Knowing God as a Father
Knowing God as a Father
- What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God…
- What were you made for? To know God.
- What aim should you set yourself in life? To know God.
These are the questions J. I. Packer raises at the start of his influential book, Knowing God. Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father’ (John 10:14).
1. Trust him, at all timesPsalm 62:1-12
It is easy to trust God when things are going well. David urges, ‘Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in him at all times (v.8a, AMP). Trusting in God at all times means trusting him not only when things are going well, but also when things are not going so well. You develop character by trusting him when you are facing difficulties in your life.
Knowing and trusting God leads to:
In the midst of all your fears and anxieties you can find peace: ‘My soul finds rest in God alone… Find rest, O my soul, in God alone’ (vv.1,5)
Salvation comes by faith in God: ‘My salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation… My salvation and my honour depend on God’ (vv.1b–2a,7a)
Everything else in life is uncertain, and ultimately insecure, but God ‘is my fortress, I shall never be shaken… he is my mighty rock, my refuge’ (vv.2b,6b–7b)
Like Jesus, David contrasts the love of God with money: ‘Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them’ (v.10). When I started practising as a barrister, I wrote this in the margin of my Bible: ‘This is a vital message for me at this time. It was easy in student days not to think about money – but now with money starting to come in I find myself thinking about it more and more, talking about it more and more. The battle is fierce – the pull of the world is so strong. Either you set your heart on God or on money.’
Father, today may my soul find rest in you alone. Thank you that you promise that I will never be shaken. I trust in you today.
2. Enjoy life in all its fullnessJohn 9:35-10:21
I thought that becoming a Christian would mean the end to my enjoyment of life. In fact, I found the opposite. Jesus says he came that we might ‘enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)’ (10:10, AMP).
The man healed of blindness had no trouble believing in Jesus. When Jesus finds him and says, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ (9:35), he asks, ‘Who is he sir?... Tell me so that I may believe in him’ (v.36). Jesus replies, ‘“You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him’ (vv.37–38). In Jesus, the man realised that he had encountered God himself. You too can encounter God in Jesus.
Jesus explains how, through him, you can know God. He uses two analogies. First, he speaks of himself as ‘the gate’ (10:1). The Greek word ‘thura’ is perhaps better translated as ‘the door’. Jesus is the door for the sheep to come in and find salvation (v.9). He is the door to the Father. The door to knowing God is to know Jesus.
The second analogy Jesus uses is that he is the good shepherd. The Greek word for good (kalos) means ‘beautiful’, ‘noble’, ‘wonderful’. The sheep know the shepherd: ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father’ (vv.14–15). The background to this is that God himself is described as the ‘shepherd’ in the Old Testament (for example, see Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11). To know Jesus is to know God.
- Enjoy fullness of life
In a relationship with Jesus, you find meaning, purpose, fulfilment, peace, forgiveness, and life in all its fullness.
- Don’t let the devil rob you
Jesus contrasts himself with ‘the thief’ who comes to ‘steal and kill and destroy’ (John 10:10a). The devil wants to rob you of your peace and enjoyment of life. Don’t let him.
- Be assured of God’s love for you
Jesus also contrasts the good shepherd with the ‘hired hand’ who, when the wolf attacked the flock, runs away because he cares nothing for the sheep (vv.12–13).
On the other hand, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (vv.11,15). This is entirely voluntary: ‘The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord’ (vv.17–18). If you ever doubt that God loves you, you simply have to look at the cross: Jesus laid down his life for you.
Jesus came to give his life on the cross to take away all the blocks that prevent you knowing and being in communion with God as your Father.
- Learn to listen to his voice
It is in the instinctive nature of sheep to recognise the shepherd’s voice. ‘The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice’ (vv.3–4).
The more you get to know Jesus, the more you will get to discern whether it is his voice rather than the deceptive voice of the wolf.
- Know that you have eternal life
The one you know not only dies for you but he also rises from the dead for you. He has the power to take his life again: ‘I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again’ (v.18b). He gives you eternal life.
Jesus later defines eternal life like this: ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ (17:3).
Lord, thank you that you love me so much that you laid down your life for me. Thank you that you give me life and life in all its fullness.
3. Honour God in all circumstancesRuth 3:1-4:22
God honours those who honour him and do what is right – even when it is costly to do so and even through the trials and difficulties of life. We see how each of the main characters honours the Lord: Naomi (1:8–9), Ruth (v.17 and following), and Boaz (2:4,12; 3:10,13; 4:11). They are great models for us to follow.
The book of Ruth begins with Naomi despairing of the kindness of God (1:20–21). She then experiences many of the people around her displaying great human kindness. She experiences it in her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah (v.8), and in Boaz’s treatment of Ruth. Finally, she declares, ‘He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead’ (2:20).
Ruth obeys her mother-in-law in every detail. Naomi’s concern is wholly for Ruth’s wellbeing. Boaz is self-controlled, generous and honourable. Boaz’s life is obviously God-centred. His immediate reaction when he wakes up and sees Ruth is, ‘The Lord bless you’ and ‘as the Lord lives’ (3:10,13).
Yesterday, we saw how Ruth honoured the Lord and did the right thing by being loyal to her mother-in-law. Today, we see how Boaz clearly wanted to marry Ruth and felt it was the right thing, yet did not simply go ahead as he could have done on the basis of the end justifying the means. He was completely upright in the way that he approached the matter – abiding by the etiquette and traditions of the culture.
Boaz did not just rush ahead and get married. He went through the correct process. Humanly speaking he was taking a great risk and might have lost Ruth. But he trusted that the Lord was in control.
The Lord honoured this in an amazing and wonderful way. Boaz and Ruth were married and gave birth to the grandfather of King David (4:17). Indeed, Ruth, the servant girl, became an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5–6). In one sense, Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer (Ruth 4:14). He calls us his brothers and sisters, understands our struggles and acts to redeem us (Hebrews 2:11–12, 17–18).
We see the kindness of God throughout the book of Ruth. Behind the human kindness of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz lies the kindness of God.
Father, thank you for your amazing kindness to me. Thank you for redeeming me. Give me courage to honour you always and to seek to do the right thing even when that is difficult.
‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’
The Bible has great power. It is through someone showing me this verse that I became a Christian.
J. I. Packer, Knowing God, (Hodder & Stoughton, 1973) p.31.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.