For a lot of people, the words “father” and “good” might not align.
For some, their “father” was a person who was withdrawn, angry, or aggressive. For some, visualizing God as a father brings up some deep pains.
It seems like good fathers are in limited supply these days. I remember growing up and the surprise I felt when I realized that some of my friends in school had a father at home.
In thinking through these things, Hosea 11:1-4 & 8-11 came to mind.
1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt.
2 But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me,* offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols.
3 I myself taught Israel* how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him.
4 I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him.
8 “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.
9 No, I will not unleash my fierce anger. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy.
10 For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west.
11 Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt. Trembling like doves, they will return from Assyria. And I will bring them home again,” says the Lord.
Looking at Hosea 11:1-11 we begin to see a breathtaking view of God as a good father.
Hosea 11 begins with a reminder from Hosea to Israel of how God loved Israel as a Father but how Israel still chose to run away from him.
Despite Israel’s decision to run from God and run towards idols, God asks himself “How can I give my children up?” He wonders how he can make Israel like Admah and Zeboiim (cities that God had destroyed near Sodom and Gomorrah)? Rather God decides to show them mercy.
Not only does God, as our father, care for us, he wants to show us mercy. In this God also shows his holiness.
I’m not sure about you, but sometimes when I hear about God’s holiness I’m reminded of how unholy and unworthy I am. However, here in Hosea God shows his mercy for us as the result of how holy he is.
God’s holiness is not just tolerant to mercy, but God’s mercy towards his kids is an essential part of the reason that he is holy.
We also see God’s mercy and holiness expressed in terms of his parenthood. Yahweh loves, and has loved his child in every way, he taught, led, and healed them.
Though he keeps his promise to discipline them, yet his love is still there for them and in turn, is compelling to him to act mercifully towards them. Though Israel will reap the consequences of their actions, God promises to redeem them at the end of exile, the end of hardship; he will roar mightily and his children will come trembling home from afar.
What then do we say then to these things?
We can see that God shows himself as a father who both teaches us, who disciplines us. He is a father who is for our good, and encourages our growth.
He is a father who is not distant, but is as near as a father who is close enough to pick us up. He is especially near for those of us who have never known our earthly fathers.
He is a father who is not solely governed by his anger, but is compelled to mercy from his love for us; and he is especially this for those whose earthly fathers knew only anger.
He is also the good, good Father who would come, in time, to give his very Son so that we might have everlasting life with him. How much more are we able to see the Father's love, in his willingness to sacrifice his only Son for us.
It is my prayer that all of us will better come to know our good, good Father and experience his perfect fatherly love.
- Joseph Gregory