Four Gifts for Christmas

Thursday: Family Privileges

Isaiah 9:6 In this week’s lessons, we look further at the four names of Christ seen in Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the child to be born.
Family Privileges

One of the great privileges that comes from being made a member of God’s family is prayer, because now we can come to God not as aliens but as sons and daughters. Because of this, we’re encouraged to come to God in prayer, knowing that our Father knows all about us and loves us and cares for us and encourages us to come. Furthermore, He promises to answer our prayers that are pleasing to Him. The Holy Spirit helps us in our prayers by interceding for us before God, even when we do not know what we should pray for, or how.

We have every opportunity and encouragement to come in prayer. Are you discouraged in some matter? Come before God and say, “Oh, Father, I am so discouraged. This situation is just so difficult. I have been working away at this thing and I just seem to be getting nowhere.” If you ask for encouragement the God of encouragement gives it.

Are you defeated? Go to God in prayer and tell Him that you have lost this battle, and you feel as if you will not be able to get up again. The God who is the God of resurrections lifts you up and gives you new life.

Or perhaps you have a very hard task before you. In your prayers tell the Lord how difficult it is, and that you do not have the strength to do it. Confess your need and dependence upon Him, and the God who is the strong and mighty God answers that request.

I think particularly of the word that the Lord Jesus Christ used to teach prayer to His disciples. When Jesus prayed He addressed God as “Father.” The Aramaic word is abba, which we might understand as “daddy.” Jesus enjoyed an intimate relationship with God, and He taught His disciples to pray this way, too. We know it made an impression on them because that is one of the few words in the Greek New Testament that is preserved for us in Aramaic. When Jesus used this word abba, which was so strikingly unusual to refer to God, it remained in their minds. Therefore, when they came to record His words, instead of simply putting that into a Greek equivalent, they preserved the Aramaic original.

Now it is true that in the Old Testament there are a few passages where God is called the Father of Israel. But in these, He is considered the Father of the nation, with His chosen people collectively seen as His sons and daughters. But that is very rare, and in the time of Jesus Christ it was strikingly absent from Jewish prayers. People did not refer to God as Father, least of all my Father. That would have been presumptuous and improper. Thus, instead of God in that day coming closer and closer to us, God seemed to be moving further and further away in how people related to Him.

Moreover, when they came to talk about God, they wouldn’t even pronounce His divine name, that special name by which He revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3. That’s why we don’t know how to pronounce the word which we render in English as Yahweh (or “LORD” in all capital letters). There are different pronunciations because the correct one has been lost. In the Old Testament Hebrew, they didn’t have what are called vowel points. The Hebrew text is composed of consonants and in the early days there weren’t any vowels at all; people just understood how you pronounced it. It was only later, in the Middle Ages, when the Masoretes put in the vowel points to help us pronounce the text correctly. But they did not supply the vowel points for the word “Yahweh.” Since it was considered wrong even to say God’s covenantal name, the Masoretes instead put in the vowel points for the word adonai which simply means “lord.” So when you were reading the text of the Old Testament and you came to the word “Yahweh,” you said adonai instead.

Study Questions
  1. Describe the role that the Holy Spirit has in our prayers.
  2. How does Jesus demonstrate an intimate relationship with God in His own prayers? Why was this so unusual?

Application: Perhaps you are going through an especially hard time right now, and it seems as if it may never improve. Recount those times in the past when the Lord answered your prayers for help. Continue to pray, knowing that the Lord hears your prayers and cares about your situation.

Key Point: One of the great privileges that comes from being made a member of God’s family is prayer, because now we can come to God not as aliens but as sons and daughters.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “Christmas Contrasts.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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