Father God is a powerful and poignant reminder of the true heart of God for His children. It’s eternal and unchanging, ever-faithful and full of gladness. He desires that we come to Him as Abba Father, and waits to love us with all He is.
The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
I love this verse. It’s profoundly poetic and reaches deep into my heart, just as God’s love touches us within and assures us of His fatherhood. For any believer struggling to accept the father-heart of God, this is surely the verse to change that. These words contain a tenderness that defies description, but they also convey the heart of every Dad for his children. So often, we see God as almighty, which He is. We see Him as all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-those-other-things that He undeniably is. None of these are wrong, and it’s good to have the fear of the Lord and be in awe of who He is. But He is also Abba, our Daddy, willing and wanting to love us as only a father can. The Bible reveals this aspect of God’s nature, and while some abuse this, others struggle to grasp the beautiful truth of Father God.
Father God is an eternal truth.
The Bible reveals Father God right from the beginning, when Father, Son, and Spirit are all involved in creation. John’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus, the Word, was there when God created everything. This makes it clear that fatherhood was always part of God’s intrinsic nature – He was creator, sovereign, master, Lord, everything else we can think of, and also Father because the Son was with Him. Throughout the Old Testament, His fatherhood was consistently revealed through all of His revealed names. Everything portrayed by these names is included in the role and responsibility of Father. He speaks of His people and His children as one and the same. The entire Old Testament is a preparation for the ultimate revelation of fatherhood through Christ’s life on earth. The manifest love of Father God in Jesus is revealed through Christ’s teaching and His death and resurrection.
It’s significant that Jesus called Him Father as often as He did. Instead of Lord, or my God, He more often used the word ‘father’ when speaking of or to God. The message is clear. Jesus was revealing the relationship we would have with God in the future. If we are in Christ and He is in us, we are sons and God is Father God. This is the incredible privilege we have, our inheritance as heirs in Christ. We are no longer slaves and supplicants but sons, and even the Holy Spirit testifies to this by crying out ‘Abba Father’ in prayer. It’s an eternal, unshakeable truth that He desires to be Father God to each one of us. Earthly fathers may have disappointed us, making it difficult for us to take hold of this truth. Today’s verse reveals the real meaning of ‘father’ in God’s heart.
Father God in our midst.
The first truth is that He is in our midst. He’s not an absent Father who ‘rules’ and commands from a distance. He is right there in our midst. A good example of what He intended is the pillar of cloud and fire which housed His presence in the wilderness. Each day and night, Israel was assured of His constant presence. He guided, protected, covered, and led them. God’s purposes never change. He still desires to abide in the midst of us. Abide means to live, to belong. In a world of absent fathers, whatever the reason, it’s assuring to know that we have a Father whose faithfulness is eternal and present. It’s even more comforting to know that this is out of choice rather than compulsion. Father God is not in our midst because He has to be but because He wants to be present in our every moment.
This is made even more clear when we consider the beautiful reality of Christ in us and us in Christ. God’s desire to be in our midst is so strong that He literally moved heaven and earth to make it happen. Heaven came down to earth and shook the earth so powerfully that even the dead were raised. In the Old Testament, His presence indwelled the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Spirit came upon people. Under the new covenant, His presence is now within us. There is no separation. It’s an eternal indwelling. In Jesus, we have Father God within us, so close to us that we can never be apart. It’s not an external, separate relationship but a profound, unified intimacy that places all He is within us. God in our midst is a powerful supernatural indwelling that keeps us constantly connected with His father-heart.
Father God will save.
There were times in my life when I felt utterly alone. By the world’s standards, I was alone. Those times were dark and hard, days of desolation and desperation when I clawed my way through each hour. But these were also the days when I learned the truth that Father God will save. Not only will, but does, even though it may not seem like it at the time. It’s only looking back that I see the multitude of little miracles that accompanied what seemed to be a life of one crisis after another. The reality is that I made it through each one. That alone is testimony to the truth that He saves. It certainly had nothing to do with my ability or spiritual condition. If it had, my lack of faith would have surely worked against me. His grace, thank goodness, overlooked my unbelief.
We have difficulty believing that Father God will save for two reasons. The first is that we may have been let down one too many times by our earthly father-figures. There is nothing that feeds distrust quite as effectively as being betrayed or abandoned by a father in our hour of need. The other reason is that we have our own expectations of His salvation. We decide what constitutes saving and expect God to comply. When He doesn’t, we immediately feel disappointed and decide that He doesn’t save after all. The real truth we don’t always want to accept is that God is the Dad and He knows what we need better than we do. God always saves, but it’s according to His purposes and in a way that is for our ultimate good, even though we might not see it there and then. His salvation is always perfect.
The gladness of Father God.
I cannot read this without thinking laughter, but gladness isn’t a word we ordinarily put in the same sentence as God. It’s an effervescent word, one which bubbles over with wonderful exuberance and joy. How many of us really see God’s reaction to us as rejoicing with gladness? Yet today’s verse tells us that He does just that. We are a source of joy to the almighty God of the universe. Wow. Picture a father laughing with his child, and you catch just the tiniest glimpse of the heart of Father God. He is glad when we come to Him and share the little details of our day. His gladness is pure and powerful, the kind that catches you up and carries you with it. It’s unrestrained pleasure that has no conditions and no restrictions. Father God gave us the same emotions He has, and that includes gladness.
To really grab hold of the power of this, consider creation. God looked at everything He had made – this vast, immeasurable, awesome universe – and saw that it was good. This same I AM looks at each one of us and rejoices with gladness. He responds to us with an exuberance and passion that can only leave us breathless. Father God holds nothing back. The angels in heaven rejoice when a single sinner turns to God. Father God rejoices with gladness when a child of His heart comes to Abba with simple love and faith. As a parent, I look at my child and am filled with indescribable joy. This is a poor shadow of the way God looks at each one of His precious children. It doesn’t matter who or what we are. He loves us with a love that rejoices with gladness when He looks at us.
Father God quiets us with His love.
These are powerful words that capture the comfort and succour of God. I vividly remember one night when everything seemed beyond desperate and the need to simply give in was overpowering. In the utter darkness of the pre-dawn, having been awake all night, I felt the Spirit whisper to climb up on the lap of God. What follows defies description. I don’t support ‘imaging’ in the new age sense of the word, but in my spirit, I felt myself do just that. It was as if I could hear the heartbeat of God in that terrible silence. Like a child, I felt myself nestle close to the heart of Father God and let Him quiet me with His love. There was nothing dramatic or ‘hinky’ about it. There were no earth-shattering revelations or inexplicable happenings, only an enveloping peace that drew me into the comfort and certainty of His love.
Later, I recalled doing the same thing for my daughter – drawing her close and simply loving her through the moment. This is the heart of Father God at its most powerful and poignant. It’s real and enduring rather than dramatic and loud. I’ve learned, now, to make it a habit to go to God. When things are rough, I simply tell Him I need a hug or to be held. These are natural human needs and we don’t outgrow them as adults. We all need them now and then. If we derive comfort and strength from the quieting embrace of love from people, how much more from the embrace of God Himself? The problem is we imagine that He doesn’t do that. He’s God and too important for the odd hug. But all the while, He desires to hold us close to His heart and share His peace.
Father God rejoices with singing.
This is the eye-opener. As a musician, I totally get it. There are those moments when something is so huge and wonderful that I want to bust out in song. Then there are moments when my heart is heavy and music becomes a prayer. I absolutely believe that music is a ‘language’ given to us by God for those incredibly powerful moments. The idea that God busts out in song because of us is just plain mind-blowing. But that’s what the Bible says. Father God rejoices with singing over His children. And it’s not a low hum, either. It’s a full-on, belt-it-out kind of singing. God goes big when He does something. Rejoice is an over-the-top kind of word. It’s all out and nothing held back
This is what God does when He sees you, believer. Grab hold of it and rejoice in return, knowing that your Abba loves you with a joy that is as big as He is.
Father God, how blessed we are to know the love and tenderness of the I AM. We stand in awe, Lord, when we consider Your mighty works. But to know Your love is the most precious gift. Thank You for revealing Your father-heart and for loving us so completely. Help us to accept and to rejoice in that love, to come to you without inhibitions and to receive what You have so freely given. Abba Father, help us to love You as You love us, without reservation.