by Richard T. Ritenbaugh
CGG Weekly, January 7, 2011
"It is not great faith in God that counts, but faith in a great God."
Corrie ten Boom
The fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12 reads, "Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you." A kind of New Testament spiritual parallel to this is found in Luke 11:2, the first verse in Luke's version of the so-called "Lord's Prayer." Jesus is instructing His disciples in how to pray: "So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.'"
We all have or had physical fathers to honor, but as Christians, we sometimes fail to honor our far greater Father in heaven to the degree He justly deserves. Our spiritual Father is more important by far than our physical fathers because He is the One who not only provides for us and gives us so many blessings, but He is also the One who has called us out of this world and given us the opportunity to fulfill our incredible, eternal potential as His sons and daughters.
Jesus says that we are to hallow the name of our Father in heaven. The word is hagiazo in the Greek, and it means "to make holy," "to sanctify," or "to set apart." Another definition, however, perhaps applies better to our subject here: "to show a difference from the common." We all have our common, human fathers. They are all men—some better, some worse, but still human every one—yet we have only one Father who is truly holy. He comprises an entirely different category from our ordinary human fathers.
Despite being made in God's image, our physical fathers are nonetheless created beings, full of flaws and deficiencies. As a father myself, I count myself among those full of flaws and deficiencies. Yet, we have a heavenly Father who is vastly different and uncommon—a great Father who is so much more and better than any man, any father, no matter how great he may be.
Even so, we should not focus exclusively on God as a father. Instead, we need to consider the wider concept that we have a God who is different from the common because this relates to how we view God in general in our everyday lives—in our everyday relationship with Him—because He is not just a father.
Of course, that is how He is introduced to us by Jesus Christ, one of whose purposes in coming as a man was to reveal the Father (John 1:18). However, just as a human dad engages in more than parenting, "Father" is just one of God's hats, so to speak. One's father is a father, certainly, but he may also be a carpenter, a plumber, a salesman, a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. He may also be a hunter or a fisherman, and he may be a ballplayer, a golfer, a tennis player, a card player, or a sailor. He might like to tinker on cars, or he could be a skeet shooter. He may be a poet, a playwright, a stamp collector, a gardener, a model railroader, or a woodcrafter. He may fly planes for a living and skydive occasionally. Throughout a long life, he may do a few or many of these things.
For the same reason, God is not a one-dimensional figure either. He is not just a wonderful Father, but He is also Designer, Creator, Life-giver, Law-giver, Provider, and Supreme Judge. He is sovereign over all there is. He gives, reveals, works out prophecy, answers prayers, and heals sickness. He works in world events, in church events, and in individual lives, calling, forgiving, granting repentance, justifying, sanctifying, and ultimately glorifying. One may have never thought of Him in this way, but He is undoubtedly the universe's supreme geologist, biologist, botanist, chemist, physicist, mathematician, linguist, historian, writer, and author—among multitudes of other areas of expertise.
When we look at God as though He has only one job or is interested in only one narrow aspect of life, we lose sight of how wonderful He is, how expansive His mind is, how talented He is, and how intelligent, creative, and powerful He is. We have a truly exalted and almighty God who will not be pigeon-holed into one little niche that we have labeled and defined as "God." He is so much more! His mind is so majestic and His power so wonderful that our little minds cannot grasp their magnitude, but we must do our best to understand as much of His greatness as we can so that we can truly know Him, what He is, and what He does.
As limited, self-focused human beings, we have a huge problem with this. The primary reason for this is that all we know revolves around profoundly inadequate human traits, strengths, perspectives, and standards, all of which are physical, finite, and tinged with the corruption of human nature. We make the mistake of comparing everything with ourselves or with the common, average person, and sometimes even the "best" person (see II Corinthians 10:12).
If we are trying to improve ourselves, we oftentimes set as a standard another person who is doing what we want to be able to do, and then we work toward rising to his level of competence. With God, however, we cannot do that; He is not comparable to any man (Isaiah 40:18; 46:5). Yet, making such comparisons is the only way we know how to gauge our spiritual progress, and thus we gain some idea of it by taking an unblinkered look at man and then comparing him to God. This is actually hard to do. Our minds can only grasp but a thin sliver of what God is and does. We are just so earthbound, tied to what we see and know, which is almost entirely material, terminal, and tainted by sin.
God says of this comparison: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9). There is indeed a great gulf between Him and us. We are stuck here on earth, and we think almost exclusively on earthly things. God's thoughts, though, are always in the heavens, as it were, concentrated on spiritual things. To give us some measure of understanding, that is how He describes the vast difference between Himself and us. It appears to be an unbridgeable gap.
When we go outside in the dark of night and gaze into the sky, we can see thousands of stars wheeling about the heavens, and we know that astronomers tell us that each star is many light-years away. If He can create something so far away to give us light here on earth, then He must be a great God. In this way, we catch a glimpse of how far superior to us God is. Even so, that physical comparison does not really do Him justice, for there is also a spiritual chasm between God and us that is light-years wide and light-years deep. In our carnal state, this chasm cannot be overcome. Only through the work of God who became a Man, Jesus Christ, is there any hope of seeing God as He really is (I John 3:2).