Today is Father’s day in the Netherlands. This is like Mother’s day a day of celebrating and honouring your parent.
However, in most Western cultures the fatherhood is under attack:
· Increasing fatherless families (fathers abandoning their families),
· Single mums with children.
· Many children nowadays grow up without a loving father and thus without the protection and the safety and a proper image of a father.
· Distorted relationships between children and parents (esp. fathers).
This has an impact on society, since God destined people to enjoy both the mothers’ and fathers’ love as an expression of His love for us. Thus distorting a proper image of God, since God designed the man to reflect his image.
The fact that there are so many fathers who are coming short, or abusive or absent, has to do with the Fall. From the moment on that mankind decided to go their own way and to forfeit God, satan has tried to expand the separation between God and man, by destroying God’s image in the man.
One of the consequences is that in many cases there is a lack of good relationship between fathers and children, or a bad or abusive relationship.
Right from the start after the Fall, God was looking for ways to restore the distorted relationship between Him and man and between one person to another (e.g. fathers and children).
He found this solution by sending the most precious that a father can ever have: his own son. The fact that God was willing to sacrifice his own and only son, in order to set us free from the curse of the Fall (death and sin), shows us how much He longed for the restoration of the relationship.
God sent Jesus so that He would be the One who could reconcile God and man, and make it possible for God to restore not just individuals, but all of creation, both mankind and the created things. The Bible promises the restoration of all things; this will be completed on the new earth and under the new heavens: there will be no more mourning, weeping, injustice, abuse etc.
So we’ll read two passages from the Bible that speak of the right relationship between the father and his children, between God and man.
And as a consequence of it, it will lead to restoration of the bond between fathers and children who have become a new creation.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
The Lord’s Prayer
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
[For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.]
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
History of God’s relationship with mankind.
Since God wanted a family after everything went wrong through the fall, He made a covenant with one specific people in the earth, the people of Israel.
In this He could show how fatherly love looks like.
Like an earthly father He gave them commands, warnings and rewards for their walk with Him.
But since they were sinful people this failed. But time and again, God as a real Father kept caring for them, loving them and seeking ways to relate to them. In the book Hosea (Ch. 11) we read about God’s grieving heart for His ‘son’ (Israel) and how much He cared for them. But they kept on disappointing their Father (11:7), and He kept on loving them. In the end actually they (God’s beloved people), murdered Jesus, God’s beloved son.
But God in His mercy, used this enmity from His own people towards His Son, to save not just one people, but all the peoples of the earth. The people he wanted and whom he created.
So Jesus’ main assignment was twofold:
1. showing the Father’s heart (in healings, comfort, deliverance and restore people in their dignity.
2. removing the curse that caused the separation between God and man by taking upon Himself the consequences of our choice to leave God. He suffered in my place, so that I could be justified and have everlasting life in the Presence of God.
Jesus shows true relationship
Ad 1.: In showing His unique and profound relationship with His Father, Jesus set an example of healthy, honouring and joyful relationship between fathers and children.
In John 8 and 10 He talks about His deep intimate relationship, in such a sense that he even says: I and the Father are one! So profound was their mutual love an respect. He also said: I always do what the Father pleases. Actually the whole gospel of John is loaded with the Father – Son relationship.
Thus, showing how good this relationship can be.
Ad 2.: But more important Jesus did not just show how it should be, but He also provided a way out of our distorted relationship with God and one another: by making us a new creation with a new heart and a new spirit. The text from Malachi refers to this process of restoration of relationships between God and man.
The Lord’s prayer
What does genuine relationship with Father God look like? Matth. 6: 9-13.
The Lord’s prayer is a pattern for intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. 5 Elements:
1. Prayer is first of all a personal intimate conversation with God. Go into your inner room. In other words: separate yourself from all daily business and people and take time out with God.
2. We don’t just pray to God, but to our Father, which emphasises our relationship with Him. He’s not a distant God, He loves us, He cares for us. He wants that we’re all right. (See section on worrying; 6:25-34).
3. It’s not the length of our prayer that counts, but our sincerity, our longing to be with God, for “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Praying is not a religious achievement or obligation, it’s an utterance of a deep-felt intimacy with God (hence, the inner room!).
4. This prayer is not meant to pray out loud in the same words and by heart (e.g. at funerals), but there is a certain order, a pattern. See the different verses:
- “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
- Your kingdom come,
- your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
- Give us this day our daily bread,
- and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evill
[For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen.]
5. Special attention to forgiveness: and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Think of: if you don’t forgive others, the Father won’t forgive you. In other words you will suffer loss.
The character of God our Father is that He wants to reconcile, to forgive and to love (that’s why He sent Jesus). See Matth. 18:21-35.
Likewise He wants us to act according to His heart: forgive.
The real Father’s day is restoration of the relation with our Father, God (comp. Christianity is the only religion that speaks of ‘Father’ = intimacy.