One of the strangest titles of the Saviour is everlasting father. Strange, because he is Son. He can be whatever he wants, including dead on our behalf. Father is a Christian power-word. It is how we think of God. It is how we address him. The fatherhood or motherhood of God is however not in question. His names do not reflect fatherhood except as source, but parent is missing from the divine revelation until we come to Christ’s message.
God is not averse to being father to those who have none. In fact, his interest shows that he will take the place of both parents. He pictures himself as mother-(hen).
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. Ps 27:10
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not! Matt 23:37
The God of the Hebrews did not present his relationship to the individuals of the Sons of Israel at Sinai. The seventy elders represented the families. The promises to Abraham included no provision of individual sonship, but the seed promise (Gen. 12:3 , Gen. 22:18 ) holds out adoption possibilities.
As father to the nation he appears in a creative role Isa. 64:8 – father, potter, maker (<- work).
But now, O LORD, thou [art] our father; we [are] the clay, and thou our potter; and we all [are] the work of thy hand. Isa 64:8
As part of the adoption and family arrangements in the New Covenant we do not usually look to the Old Testament for guidance on fatherhood. We certainly want to conform to the image of God in Christ, and that ought to include the Father’s own excellencies, or at least certain ones. But then there are pictures of parental majesty that we can hardly deny.
Of David’s great descendant’s dependence on God: He shall cry unto me, Thou [art] my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Ps 89:26
Of God’s pity to those who revere him: Like as a father pitieth [his] children, [so] the LORD pitieth them that fear him. Ps 103:13
A father of the fatherless,
and a judge of the widows, [is]
God in his holy habitation. Ps 68:5
It is significant that this verse has no verb. There is no intention by the songwriter to bring God’s activity to our attention. This verse is stating what is, not an occurrence. It is a statement of being, not doing.
Light of the world, Son of God, are names. Some modern translations have begun to impose phrases like “he cares for…” on verses like this. Even the following verse, which seems like a narrative, is split. The first half, has two verbs, both of which are participles (shub, turn or return, and yatza, go out or send out) serving as nouns. Hence more names. The one-causing-the-return and the one-causing-the-going-forth.
The second half is also split but between state of affairs and action, telling us who the other side is, and it too uses the same form as the first half. The ones-rebelling live in a dry place.
The weight of abi yetomim and [we]dayyan almanot is that the typical father connotation is missing. This father is connected with the homeless, not wife-child-tribe-nation.
“and” connects fatherhood with judgment and discernment; wedayyan. These need be considered together: father and judge. Moreover, judgment has to be “in favour” since this father aids orphans. “Father and vindicator seems best”.
Is it not like God to leave the usual home joys to pursue his boundless grace with the orphan and the widowed? This is a godly thread that is red with the Passion theme. Perhaps the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to bring the one lost sheep to safety comes to mind! It is a godly facet we can embrace in line with the superb kingdom tenet: put others first.
[Be] kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love;
in honour preferring one another; Rom 12:10
I charge [thee] before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels,
that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. 1Tim 5:21
The alternative is to face the stiff judgment that Moses recorded for people messing with the welfare of widows and orphans.
And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. Exod 22:24
Our orphans’-Father and widows’-Vindicator, let your kingdom come!
Happy Father’s Day