One of the fondest memories from
my childhood was being carried in my father's arms. I can remember
times when we pulled into the driveway and I feigned being asleep, just
to feel his strong arms under me, carrying me to my room and laying me in
"... in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you,
as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to
this place" (Deuteronomy 1:31).
When I was a kid the orthopedic specialist determined that I had a tight
Achilles tendon that would prevent me from ever running. He recommended a
simple exercise that my father began applying conscientiously. He cradled
my foot in his ample hand and pushed the top of my foot back to stretch the
tendon at the lower end of the leg, where the foot connects at the heel. He
did that night after night. And guess what? I became an all-star baseball
player - after the doctor said I wouldn't run. I owe that to my
father's love put into patient action.
I was blessed with a dad who truly cared. Not everyone grows up with such a
father. Just as Esau cried out for his father Isaac's blessing, many
have the same cry stifled within.
"When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly
great and bitter cry ... 'Bless me - me also, O my father'"
The influence of fathers (and mothers) on their children is incalculable.
It can literally make the difference between a saint and a "satan."
Hitler's father instilled in him the fear of losing status in society.
This fed the appetite of rejection to "show the world" that he would not be
belittled. On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln credited the mental agility
of his natural mother and the supportive loving friendship of his
step-mother as major factors in his history-altering leadership.
God's truth is incarnational. He became a man in order to convey to us
who He is. God appointed fathers and mothers to embody His own fatherhood
in a tangible way - the first encounter each new child has with a "greater
We need examples. Learning takes place at greater depth through
demonstration than lecture. I have been blessed beyond measure to have
fathers in the faith who nurtured my spiritual growth and imparted a
security regarding the call of God on my life. This foundation of godly
confidence releases boldness with humility - a kingdom combination that can
bear a lifetime of good fruit.
Regarding David, the future king, we read that "The Lord has sought for
Himself a man after His own heart ..." (1 Samuel 13:14). But what is
God's heart? What is He like as a father?
I want to suggest but four of the many qualities we could attribute to
God's father heart. He is the bestower of BLESSING, FORGIVENESS,
IDENTITY, and INSTRUCTION.
We begin with the patriarchs. Abraham, after receiving the original
blessing from God, passed the blessing on to Isaac, Isaac to Jacob, and
Jacob to his twelve sons (Genesis 48:14-16). This is the father's
place - to bless his children, to grant them whatever resources he has - in
character, in faith, in material goods - to launch them into a fruitful
Here, a book written by Gary Smalley and Greg Trent, The Blessing,
can be helpful. They list five ways blessing is conveyed, emphasizing the
immense impact of affirmation upon growing children (and yes grown ones,
too), as well as the life-long damage caused by constant criticism.
Blessing is conveyed by touch, words, communicating high value, pointing to
a special future, and long term commitment to "the blessing" being
Return of the Prodigal Son
- by Rembrandt
Rembrandt's painting of the "Return of the Prodigal" vividly portrays
the father's forgiveness of his wayward, willful, profligate son (Luke
15:18-21). Rembrandt's masterful image of the father's hands
placed on a kneeling son, barely clothed in rags, touches the depth of
undeserved forgiveness each of us desperately needs. What a foundation for
a robust life of the soul - to be received back into the loving arms of a
father against whom we have rebelled!
As the story of the prodigal unfolds, his father calls for a robe, a ring,
sandals, and a fatted calf. Each of these items symbolizes new, favored
identity. The father not only forgave his son, he changed his garment,
restored lost authority, empowered him, and created a memorable and lavish
celebration. What a picture of God restoring our "Garden of Eden"
inheritance, lost through sin! We have returned to His house, to become
chosen and favored sons and daughters - after trashing what He first gave
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become
children of God, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).
"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you
received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out 'Abba,
Father'" (Romans 8:15).
Again and again the Book of Proverbs initiates "discussions" of how to
live, with the words "My son ..."
Eitan boating with
his father and sister
"My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways"
(Proverbs 23:26). King Solomon understood that one of a father's
chief duties is to instruct his children - both by precept and by living
example. Loving discipline is an indispensable element of instruction.
"If you endure discipline, God deals with you as with sons; for what
son is there whom a father does not discipline?" (Hebrews 12:7)
These manifestations of the Father's heart give us two bedrock
ingredients. First, they enable us to comprehend the love of God, and how
He wants to bless us, purify us, give us unwavering identity and train us
in His way of life. Secondly, they equip us to be mothers and fathers in
both natural and spiritual capacities. I have never met someone who
doesn't need affirmation - the blessing of a father or mother figure.
What I have been rewarded to see is young men and women emerging from a
devastating lack of blessing, to become true children of the Father -
radiating joy and secure in their life's purpose.
* Editor's note: This message developed out of a recent
"fathers and sons" evening at Tents of Mercy Congregation.