June is the month for Father’s Day, so it is appropriate that we stop to consider God the Father and His relationship not only to the Son Yeshua (Jesus) but also to all of God’s children.
Yeshua prayed to God whom he called Father. Most well-known, perhaps, is the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” Through the gospels Yeshua repeatedly identified God as separate from him and the One to whom he submitted. To perceive the Father and the son as one and the same deprives a person of a remarkable understanding of God. This leaves us with an important question. “Who is God the Father, and what is His relationship, not only to Yeshua who is called His son (“My beloved son in whom I am well pleased”; Mat 3:17) but also to those whom He calls His children, who are also identified as sons? “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal 4:6).
The concept of God as Father was well known among the people of Israel before the coming of Yeshua the Messiah. This understanding was perceived through the artistic and figurative nature of the Hebrew sacred writings, which emphasized a “relationship” rather than a literal familial status. There are two key verses in the Torah that establish this concept of relationship.
Speaking to Moses God declared, “You shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn’” (Ex 4:22). So, God not only projected Himself as the Father of the children of Israel but He also identified His people with the special status of the firstborn son whose inheritance was the leadership role of the birthright.
The second verse in the Torah is expressed as a rhetorical question of loving chastisement to listeners who knew the answer with a sense of remorse. “Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you” (Dt 32:6). This passage offers a graphic and emotional depiction of the relationship that God has with His children by using three action words that ascend in a growing relationship – bought, made and established. First, “bought” implies a price paid for something that is precious and desired. Second, “made” echoes God’s creation in the beginning when we hear that “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Gen 2:3). Finally, we arrive at “established”, which is expressed in Hebrew with intense emotion and means to stand firm in the ways of God.
We come now to the New Testament concept of God as Father to His children, which is exactly the same as that which is conveyed in the Hebrew Scriptures. God has a loving relationship with all those, both the children of Israel and Gentile believers in Christ, who belong to Him. As a Father He instructs His children, and He reprimands them when they disobey.
What has been added in the New Testament is the way that Yeshua the Messiah fits into this relationship of God with His children. The Gospel of John is virtually teeming with the answer to this question.
We learn that “the Father loves the son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). This refers to the ancient concept of “agency” whereby the agent received complete authority from the one who was delegating him as agent. What is most important for us to understand is the agent became, in the eyes of those in the ancient world, the one whom he was representing. For example, we see this concept of agency in the story of Joseph in Egypt.
Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, "Bow the knee!" And he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”
This concept of agency is found in another verse in the Gospel of John. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19).
Repeatedly in the Gospel of John we learn that the Father has sent the son. But we ask, “For what purpose?” God has sent the son to do the will of the Father as we hear in words spoken by Yeshua. “The works which the Father has given me to accomplish-- the very works that I do-- testify about me, that the Father has sent me.” Thus, the purpose and mission of the son, whom the Father has sent as His agent, is to submit in obedience to the Father in order to represent Him. The Father has given the son “works” to accomplish, and the son has indeed accomplished all that the Father has required of him. Thus, the relationship of Yeshua, the son, to God the Father is that of an obedient son who is worthy to act as God’s agent in carrying out all the works that God requires of him.
Now we come to the two most exciting concepts because they relate to our own relationship with Yeshua the son, and also to our relationship with God the Father. First, the relationship of God’s people to Yeshua, whom they declare to be their lord and master, is exactly the same as Yeshua’s relationship to the Father. God’s people are to be agents for their Lord Yeshua. They are called as obedient sons who are worthy to act as Yeshua’s agents to carry out all the works that Yeshua requests of them. Listen to Yeshua who is talking to the Father about those who believe in him. “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world….The glory which You have given me I have given to them” (John 17:18,22).
Finally, we come to our relationship with God the Father whom no person has ever seen (Ex 33:20; 1 John 4:12), and who is described as Spirit (John 4:24). The key term is “draw near”, and the agent who facilitates our drawing near to God is Yeshua. “No one comes to the Father but through Me”, explains Yeshua (John 14:6). We tend to perceive this terse statement as a requirement to believe in Yeshua in order to be saved. However, I suggest this is an incorrect understanding. Listen to what precedes these words. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The “way” is the Greek word ὁδός (hodos), which means a road on which one takes a journey, hence a way of living or acting. The “truth” is what God has revealed in His Word, and Yeshua, as God’s agent, helps us understand and follow God’s directives to walk in righteousness. “Life”, in the biblical sense, can refer not only to future life with God but also to a way of living that is true life in harmony with the Father in contrast to sinning that is a living death. In the context of this passage, I suggest that “life” means a way of living in harmony with God. Thus, it is only through Yeshua that we can draw near to God the Father by a walk of righteousness.
In this month of June, when we honor our fathers, let us consider the biblical commandment to “honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). Our worldly fathers may not be perfect, as God is perfect, but all of them have some aspects of our Heavenly Father, and these traits are the ones that we must respect and honor.