Father’s Day just passed, and I dutifully put a photo of my dad on my Facebook profile. My brother, a few years older than me, wrote a beautiful piece about being a dad. In it, he mentions that he wishes he could have better known our dad. I was 6 when Dad died, and David was about 9. Neither of us have many memories of him, but – even though I am the youngest – I seem to remember more about Dad than my brother. My memories of childhood are vivid, all the way back to the age of 18 months or 2 years of age. But, we both have a new father…
Dad died fifty years ago. Mom died thirty years ago. My stepdad was no role model at all. I am a mature white male who is supposed to have his act together, who is supposed to be living a life of privilege, but – in fact – I often find myself no more than a quivering child in an old man’s body (something that adults are not supposed to admit). Yet, we have another father, our Heavenly Father, and it is to Him that I look when I need guidance, when I am feeling like a child.
In Isaiah chapter 61, there is a brief picture of the Father-Child relationship that our Heavenly Father wishes to have with us. If one reads that chapter, it passes without notice. It is found in the midst of the Servant-Lord discourse, in the section called “The Year of the Lord’s Favor.” It is adjacent to the passage that Jesus pointed to in Luke 4 when he read from the scroll at Nazareth. Here is the passage, Luke 4: 16-19 NIV:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
A little further on in Isaiah, below the section that Jesus read, the voice changes. It shifts from the voice of the Messiah – the Servant Lord – to the voice of God’s Chosen People. Let me call your attention to the first part of verse 10 from the NIV:
I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
This is, as I stated above, a beautiful picture of the relationship that God longs for with you, his child. It is the picture of a child who has come home, restored to his or her rightful place in the house of the Father. The same picture is painted in more detail in Luke 15, where Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son, perhaps with this section of Isaiah in mind when told it. Luke 15 expands on this picture in the homecoming of the youngest son. Here are the words of Jesus as found in verses 21-24 in the NIV:
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Isn’t that an amazing picture, our Heavenly Father celebrating when the lost repent and come home? Clothing us with garments of salvation and arraying us in robes of His righteousness? It is incredible. He seals us with a ring on our finger indicating that we belong to His house. We were dead. Now we are alive. We were lost. Now we are found. And, all of heaven celebrates. What a wonderful picture.
Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised—
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon—
Pardon for you and for me!
Come home! come home!
Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!
– Will J. Thompson