion, or to compassionate. A.W. Tozer explains it this way: 

“According to the Old Testament, mercy has certain meanings: to stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon and to be actively compassionate. It used to be a verb form of the word compassion, but we don’t use it anymore — maybe it’s because we don’t have the concept anymore. God actively ‘compassionates’ suffering men — I like that wonderfully well. For God to feel compassion at a distance is one thing, but for God actively to compassionate with people is something else.”– A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God  

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 

The second word, channun or gracious – hearing the cry of the debtor and being favorably disposed to help – reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 18 of the man who came before the master with overwhelming, impossible debt. But when he cried out for mercy “the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” 

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 

The compassion and grace of God are tightly woven together. God’s rachum, the deep love of a parent for a child, moves him to be gracious. Tozer notes in his book, The Attributes of God, that grace and mercy are not things that God does, but who God is. God is forever the compassionate Father favorably disposed toward those who cry out to him, always welcoming home the prodigal. 

And Jesus was saying to us, ‘You went away in Adam, but you’re coming back in Christ. And when you come back, you’ll find the Father hasn’t changed. He’s the same Father that He was when you all went out, every man to his own way. But when you come back in Jesus Christ you’ll find Him exactly the same as you left Him–unchanged. And the Father ran and threw his arms around him and welcomed him and put a robe and a ring on him and said, ‘This my son was dead, and he’s alive again’ ([Luke] 15:24). This is the grace of God.” — A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God (emphasis mine) 

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11 

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to confidently draw near to God because of these two attributes. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy (pity, compassion) and find grace (kindness, “the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people because He is ‘always leaning toward them’”)iii to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

Isn’t that amazing and wonderful? The word for “grace” in the Greek includes the picture of God “freely giving himself away to people” and “always leaning toward them.” Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh. Like a parent leaning forward to catch the newly walking toddler. Like the father leaning forward, straining to see the very first glimpse of his returning child. 

For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9 (ESV) 

… as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:12-14 

Come back. If you have wandered far away, come back. If you are near, but have hardened your heart, come back. Come. Jesus has freely given himself for you on the cross. He is leaning toward you. He is the same unchanging God that introduced himself to Moses, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” 

Salvation

Image free download from Pxfuel

Nothing

Might we dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? 

Recently I read a quote by Kierkegaard that took my breath away, until I realized what he really meant: 

“I have only one word to say, but if the power were given me to utter it, that single phrase, so that it would be fixed and unforgettable, then my choice is already made and I know what I would say: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing; O Christendom, remember this!’” — Søren Kierkegaard, Papers 

“Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing!!” This statement was startling, even blasphemous, to me at first. But then I remembered these verses: 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as (think like, direct your mind, seek for, set your mind, have the mind and thoughts of) Christ Jesus:  

Who, being in very nature God (though he was God), did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (grasped, asserted, clung to, exploited),  

rather, he made himself nothing (emptied himself, gave up his divine privileges, made himself of no reputation, without recognition, valueless) by taking the very nature of a servant (slave), being made in human likeness.  

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled (assigned himself a lower rank, abased) himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) 

Kierkegaard, in Denmark, was reacting, as Wilberforce had done earlier in Englandi, to the prevailing Pharisitic mindset that focused on outward appearances, and believed that all it took to be a Christian was to live in a “Christian” nation, attend the State-approved (acceptable) church, give your tithes, and, even better, have your own noticeable pew dedicated to your family. What you did the rest of the week didn’t matter. Individual responsibility for holiness was unknown or ignored. 

Most of these, especially well-to-do, churchgoers wanted to be “something.” They wanted to be “somebody.” But our worth to God does not come from outward appearances, accomplishments or wealth. In fact, these sorts of “something” may be detestable to God if they become our gods. 

He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:15  

But Jesus chose to be “nothing,” though he, of all humans to ever walk the earth, had the right to be Somebody – King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But he chose to be of no reputation, valueless, and he is our model. The word describing Jesus’ choice to become “nothing” is the Greek verb kenóō, which meansproperly, to empty out, render void; (passive) be emptied – hence, without recognition, perceived as valueless (Phil 2:7).” ii 

This Greek word comes from kenós, which means “empty, void; hence, worthless (“null”), amounting to zero (of no value, profit).”   

Very few of us choose to be a big fat zero. We may feel like one, but we rarely choose it. Most of us crave the approval, the recognition, the respect of the world. You can only choose to be nothing and valueless in the sight of the world if you have a solid-rock certainty that you are of infinite value to God – and that others also have infinite value. 

And Jesus knew his value to God – “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5). And he knew our value to God, for it beat passionately, faithfully, unending, unchanging in his heart, the very heart of God. And so, he came to be a nothing and to be “obedient to death— even death on a cross” for us. You are of great value to your Father. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16  

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9 

Might I dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? What would that look like? It would mean to trust utterly, even to the last breath. 

But he has demonstrated his own love for us … 

“God creates out of nothing—wonderful, you say: yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” — Søren Kierkegaard, Journals 

God keeps bringing this theme back to me in different facets. See also Emptied

i A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity. William Wilberforce. Fulltext available at Project Gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25709  

ii Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Image: Detail from Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Once Again

Sorry 

I know 

You are there 

You are with me 

You care 

You have a good plan 

You are working 

always  

My heart knows  

I am sitting on your lap 

leaning on your chest 

in the Everlasting Arms 

unfailing 

But  

my head panics 

and once again 

I am flailing  

and I need 

another sign 

another word 

another touch 

You 

I need 

You 

always

Image, Strong by Eduardo Martinez https://flic.kr/p/2ihGeUk   

%d bloggers like this: