In the covenant which God made with Abraham and with his seed, He promised Abraham and his seed that He will be their God.

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1 Our Father in Heaven Ps. 30: 1, 2 Ps. 130: 4 Ps. 103: 5, 7, 8 Hymn 47: 1, 2 Ps. 89: 2, 11 Scripture reading: Eph. 1: 1 23 Text: LD 46 Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, In the covenant which God made with Abraham and with his seed, He promised Abraham and his seed that He will be their God. This promise I will be your God is the summary of all God s promises. Yes, the sum total of all blessings is to have the eternal almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, as our God. After the Fall God is not the Father of all men, and not all men may be called His children. Only those with whom He chose graciously to make His covenant only they become His covenant children, and only they may rightly address Him as our Father. It is only through Christ that God becomes our God and our Father. It is only in Christ that He adopts us as His children. And it is only because of this adoption in Christ that we may call on Him in prayer with these words: Our Father in heaven... 1

2 Of all God s names this is the most intimate name with which we may address Him. When God allows us to address Him as our Father, then it means that we are His children. It means that we are united to Him in the most intimate fellowship and in the most privileged position as sons and heirs of the His kingdom. Yes, our adoption as children through Christ is the fountain of all blessings. Our riches are infinite, because: the eternal, holy and almighty God has become our Father. And thus, when we pray, Our Father in heaven, we claim all the treasures of the gospel as our inheritance. I proclaim God s Word to you with the theme: Through Christ we may call God our Father We will note 1. That God revealed Himself as the Father of His covenant people Israel 2. That God revealed Himself as our Father through Christ 3. The holy majesty of our heavenly Father In the first place we note that God revealed Himself as the Father of His covenant people Israel A child feels safe when his father is near. His father cares for him. His father protects him. And when a child grows up His father teaches and guides him. There is a love relationship between father and child. And thus, when the relationship between father and child is good, the child feels happy and safe when his father is near, and when he knows that he has a father who cares for him. 2

3 Sometimes the father will give his child a hiding when he is disobedient, but even then the child knows that his father love him. After the hiding child will go back to his father and sit on his knee in the knowledge that his father still loves him. And also later in life when you look back you remember your father as one who raised you with wisdom, who cared for you and guided and instructed you. Now, all these memories may be helpful as illustrations of God s fatherhood towards us. Christ Himself illustrates God s fatherhood by telling His disciples that no father among them will give his son a stone when he asks for bread. And if even a sinful earthly father knows how to give good gifts to his children, how much more our heavenly Father! And also elsewhere in Scripture earthly fathers are used as illustrations to describe God s fatherly goodness towards us. But, are we to compare God to our earthly fathers? No, God is not the image of earthly fathers, but earthly fathers are to be the image of our heavenly Father. Maybe someone had a father who did not reflect the image of God, but a total different image. We will therefore not seek the meaning of this word, Father, by examining our earthly fathers. We will turn to the pages of holy Scripture to see the wonder of this gospel that we have the living God as Father. In order to do so, we first turn to the Old Testament. Now, God is not so often called Father in the Old Testament as in the New Testament. Yet, He has nevertheless clearly revealed His fatherhood to that nation whom He adopted as His children. We may start right at the beginning of Israel s deliverance from Egypt where the Lord tells Moses:...Israel is My son, My firstborn Ex. 4: 22. It is by virtue of God s covenant with them that He calls Israel His son. That is why Moses is able to say to Israel: You are the children of the LORD your God... Deut. 14: 1. 3

4 God did not make this covenant of grace with all men. He does not adopt all men as His covenant children. His covenant children are a chosen people. In His sovereign grace He chose Israel to be His children, while He passed by others. Amongst all the nations of the earth Israel alone could be called children of the LORD. Only they could call on God as their Father and their God. It is especially the prophet Isaiah that expands on this theme. The Christ, who was yet to come, would be to His people mighty God and everlasting Father Isaiah 9: 6. Isaiah also connects Israel s future deliverance with the fact that they are adopted by God as children. He clearly connects their salvation to the fact that God has become their Father....You, O LORD, are our Father; our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name Isaiah 63: 16. To become a son of God, is to receive redemption. To have the living God as your Father, is to have full salvation. And that is what God has illustrated to His people. Israel s history is a history in which God revealed Himself to them as Father, caring for them, guiding them, instructing them, saving them. The LORD also speaks through the prophet Jeremiah and says of Israel: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn Jer. 31: 9 In that context He also says:...i will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people Jer. 31: 33. By virtue of the covenant God adopted Israel as His son. Therefore He will lead them and cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble. He is their Father, therefore He will instruct and guide them, and write His law in their hearts. To understand what the name Father involves, we may therefore simply look at God s dealings with Israel. Think of their 40 years in the wilderness. Think of the whole history that followed. All His dealings with Israel are a description of His fatherhood towards them. He delivered them as Father, and guided them as Father. He 4

5 chastened them as Father. He showed His love and faithfulness as Father. In all things He revealed Himself as their Father and mighty Redeemer. Yet, the full knowledge of this name Father was not yet revealed. We find the fullness of its meaning only when we turn to the fulfilment of all God s promises in Christ. And thus we note in the second place that God revealed Himself as our Father through Christ It is still the same gospel, but in the New Testament it becomes all the more clear when we see the fulfilment in Christ. God adopted us only in Christ. Dear congregation, our Father in heaven loves us, but not because we are so loveable. Conceived and born in sin we are by nature not at all loveable, but hateful: we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. Titus 3: 3 God does not love us as the sinful and hateful beings that we are in ourselves, but He loved us from all eternity as elect in Christ. He loves us as His new creation in Christ. Yes, only in Christ does He love us. Outside of Christ no sinner may appear before Him. And thus we have to understand that although God created man in His image, we are not by nature counted as His children anymore. It is only through our Lord Jesus Christ that we may again call God: our Father. We may only call Him our Father through our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who intercedes for us and represents us before the Father. Therefore these two words, our Father, contain the whole gospel. The words our Father speaks of reconciliation and adoption. The words our Father imply a restored relationship between God and us. And it is this wonder of calling God our Father through Christ that opens the door for us to approach God in prayer. 5

6 We see then how the Lord s Prayer starts with a summary of the gospel: Our Father in heaven All blessings flow to us because He has elected us to be His children in Christ. In this regard we may think of passages such as Eph. 1, which we read this afternoon: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ... All the spiritual and heavenly blessings are summed up in this, that God has adopted us as His sons in and through Jesus Christ. For this reason Christ calls us His brethren Hebr. 2: 11 And our Lord Jesus is called the firstborn among many brethren Rom. 8: 29 These brethren are not all mankind, but as the apostle John says:...as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1: 12, 13). Only in and through Christ are we made children. And therefore the same apostle also exclaims: Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!... (1 John 3: 1). Behold what manner of love that the Father did not spare His own beloved Son, but gave Him over to die for our sins in order to reconcile us to Himself, in order to adopt us. Brothers and sisters, it is when our eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit to see the wonder of this gospel, that we truly start to pray. It is in the knowledge of this gospel that the words Our Father in heaven find its meaning. We often close our prayers with the words: We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Or we say: In His Name we pray. Amen. 6

7 What does that mean? What does it mean to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus? To pray in the Name of our Lord Jesus means that we come to the Father conscious of the fact that we may come to Him only through Christ. To pray in the Name of the Lord Jesus, means: that we draw near to the Father, and address Him as Father, conscious of the fact that we come to Him only through our High Priest Jesus Christ who intercedes for us as our Mediator. To pray in the Name of Jesus, means: that we pray to the Father through Christ. Then Christ takes our prayer and prays it to the Father on our behalf. Then the Father hears His Son; and through His Son He hears us. This was true also in the Old Testament. No one s prayers were ever heard by God except through the blood of the Mediator. Only the High Priest could enter the presence of God in the most holy place, and not without the blood of the sacrifice, to represent the people, with their names on his shoulder and on his breastplate (Ex.28: 12, 29). If no one could enter God s most holy presence except through the High Priest, and if this was true also in the Old Testament, why then does the Lord say to His disciples that they have never prayed in His name before? For we read in the gospel of John that the Lord says to His disciples: Until now you have asked nothing in My name......but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name... John 16: The disciples started to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus only after they were fully instructed in this gospel. And although it has been revealed in the Old Testament, and although the prayers of all believers have always been accepted by God only through Christ, it has now been revealed in its fullness. Now, for the first time, they saw the Mediator before their eyes; and after Pentecost the full meaning of Christ s death became clear to them. It is through His blood that we approach the throne of grace. It is through His sacrifice that we may say: Our Father. Yes, when we pray this prayer, Our Father in heaven, we are in fact praying in the Name of Jesus. For without Christ we have no Father in heaven. Now, as we said before, there is a promise attached to this name, Father. When He is our Father then all the spiritual and heavenly blessings of the covenant belong to us. 7

8 And the promise is sure:...whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son John 14: 13. In Christ all the promises of God are Yes, and in Him they are Amen 2 Cor. 1: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For, everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! Luke 11: Even the greatest Gift in Christ the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the living God will be given to you to unite you more and more to Christ, and through Christ unite you to the Father. Dear congregation, the Lord taught us to address God as our Father, and with this instruction we approach God, knowing that He has such a love for us as no earthly father can ever have for his own children. When we address God as our Father, we come to Him in the knowledge that He has forgiven us all our sins through the blood of His beloved Son, and that He is filled with fatherly goodness and compassion towards us. This is the gospel contained in these words: Our Father in heaven Now, it is true that we may also address God as my Father. Yet, here in the Lord s Prayer, we are taught to address God as our Father. When we call Him our Father, we include each other as brothers and sisters when we appear before God. By teaching us to pray our Father, the Lord shows us how we should love one another, as we all share in the same undeserved grace of forgiveness and adoption. We have together one Father, from whom we all receive the same grace, so that there should be no divisions amongst us, but that we shall all unite before Him as one people. Yes, He is my Father, but also our Father; and it is in this communion with Him and with one another that we pray to Him. Therefore we cannot pray this prayer, Our Father in heaven, if we are not united with His church. 8

9 Brothers and sisters, now that the full meaning of these words, our Father, was once more spelled out to us, we are commanded to call on God as our Father, and to do so with that childlike reverence and trust as befits this gospel. We have to do so with holy reverence and awe. We note that in the third place The holy majesty of our heavenly Father When Christ taught us to address God as our Father, He also added the words who art in heaven. These words are added in order that we should remember His infinite greatness and holy majesty. It is very common in our own day that many pray to God as if He is their play mate. No fear for the Lord. No respect for His majesty. Over against such arrogance of men we have to confess that it is not a psychological defect to fear the Lord, but the fruit of the Spirit. When Scripture calls God our Father, His Fatherhood is not presented to us as if He becomes our play mate. Rather, this name, Father, should cause in our hearts a holy reverence for His divine majesty. The LORD says: A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honour? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts... Mal. 1: 6 If we call God our Father, let us honour Him as Father. The apostle Peter speaks in the same way of the reverence with which we have to approach God as Father. He says:...if you call on the Father, conduct yourselves...in fear... (1 Peter 1: 17) He makes clear that calling on God as Father also involves the fear of His Name; a holy fear that becomes evident in all our conduct. And it is now exactly this fear of the Lord that is put before us when we are reminded that our Father is in heaven (and we are on the earth). Let us then look at these words: who art in heaven, and make sure that we understand its meaning. When Scripture reminds us that God is in heaven, it refers to God s majesty and glory, His ruling and His power. 9

10 We are taught this, for example in Ecclesiastes 5: 2 where we read: Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few. The very fact that God is in heaven, and we on earth, should make us careful and sober when we speak to Him. Scripture describes heaven to us as God s holy and glorious dwelling (Isaiah 63: 15) where He sits on His throne: The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all Ps.103: 19. And thus, when we pray to our Father in heaven, we look up to Him in His throne-room. Brothers and sisters, the fact that God is in heaven, is at the same time also our comfort. Besides the holy fear and respect which these words express, it also fills us with a childlike trust. Our Father in heaven is the Almighty. In the psalms of David we hear how David cries to the Lord, expecting salvation to come from God who is in heaven. Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand Ps. 20: 6 From His holy heaven God will stretch out His right hand to deliver me. When we pray to our Father in heaven, we pray to the Almighty who s throne is established high above all powers and principalities. Brothers and sisters, how then shall we call on God in prayer? We shall draw near to His throne-room and enter His most holy presence in the Name of our only High Priest, Jesus Christ. Therefore we shall come with full assurance, knowing that in Christ we are fully accepted as beloved children, and that the Father will not refuse us any good gift in the Name of our Lord Jesus. He will richly pour on us His Fatherly blessings as often as we pray. We shall also come before Him in the knowledge that He is in heaven, and we are on earth. We shall come with a holy fear and respect. At the same time we shall trust our almighty Father in heaven and find all our strength in Him. He, the Most High, is mighty to save and to answer our prayers as often as we cry to Him in our distress. 10

11 Look at His dealings with Israel, count the wonders of His deliverance, and see His Fatherly care. He was the heavenly Father of Abraham, the heavenly Father of Isaac, and the heavenly Father of Jacob. We see His faithfulness and goodness in the revealed history of His dealings with Israel His people. And He has not changed. He remains the same Father also to us, through Christ His Son. The promise belongs to us and to our children. Therefore we pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name Amen. 11

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