Michael Reeves asks an interesting question in his book, Delighting in the Trinity. In one of the chapters he raises a question stating what was God doing before creation?
Have you thought about what God was doing before creation came to be — before you or I, the land, trees, birds, animals, and cosmos came to be? At first thought, it seems unfathomable to imagine. In one sense, an answer to this question is simple and almost seems too simplistic. And, that answer is, “Well, God was being God.”
But, if that is the case, what does that mean for those of us who believe in God? I mean, is that the quality of God that draws us toward belief in him? My guess is that, for most of us, that is not the case. We all would mention many other qualities about God that draw us to belief in him, before we’d ever mention the quality: God is just God.
For most of us, that quality is not satisfactory. And, I think it is not satisfactory because it seems distant. To believe in a being that just exists, does not exactly conjure up relational notions.
In the reading from Joshua this past week, as Moses is getting ready to hand the reigns to Joshua, God instructs Moses to teach Israel a song. As you read this song, you probably thought to yourself that is had a similar tone and feel to the psalms that we read in the book of Psalms in the Bible. And, you would be correct. It is a literarily similar.
This particular song highlights many qualities about God. A smattering of the qualities about God that stuck out to me include: teacher, disciplinarian, perfect, just, Father, Creator, known, present, feared, protector, counselor, rock (secure), avenging, wise, patient, not-swayed, Lord (holds life and death in his control), and life-giving. Put together, these qualities paint a beautiful mental image of who God is.
However, there is one of these qualities that I think supports all the rest. As we identify this quality, I think we see how all of the other qualities manifest in the character of God. That quality is that God is a father. Deuteronomy 31:30-32:6 is part of that song, and includes this line about God, “Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?”
How often do you think of God as a father — first and foremost? As we read through the Old Testament, we probably are less inclined to think of God that way. Rather, we get to the New Testament and we see this quality mentioned everywhere. Specifically, we see it brought to the forefront by Jesus identifying himself as the Son of God. Jesus’ identity as a son indicates that there is in fact a father somewhere. And, Jesus reveals that his father is the who who resides in heaven — the one who created everything — the one who rules over all — the one who called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
What is interesting is that as much as the fatherhood of Jesus is revealed in the New Testament, we notice in the earlier passage from Deuteronomy, that this quality of God is also mentioned in the Old Testament. Which, in a sense, the mentioning of God’s fatherhood in the Old Testament (as much as God fathered the nation of Israel) is also an indicator that he has a non-adoptive son — which, of course is a looking forward to the revelation of Jesus (the Son of God).
It is easy for us to read the Old Testament accounts and come away with a perspective of God that is seems — obscure, distant, and cold. However, when we realize that God is a father, our image of God shifts. It shifts to an image of God that is caring, loving, concerned, secure, wise, comforting, strong, and respected. An image that looks something like what we understand human fatherhood to be — although the fatherhood of God looks far superior in quality.
But, I also realize for some of you reading this, your image of a father is nothing like I just described. Your image of fatherhood is very negative and conjures up feelings of fear, based on your experiences with your earthly father. Now, I am not asking you to view God in that way. Rather, I am inviting you to let God’s example of heavenly fatherhood re-shape your image of fatherhood and redeem the negative images and feelings that you have from your earthly father.
As we continue to read through the Old Testament account of Israel and their history, I want to encourage you to evaluate your image of God. What image of God do you have? I submit that if your image of God is something other than the image of a loving, caring, secure, and respected father, than you are missing the beauty of who God is.
Beyond the fatherhood of God revealed in the Old Testament, we also have the added benefit of seeing a fuller picture of the beauty and wonder of God’s fatherhood, when we look at the life of Jesus on earth. Jesus reveals the fullest picture we have of God and God’s fatherhood. As you read about God’s dealings with his adopted child Israel, view that relationship through the lens of the father-son relationship that Jesus has with his heavenly Father. That is the truest image we have of a relationship with God.
Michael Reeves further notes, “Before he ever created, before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his Son.” What was God doing before creation? The Bible indicates that he was being a Father.
What a lovely image. It is no wonder that we are drawn to belief in such a being — our Father in heaven.