Though I went to church as a kid, I didn’t grow up in a tradition where we heard many hymns. That said, over the years I’ve grown to take quite a liking to many of these vintage treasures. Names like Fanny Crosby, Robert Robinson and Horatio Spafford and their timeless works have become more and more familiar to this late-comer. Some joyous, others haunting, yet most strangely familiar, I’ve found that there is something that resonates within me as I hear and sing the time-proven melodies, as they paint a vibrant picture of the various aspects of the nature of God.
Just take a moment to consider these words from Maltbie Babcock:
This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world, I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear him pass; He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!
I’m moved by ideas like these – affected at the thought of a creation that worships God not only as creator and Lord, but as Father. He is powerful, He is mighty, He is creative, and yet He is even more…
There is a familiar story in Scripture that also paints a very particular kind of picture of God. It is the story of the prodigal son. In the story, a father has two sons, one of whom, the younger, requests his inheritance in advance, and then goes on to quickly squander it all on short-lived, sinful pleasures. Upon coming to his senses, this son begins to make his way back home, hat in hand and tail between his legs. What he hoped for upon his return was just to be allowed back home as a servant – certainly he couldn’t expect to be received again as a son! What he never anticipated was that his father would be watching and waiting, in the hope that his wayward son would come back to him. The picture is a dramatic one, and is intended to help us see what the heart of God is truly like. (There is certainly a lesson to be learned from the older son as well, but that may a be a topic for another time!)
Jesus spoke of God as our Father, even encouraging us to address Him in prayer in the most warm and comfortable of terms (Believe it or not, “Father” in Jesus’ well-known prayer in Matt. 5 comes from an Aramaic word which might well be translated “Daddy”). Thinking of God in this way is unfamiliar, and even uncomfortable to many, but by the Son’s own invitation, it ought not be. The Bible describes God, not as a cold, distant creator Who is uninterested in the affairs of mankind, but rather as a loving Father Who is interested enough to know us each by name, has promised to provide our needs and Who has even numbered the hairs on our heads (Matt. 10:30). God so loves us, that He sent His Son into the world to repair the bridge burned by our waywardness, so that we too might be able to come home.
I have a great earthly father, a good man whom any son or daughter would be thankful for (Happy Father’s Day, dad!). I’m grateful for him. And I also have another Father, a Heavenly Father, the object of so many of the songs in the genre I’ve mentioned; songs who’s appeal to me, I think, have to do with their power to bring me into a deeper consideration of Him. And as I reflect upon the open arms that my Father has extended to me, I find that I’m very, very thankful for Him.