Revealed as Father
We are familiar with the story of the Exodus, the plagues and such. But why do the plagues culminate in the striking down of the first born sons of Egypt? In the Exodus, Moses came to Pharaoh to announce to him that Israel was the Lord’s son and that the Lord was Israel’s father. If Pharaoh didn’t let Israel go, then God was going to strike down Pharaoh’s first born, a proportional judgment (Ex. 4:21-22). Jesus taught us to pray to God as Father, “Our Father, who art in heaven. . .” (Mat. 6:9). So our relationship to God is, in one sense, the relationship of children to their Father.
A Fallen Image
This metaphor, that of fatherhood, is an image used by God to teach us something about what God is like, an image built into creation. Earthly fathers are a reflection of what our heavenly Father is like. This is problematic, since these are fallen images. And the fact that they are fallen can make the whole thing offensive. Many people hear about a God who is an omniscient, omnipotent version of their earthly dad and they say ‘no thanks.’The problem is that you can’t just edit fathers out of how we have been made. We were created in the image of God and so fatherhood and a need for fatherhood is built into us. Both good and bad fathers reveal something about God the Father.
First, we need the love of a father. God has built this into our souls. This is how fathers, by common grace, instinctively feel about their children. Jesus shows us how the love of our earthly fathers points to the love of our heavenly Father in Luke 11:9-13, via the Jewish “Kal vaChomer” argument.
Second, not only do fathers love their children, they delight in them. Delight is really just the manifestation of this love. This is all a reflection of the ultimate father / son relationship – God the Father and God the Son (Mat. 3:17). Because fathers can allow their love to grow cold, what began as an intense love for their children does not manifest itself as delight, at least not in the conscious lifetime of their children. This leaves a void that only the heavenly Father can fill.
And lastly, because fathers love and delight in their children, they seek out their children. Loving parents will endanger themselves to save their children. God sought out Israel in Egypt, because Israel was his son. But our earthly fathers are fallen. And the same man who would have given his life to save his child in a house fire, will later sinfully sit and watch his children walk away from the faith with no effort on his behalf to pursue. But our heavenly father is not like this.
Ironically, our heavenly Father has pursued us by becoming a father to us. He has saved us though his fatherhood. He sent his own son, Jesus, so that he could become a brother to us (Heb. 2:14-17). And in becoming our brother, Jesus has shared his sonship with us, so that his father, God the Father could become our father (Gal. 4:4-7). Through this union with Christ we have God the Father as a perfect Father. We are loved, as the Son is loved. The Father delights in us, as he delights in the Son. The Father is pursuing us to deliver us, as he did his Son Jesus, and his son Israel.
He is a model for us to emulate to our own children. And he is the perfect fulfilment of the type that our own fathers were for us. Where we fall short in this work, our children still have a perfect father above us, to whom we must be pointing them. And where our own earthly fathers have failed us, we have a perfect father, who loves us, delights in us, and has pursued and saved us.