For a patriarchal society that greatly valued tradition, family, legacies, and birthrights, the ancient Israelites had something of a spotty track record when it came to fatherly relationships. Yet it also seems that the picture the Bible paints of these (and many others) less-than-stellar-fathers is juxtaposed with the picture of God, the perfect Father.
When you read about the patriarchs (the founding fathers of Judaism and Christianity – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), you might get the impression that they were a bit suspect as fathers – and husbands, for that matter. When Abraham and his wife Sarah were in their old age, God promised them a son and Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Later, God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac as an act of obedience to Him. Just before Abraham sacrificed his son, God told him to spare the boy’s life. God recognized Abraham’s absolute willingness to follow Him as though he had carried through with the act. The story is famous – or infamous depending on how you view it. Ultimately, Abraham is shown to be both a good father to Isaac and devoted to God.
The less famous story is that after God promised Abraham a son in Genesis 15, he and Sarah took matters into their own hands. Sarah told Abraham to try to impregnate her handmaiden, Hagar. He succeeded and Hagar gave birth to a son, who they called Ishmael. Sarah grew jealous and treated Hagar cruelly. Afraid for her life and the life of her son, Hagar fled into the wilderness. While on the run, the Lord appeared to Hagar and told her to return to Abraham and Sarah, promising to protect her and Ishmael. Not only that, but He would turn Ishmael into a great nation. The descendants of Ishmael became one of the steadfast enemies of the Israelites (the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). This incident is not a flattering story about the great forefather of the faith.
Consider David, the quintessential king of Israel. He famously slept with the wife of one of his elite soldiers and had the man killed when his wife turned out to be pregnant with David’s child. The Lord took the life of the child as punishment for David’s sins. David, the husband of many wives, was the father of many other children. These half-siblings proved to be very troublesome to David and his kingdom. David’s son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, and when her brother Absalom found out, he killed Amnon and went into exile. Upon returning from his exile, he staged a coup and took over the kingdom from David. Finally, Absalom was killed and the kingdom returned to David, but he and his reign were never the same.
We can compare these disappointing examples with that of the perfect father, God, who lavished glory and honor on His Son Yeshua. Yeshua was the one by whom God created everything, and Yeshua was the only suitable one for God to use in His plan to redeem mankind. Yeshua, being a perfectly obedient and submissive Son, followed His Father’s plan. He was immaculately conceived, born of a virgin, and lived a sinless life. Yeshua would then die for the sins of mankind, rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. From that point on, everyone who put their faith in Yeshua would be forgiven of their sins and be able to spend eternity with Him and His Father.
That sounds somewhat simpler and gentler than it really was. To follow His Father’s plan, Yeshua had to endure more pain and suffering than anyone before or since. God required Him, who was completely without sin, to take on the sin of everyone in the world throughout history. Even though He was innocent, Yeshua was beaten and tortured mercilessly, by the will of His perfect Father, to carry out His plan of redemption. Through that sacrifice, all who believe in Yeshua are counted as children of God, co-heirs with His Son.
The sacrifice was not just one made by Yeshua at the command of His Father – it was also a sacrifice on the part of God. He ordained His own perfect Son to die in the place of all the guilty people in the world. He made a way for Yeshua, the embodiment of perfection and divinity, to become the embodiment of sin. God sent His Son to endure unimaginable torment on behalf of people who were so utterly corrupt that they could never truly comprehend that kind of sacrifice. These same people could never come to love their Father on their own.
God is the only perfect Father. For the sake of the sinful world, He sacrificed His blameless Son without hesitation or restraint. When Yeshua’s work was complete, however, God glorified His Son above all creation; everything has been made subject to Yeshua. Those who put their faith in Him are adopted by His Father, and we can become co-heirs with our Messiah.
Contributed by E. Black