God, Father of the Israelites?

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

John 1:12

This verse is the first reference to God as Father or anyone being a child of God except for God saying that Solomon will be a son to Him forever which was a prophesy of Jesus. This makes sense if you think about it since Jesus was the first born.  God’s revealed relationship to the OT Jews was as God.  They needed to establish that they would obey Him as God before He could reveal Himself to them as Father.  And they really struggled with God as God!  Idol worship was very real and tempting and the children of Israel fell to it over and over again. 
The OT refers to the Jews as children of Israel, never as children of God.  Interesting!  That relationship seems to come through the New Covenant.

There were individuals, however, in the OT that related to God as Father.  We see Elijah calling out to his Father, “’My Father, my Father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ (2 Kings 2:12) And he saw Elijah no more.”  These words were repeated at Elisha’s death, but I am not sure if Elisha said them or Joash said them to Elisha. (2 Kings 3:14)

David refers to God as a father to the fatherless and a judge for the widow in Psalm 68:5.  This was not revelation of that relationship, but rather an observation.  David also states in Psalm 103:13 that “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.”  Again David had a glimpse of this relationship. It is more of a metaphor and a simile rather than a statement of fact.

Isaiah mentions that “…a child will be born…and he shall be called Eternal Father…” (Isaiah 9:6)This is another foreshadowing of Jesus.  Isaiah does seem to experience this revealed relationship with God however when he says, “But now, Oh Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and you our Potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

Jeremiah is another OT prophet that refers to God as Father of Israel: “Without shame or repentance after following idols, Israel calls to God, ‘My Father, You are the friend of my youth.  Will He be angry forever…’”  Here the Israelites want to claim the relationship as Father/child and experience the benefits of that relationship, but have denied the power and covenant of that relationship by following idols.  In Jeremiah 3:12-19 God does seem to state His relationship to Israel as Father: “Return faithless, Israel…I will not look upon you in anger.  For I am gracious…acknowledge your iniquity that you have transgressed against the Lord your God. Return, O faithless sons…I will set you among My sons and give you a pleasant land…and you shall call Me, My Father.”  Again this is a prophesy of later times after God puts shepherds after His own heart over them and they find knowledge and understanding.

Jeremiah gives another prophesy of future times in Jeremiah 31:1-9:” …I will make them walk by streams of water, on a straight path in which they will not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.”  The verbs here are a little confusing.  God says He will be and that He is.

Last OT reference that I found for God as Father is in Malachi 1:6.  God is saying, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  Then if I am a father, where is my honor?  And if I am a master, where is my respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name.”  Again it is an assumption of fatherhood by the Israelites and not a declaration from God.  He actually calls Himself Lord of hosts which is His battle name.

But God…and the New Testament begins.  And John says that, “… as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become childrenof God, even to those who believe in His name.”

Seek Him as Father – gracious, loving, kind, desiring your good, wanting to give good gifts, and molding us into His image.

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