Updated: Jul 4, 2018
Some seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah spoke these magical words that continue to echo through the corridors of time:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7).
I’ve been thinking about the phrase ‘everlasting father’, and the importance of a father being there for his children just as our Heavenly Father is always there for us. The Hebrew word ‘ad’, translated ‘everlasting’ speaks of duration of existence or perpetuity. More importantly, it connotes consistency and reliability. It means that God will always be there, and in being there, he will always be the same.
Continuing this thought line, Jeremiah cried, “Great is Your faithfulness, O Lord!” (Lam. 3:23). Again, the Hebrew word ‘emunah’, translated ‘faithfulness’ in this and 48 other passages of Scripture, denotes firmness, stability, fidelity, conscientiousness, steadiness and certainty. In his nature and character, God is likened to a ‘rock’ – steadfast, unshakeable, immovable, and permanent. He is the antithesis to man, who is often described as a reed shaken by the wind (Matt. 11:7).
In simple terms, this means that you are not going to wake up tomorrow morning and find that God has changed his mind about loving you or that he has reneged on a promise that he made to you. He is faithful, even when we are fickle (2 Tim. 2:13). Through the prophet Malachi, he said, “I am the Lord, I do not change, and that’s the only reason you’re still alive!” (Mal. 3:6).
The great challenge for us to is to become like him in thought, word and deed, or, as the apostle Paul put it, “put on the new man who is created in the image of God” and “be imitators of God as dear children” (Eph. 4:24; 5:1).
Jesus drew a clear line of distinction between human fathers and the Heavenly Father, saying, “If you, being imperfect, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11). In other words, “Your very best is nothing compared to him, and your worst doesn’t even rate on the Richter scale!”
That said, Jesus also raised the bar on man’s part by instructing his disciples to “be perfect (mature) just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
The far flung influence of a father
My job is to pastor men so that they, in turn, can pastor their families, or, to put it another way, raise up a generation of everlasting fathers – men who, as much as possible, reflect the core values and character qualities of our Heavenly Father. As men and fathers, we don’t realize how much influence we have on our children – positively and negatively.
Recently, I was reading a biography of Marilyn Monroe, the famous actress of the 1950’s and 60’s, who died in tragic and dubious circumstances over fifty years ago on August 4th, 1962. Born Norma Jean Baker, Marilyn was the daughter of a mentally disturbed and ultimately institutionalised mother, and an ‘itinerant’ and promiscuous father who never knew her, and twenty five years later still refused to acknowledge her or even speak to her.
New York Times reporter Lucy Freeman, who wrote extensively on the subject of psychiatry and mental health, interviewed Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson, several times after the star’s death. According to Freeman,
“Bobby’s (Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s) rejection reawakened her father’s complete abandonment of her. Because of her father’s early desertion, she created the sex goddess, the one that no man could possibly abandon; the woman all men would desire. But ‘all men’ stood for the one man she could never possess – the lost father.”
Speaking of Abraham, the Lord said, “I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice …” (Gen. 18:19). As fathers, we sometimes forget the ‘children after us’ part of the deal. The truth is: what we are and what we do profoundly affects the next generation.
I’m not suggesting that if you’ve got a problem, you should blame your father! As individuals we are responsible for our own lives, and we have the power to change our direction and destination if we want to. What I am saying, however, is that if you are a father (or have aspirations to become one), you have a responsibility to demonstrate the nature and character of God to your children and your children’s children.
I will never forget the day my father died. I visited him in hospital, little realizing that in ten short hours he would be in the presence of the Lord. We spoke about revival and the call of God, about caring for my mother, and other poignant matters. I told him how much I loved him, and how proud I was to be his son. After about an hour, he turned to me and said, “You’d better get back to work. You don’t want to be late!”
There he was dying, waiting for the angels to carry him home to heaven, and he was still concerned about punctuality and a good work ethic! And that’s something that has stayed with me through the years – not only what my father taught me about prayer, and the Holy Spirit, and faith, and miracles, and forgiveness, and generosity – but also what he taught me, by precept and example, about hard work and finishing what you start. Despite his imperfections, he demonstrated to me the nature and character of God.
Jesus said to his followers, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father … he who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:7-9). I can truly say that through knowing my earthly father, I caught a glimpse of my Heavenly Father. May the Lord help you and I carry the torch to our generation!