Friday, October 7, 2016

The significance of the Old Testament revelation of God the Father

Image result for tabernacle in the wilderness
Deuteronomy 1:31 "and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’

Today's post will aim to capture some of the touching portraits of God the Father in the Old Testament. In about ten places we find reference to God as Father to His people. The imagery of a Father to son relationship is used throughout the Old Testament to capture the redemptive relationship between Yahweh and the people of God. The details contained within this motif provide the basis for some of the most amazing truths we find of the Person of the Father. When we arrive in the New Testament, Jesus uses this Old Testament framework as a launching point for His unfolding of the Father's identity. 

Furthermore, the Old Testament understanding of the Father gives hints to the Divine relationship that has been eternally carried on between the Father and the Son. Such an understanding opens the door to fully understanding the Triune identity of the One God of scripture. So, let's consider briefly some of these incredible passages as we aim to know the Heavenly Father better.

1. Deuteronomy 1:31. The Book of Deuteronomy is where we begin when understanding the Person of the Father in relationship with His people. In this passage, we see the Father carrying Israel, His people, illustrated as a helpless son. For those familiar with the wilderness wanderings of the people in the Book of Numbers, they did not deserve such gracious, tender treatment. Nonetheless, the point of this metaphor is to convey that the basis of the Father's relationship with His people is His powerful grace, not their performance. Deuteronomy 32:6 and 32:10-11 mention further how the Father redeemed His people and would ever identify Himself as their Saving God.

2. Isaiah 46:3-4. The prophet Isaiah would write his prophecy under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit some 700 years after Moses and 700 years before Christ. Once more, we find this theme of a Father carrying a child that is incapable of saving itself. Note what we find in Isaiah 46:3-4 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, You who have been borne by Me from birth And have been carried from the womb; 4 Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you."  

This theme is carried on by Isaiah in Isaiah 63:9 "In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them,
And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old." We discover in Isaiah's prophecy an explicit reference to God the Father as the one who endured maltreatment from His people in Isaiah 63:16 "For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name." There is no doubt regarding the goodness of the Father and the undeserved grace with which He continued to dispense to a people that persisted in rejecting His overtures of grace. Such patterns provide the backdrop and repeated themes we find in the New Testament. The Person of the Father in the Old Testament is a good, gracious Person who intends to save those He has placed His affection. 

3. Hosea 11:3 The prophet Hosea echoes the imagery of the Father carrying his limp. helpless son through a desert wasteland in Hosea 11:3 - "Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; But they did not know that I healed them." This blindness and darkness in which the nation of Israel walked with respect to God the Father's efforts is a small-scale version of how the entire world functions. The Old Testament portrays the Person of the Father as consistently good, gracious, merciful and redemptive. Mankind, whether understood in the entirety of Adam's fallen race or in the smaller picture of Israel, is incapable and unwilling to yield to God's efforts to save. Only grace shining upon the unwilling heart can open it as sunlight falling on a spring flower to open the petals which would otherwise be closed in the darkness of sin. The flower of the human heart which is open will in faith receive what the Father has been offering - salvation, redemption and promise of an eternal relationship with Him.

4. Psalm 74:2 In our readings of the Old Testament revelation of God the Father thus far, we have seen touching portraits of a Father carrying a helpless son in His arms. Here in Psalm 74:2, we find another image, namely of the Father dwelling among His people. Note what we read - "Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, Which You have redeemed to be the tribe of Your inheritance; And this Mount Zion, where You have dwelt." Whether we are talking about the revelation and construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness as revealed in Exodus and Leviticus or the temple constructed by Solomon in 1 Kings, God the Father desired to be among His people. 

The tabernacle in the wilderness captures what God's plan ultimately would be once Jesus came on the scene. As the Father "tabernacled" Himself among the people in a tabernacle of cloth and wood (or in the case of the temple, wood and stone), the stage was being set for the Person of the Son to tabernacle among the people in flesh and blood as a man. 

Just as the Father's occupancy was made possible by the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, so was the incarnation of the Son brought to pass by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. The Son came to do His Father's work and undoubtedly, came to imitate in a fuller way what the Father had done in the Old Testament - namely to tabernacle Himself among the people. 

5. Psalm 2:7-8 As we consider one more cluster of Old Testament passages in attempting to understand the Person of the Father in the Old Testament, we find references to the Father's relationship to the Son. The Old Testament not only provides ample material for identifying the One God of Israel as the Person of the Father, but we also get hints of at least One other co-equal Person sharing in the same glory with the Father. 

Psalm 2:7-8 states: “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession." David is the author. What starts out as a seeming reference to himself quickly switches to the heavenly realms. David gives us a prophetic gallery seat to listen in on a conversation between the Father and the Son in eternity. 

Interestingly enough, we find a remarkable statement in Proverbs 30:4-5 that hints at the reality of the Pre-incarnate Son in relationship to the Father: "Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name or His son’s name?
Surely you know! 5 Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him."

Today we aimed to reflect on the Person of the Father in the Old Testament. We noted how the Old Testament gives us two basic lines of thought regarding the Father. First, He is Yahweh, Jehovah God who redeemed His people. The Person of the Father nationally identified Himself with the nation of Israel. Israel was portrayed as a helpless child, incapable of saving itself. 

The Father's faithfulness, grace and love was undeserved and often rejected. Such a pattern is re-echoed and amplified in the New Testament through the ministry and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus often-times spoke of how the Father had sent Him to a people and a world that, apart from grace, did not deserve nor could save itself. So, we find the Father's work in relationship with the people He long to redeem (see 2 Corinthians 5:15-21).

Then we saw a second cluster of passages which pulled back the curtain to give glimpses of the relationship the Father has always had with the Son. The Person of the Son existed before His incarnation in the flesh in the New Testament. Moreover, the nature of the relationship the Father has had with the Son precedes the existence of the world and, is eternal. Such "hints" suggest what we find explicitly to be the case in the New Testament - namely that the Father and the Son have always shared in the One, eternal Divine nature (along with the Holy Spirit). 

It would be in this framework of themes that Jesus would express His full and undiminished Deity in His visible expression and revelation of the invisible Father who sent Him. He as the eternal Son in relationship with the Father came into our world to partake of true humanity. Jesus, in His humanity, was the human representative who walked out perfectly the covenant as a son in relationship to the Heavenly Father, something which Adam, the whole of the world and Israel in particular had failed to do. Both clusters of Old Testament passages find their fulfillment in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament revelation of God the Father is invaluable for helping us to grasp the fuller revelation of Him by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. May we aim to get to know Him more through Jesus Christ. 

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