“I wasn’t born yesterday!” If I’d heard it once, I’d heard it a thousand times. As a child I would often try to suggest alternatives to my parents plans or even come up with a sneaky idea to get my own way. The response that I heard each time reminded me that my parents had a lot more experience than I did. The feelings of frustration at hearing that phrase have since dissipated and I find myself using similar words with my own children. The proverbial shoe is now on the other foot.
God, the good father and creator gave us more than what we needed…
We’re slowly making our way to the end of the book of D’varim. Parashat Ha’Azinu consists again of just one chapter (32), and most of that chapter is a song that Moshe teaches our people. If you’re thinking it’s similar to a chart-topping pop song, you’d be wrong. No “oohs” and “aahs” here or a simple chorus; instead 43 verses of blood, gore and our relationship with God. Moshe paints our relationship as one of a child with it’s father (see 32:18-20). God, the good father and creator gave us more than what we needed and yet we, His people, chose to disown Him and follow other gods or idols that we thought would give us fulfilment and a sense of purpose (see 32:15-17). We, like a rebellious child who ignores his parents’ life experience, thought we knew better and chose to go it alone.
Three and a half years ago, when I became a father, I realised that I was in for a rough ride. From that point on, no matter what, this small baby lying in my arms had the power to bring me both immense joy and severe grief. If she and I developed and maintained a good relationship, I knew that she would bring me much happiness. But if something were to happen to her or to our relationship, I realised that my heart would be broken. As she grows older, my experience has only confirmed my initial thoughts.
The fatherhood of God can be a confusing and painful concept – especially to those who have had bad human fathers. Personally, I started to understand it when I became a father. Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot and I was no longer just somebody’s child. Now, I was somebody’s father. Now, I saw things from a different perspective. I suddenly started to understand why my father said and did certain things. But above all, I started to understand why God spoke and acted in the ways He does. It is because He is our Father.
The story of the whole Torah, and indeed the whole of Scripture is God choosing a people for Himself in order to make them a blessing for the rest of the world and so that everyone else would come to know Him through them. God made Himself a Father to our people. From the start, He nourished and cared for Abraham and for us, his descendants, just like I care for my daughter. God held our hand through the wilderness, just like I held my daughter’s hand as she learned to walk; He gave us food and drink and made sure our clothes didn’t wear out, just like I provided for my daughter. How heartbreaking it must have been for Him to see us disown Him after all He did for us. When I think of the pain that I would feel if my daughter, once she’s grown, did that to me, I start to understand God’s heart. I start to understand His anger and sorrow and I start to understand His punishments designed to bring us back to Him. And most of all, I get a glimpse into His love for us.
If you had a child that went astray, wouldn’t you do anything in your power to get him back?
If you had a child that went astray, wouldn’t you do anything in your power to get him back? God would. He sent His Son, Yeshua the Messiah, to die for the sins of our Jewish people and for the whole world, in order to bring us back to Him. And Yeshua rose from the dead in order to break the power that sin had over us. God was willing to pay the ultimate price, because of His ultimate love for us. Through the prophet Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah, God promised to make a New Covenant with our people (see 31:31-34), where we would know Him. Where He would give us the power to obey Him and to love Him, just as a child loves His good father.
Perhaps you didn’t have a good father. Perhaps God has always seemed uninterested in you at best or bent on destroying your life at worst. Perhaps He seems far away, unwilling or unable to intervene. Nothing could be further from the truth! God, your father, is patiently waiting and longing for you to turn around and come back to Him. He’s never stopped loving you, no matter how far you’ve run from Him. Because He, Himself, is love.
Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur have come and gone; Sukkot is on the way. It’s a good time of year to reflect and to get the right perspective. Perspective changes how we perceive reality. Often we’re so caught up with seeing life from our own perspective that we don’t even consider God’s perspective. During this High Holy Days season, wouldn’t it be good to have a change in perspective? What if God were a loving father who is waiting to welcome us back if we accept His work of redemption through the Messiah? Wouldn’t you like to find out if that were true? If yes, then just ask Him. You can start by calling Him, “Daddy”.