In the introduction of a book titled “Fatherless America” David Blankenhorn writes, “The United States is becoming an increasingly fatherless society. A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with his or her father. Today an American child can reasonably expect not to. This astonishing fact is reflected in many statistics, but here are the two most important. Tonight, about 40 percent of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation’s children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhood living apart from their fathers.”
What is causing this fatherlessness? Historically it was paternal death. By the time they turned fifteen, about 15 percent of All-American Children born in 1870 had experienced the death of their fathers. Today, the principal cause of fatherlessness is paternal choice, fathers abandoning their children or abdicating their role as fathers. Whatever may be the cause for the absence of fathers it is the children who suffer and eventually the society faces the consequences.
In 740 B.C the nation of Israel was facing fatherlessness. Many men were killed in the war as a result many women became widows. Male population was drastically reduced to a ratio of seven women to one man (Isaiah 3:6, 4:1-2). There was a great demand for fathers who can provide protection, leadership and covering to families. Because of the scarcity of men there was no proper leadership hence there was no direction and sense of purpose for the remnant of Israel. The situation looked chaotic and hopeless, into that context God sent Isaiah with a message to assure them that the messiah will come and he will be called “The everlasting father or Father forever and prince of peace." (Isaiah 9:6-7).
I. God the Everlasting Father:
Among many other characteristics of God, the father heart of God stands out so vividly throughout the scriptures. God is the everlasting father or Father forever. Unfortunately due to the fatherlessness problem we are facing in our society our picture of God being the father is tainted. When we think of God as our father we tend to look at him through our human fathers. There are only a few who had been fortunate enough to have loving fathers in their lives but for many the father figure was never there in the first place, even if he was there he may have been busy, uncaring, unloving, harsh, or even abusive and violent.
A young man was to be sentenced to a correctional prison operated by the state. The judge had known him from childhood, for he was well acquainted with his father--a famous legal scholar and the author of an exhaustive study entitled, "The Law of Trusts." "Do you remember your father?" asked the magistrate. "I remember him well, your honor," came the reply. Then trying to probe the offender's conscience, the judge said, "As you are about to be sentenced and as you think of your wonderful dad, what do you remember most clearly about him?" There was a pause. Then the judge received an answer he had not expected. "I remember when I went to him for advice. He looked up at me from the book he was writing and said, 'Run along, boy; I'm busy!' When I went to him for companionship, he turned me away, saying "Run along, son; this book must be finished!' Your honor, you remember him as a great lawyer. I remember him as a lost friend." The magistrate muttered to himself, "Alas! Finished the book, but lost the boy!"
We see how important fathers are to growing children that is not to say that fathers or parents are no longer an integral part once children reach adult hood. Parents remain an important part of our lives as long as they live. Regardless of how old we are when we loose our earthly parents there often is a profound sense of loss and insecurity in the children they leave behind. My wife got the message that her 85 year old father had died when we were in India and she had just given birth to our youngest daughter. My wife wrestled with feelings of abandonment and what she describes as the loss of a ceiling over her head. As my wife always does she took refuge in the Lord and the Lord deeply comforted her with the words of Psalm 121
“The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore”
II. God carries us in his arms as a father would carry his children:
Israelites had seen the mighty deliverance of God. They have seen how God led them in the desert for 40 years providing all their needs. In spite of all that instead of following God wholeheartedly they rebelled against God. Moses reminded a bunch of unwilling and rebellious people saying “ Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God who is going before, you will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deut 1:29-31)
"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you.”(Deut 33:27)
"Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; But they did not know that I healed them."(Hosea 11:3)
Another beautiful example of God carrying us in his arms is found in Isaiah 40:11 “ He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” When we read these scriptures we can not help but think that our God is a gentle, caring and loving father in whose tender arms we can find comfort for our souls.
III. GOD PURSUES US WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE:
Against his family's wishes a young Quaker boy from Pennsylvania left home to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. Much time passed and the family heard nothing from the young man. One night, the boy's father had a dream that his son had been wounded in battle and was calling to him. The next day, he hitched his wagon and went off in search of the army.
He found his son's regiment encamped in Maryland engaged in battle at Antietam Creek. He found his son's commander and asked of his whereabouts. The boy could not be found and the officer explained that there were many wounded in the heavy fighting earlier in the day who still lay on the battlefield that night. (History records that 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured on that day) He gave the father permission to go out in the darkness and search for his son.
Walking among the corpses and horribly wounded men by lamplight, he called out, “Jonathan Smythe, your father is looking for you.” He would walk a little further and call out again, “Jonathan Smythe, your father is looking for you.” One wounded man sat up and said, “Sir, I wish that you were my father.” Then he heard a faint voice strain with the words “Father, I am over here.” The Quaker gentleman rushed to his son and the boy said, “Father, I knew you would come.” He took the boy in his arms, gave attention to his wounds and carefully carried him from the battlefield and nursed him back to health.
Just like the father in the story, God never gives up on his children. The powerful message of this story is that, God is searching for his children who are broken, battered and bruised by their sinful choices. God would go to anylength to save you. When he comes near to you calling out your name all you need to say is “Father I am over here” he will come and pick you up and nurse you back to health.
"For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal." (Job 5:18)
"I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him." (Isaiah 57:18)
"'Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” (Jer 33:6)
No matter how deeply you are wounded and hurting God is able to heal and make you whole.
IV. God is disappointed when we don’t call him our father:
Scriptures tell us that God was passionately in love with his people. He was possessive of the nation of Israel. He even said Israel was his firstborn son. He delivered the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. He led them through the wilderness. He provided food and water for 40 years and brought them to the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. After all he did for Israel he had only one expectation that they would call him Father and follow him. But unfortunately the Israelites disappointed God by turning away from him and did not acknowledge him as their Father.
God was disappointed with the rebellion of Israel and said “how gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land the most beautiful inheritance of any nation. I thought you would call me “Father” and not turn away from following me.” (Jeremiah 3: 19)
When my daughter Joanna was 3 or 4 years old, she used to wear a T-Shirt with pride and glee. On that T-shirt a picture of me holding her in my arms and on top of it was written “My Daddy is the Strongest” Perhaps in her eyes at that time I was like Goliath, may be not any more. Is it not wonderful to know that the Almighty God is going to be our everlasting father provided if we let him be? Whether you have never known a happy relationship with your father or whether you have very good memories of your father but he is no longer alive. The good news of Christmas is that God has come to us to lead into a lasting relationship with him that lifts our life to what it was created to be. God is the Everlasting Father.