Sermon: Our Father, Our Daddy
Scripture: Matthew 6:9
In this week’s lessons, we see how we are enabled to approach God in prayer because of the reconciling work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Theme: Our Father
The first words of the Lord’s Prayer are an address to God as our heavenly Father. For Jesus said, “After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father, who art in heaven.” These words tell us who can pray and what the privileges of access are for them.
Now if we are to understand the full importance of these words, we must realize clearly that no Old Testament Jew ever addressed God directly as “my Father” and that, as a result, the invocation of the Lord’s Prayer would have been something new and startlingly original to Christ’s contemporaries. This fact has been documented beyond any doubt by a late German scholar, Ernst Lohmeyer, in a book called Our Father (a study on the Lord’s Prayer), and by the contemporary biblical scholar Joachim Jeremias in an essay entitled “Abba” and in a booklet called The Lord’s Prayer. According to these scholars three things are indisputable: 1) the title was new with Jesus; 2) Jesus always used this form of address in praying; and 3) Jesus authorized His disciples to use the same word after Him.
It is true, of course, that in one sense the title “Father” for God is itself as old as religion. Homer wrote of “Father Zeus, who rules over the gods and mortal men.” And Aristotle explained that Homer was right because “paternal rule over children is like that of a king over his subjects” and ”Zeus is king of us all.” In this case the word “father” most simply means “Lord.” The point to notice, however, is that the address was always impersonal. In Greek thought God was called “father” in the same sense that a king is called a father of his country. Zeus was imagined to rule over men.
In contrast to such sweeping statements, the Old Testament uses the word “father” as a designation of God’s relationship to Israel. But even this is not personal, and it is not frequent either. In fact, it occurs only fourteen times in the whole of the Old Testament. Israel is called the “firstborn” son of God (Ex. 4:22). David says, “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Ps. 103:13). Isaiah writes, “But now, O LORD, thou art our Father” (Is. 64:8). But in none of these passages does any individual Israelite address God directly as “my Father.” And in most of them the main point is that Israel has not lived up to the family relationship. Thus, Jeremiah reports the Lord as saying, “I thought how I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beauteous of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. Surely, as a faithless wife leaves her husband, so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel, says the LORD” (Jer. 3:19-20, RSV).
Actually, in the time of Jesus the distance between men and God seemed to be widening, and the names of God were increasingly withheld from public speech and prayers.
Why would Jesus’ reference to God as Father had been startling to those who heard it?
How does the Old Testament use the theme of God being Israel’s Father? What is the main point in most of the occurrences? How does the Old Testament use differ from the Lord’s Prayer?
Reflection: Do you ever consider the blessing it is to address God as your Father because of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ?
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Joel Beeke’s message, “The Glory of God as Father.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)