We’re taught from early on that God is our Father and we are His children. But relating to God as Father isn’t always easy—especially if our earthly dads struggled to show the love we longed for. In this 16-day study, Pete Briscoe draws our attention to the God who satisfies all our longings for love—highlighting how Scripture reveals Him to be our good and perfect Father.
One of These Things Is Not Like the Other
It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was. —Anne Sexton
People tend to base their view of God on whomever they call “father” in this life. But are earthly fathers a good picture of our heavenly Father? Is God like them?
For some of us, “father” evokes feelings of comfort and security. For others, imagining the sound of our father’s footsteps raises an instinct to hide. You might look back at your father and say, “If God’s anything like my old man, I don’t want anything to do with Him.”
So when we talk about “God the Father,” our minds—not our emotions—must dominate. We need to make a clear distinction between our earthly father and our heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit will use the Bible—not our feelings or earthly experiences—to be our guide as we figure out what is meant by “God the Father.”
Consider Moses’ request in the book of Exodus—and apply it as we search through Scripture for the fatherly qualities of God:
If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. (Exodus 33:13)
In the passages that follow Moses’ request, God answers by revealing no less than fourteen fatherly traits about Himself—each of which is amplified in many other places throughout the Bible.
These traits serve as a wonderful model for fathers here on earth, but they aren’t intended to be a guilt trip that shames us into better performance. Instead, they should encourage all God’s children with the wonderful news of our perfect parent who cherishes, values, and adores us.
Father, I pray that any misconceptions I have about You will be swept away by the truth of Your Word. I want to know You and want to learn about You in a rational way that is free from misleading emotions. Please help me clear my mind so Your Spirit can lead me to the truth. Amen.
My Presence Will Go With You
The first fatherly quality in Exodus is one of the most important for any sort of relationship: He’s around.
The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. (Exodus 33:14)
When Moses asked who would go with him, God said, “I will go with you.” We find this all throughout Scripture. Wherever you go, God will be there.
My dad traveled a lot when I was young. When we were living in England, Dad would sometimes be in the States for months at a time. We missed him terribly. One of the reasons we moved to Milwaukee in 1970 was so that my father could be more invested in our lives—so he could be “around” more. During the years of his absence, my mom pointed me to the “Fatherness of God.” She taught me that He is always around, no matter where I am or what I am doing. While dad was gone, I was forced to seek God’s Fatherness in my life… and His presence became a reality to me.
God is with you right now, even as you read these words, intricately involved in your individual life as a very present Father. No mountain is too high, no valley too low, no river too wide to keep Him away from you. You might even try to run away from God or turn your back on Him, but the moment you stop, you’ll realize that He’s still there with you.
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Not only is God with you, but He ENJOYS being with you! He desires to love you in every way possible.
God, thank You for Your constant presence. Thank You for loving me enough to never abandon me. Please help me remember that You are with me all the time. Amen.
Your Ever-Present Comfort
Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord; and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. —Augustine
Life’s a struggle. Everyone will tell you that. No matter where we end up, we wrestle with a wide array of problems and difficulties—financial, emotional, physical, etc. And for every problem we encounter, there’s no shortage of proposed solutions. Some of the go-to suggestions we hear from earthly fathers include “sort it out yourself” and “get your nose to the grindstone.”
But unlike either of those stances, our heavenly Father tells us one thing that encompasses any problem we might face:
The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. (Exodus 33:14)
God will give us rest? Some of us had fathers who pushed and pushed us to the brink of mental and physical exhaustion. God the Father is different. He comforts us. Yes, He has things for us to do—and those things are very important—but Scripture makes it clear that those things are done by depending on God’s strength working through us rather than us using our strength to try to do things for Him.
“It was I [God]who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek and I bent down to feed them.” (Hosea 11:3-4)
In this passage from Hosea, we see that God not only takes our burdens, but He WANTS to take them because of His unending love for us! There is no limit to what He is able to handle nor to what He will do for you. That brings up a pretty deep question:
What have you been struggling with in your own strength rather than trusting it to the Father who loves you?
Father, take the burdens I’ve placed on myself. I can’t tackle these things on my own. I release to You what I’ve been trying to do myself. I give up trying on my own. I trust in Your strength so I may constantly rest in Your comfort. Amen.
It’s All About Who Knows You
Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. —Katherine Mansfield
I did a chapel for the Milwaukee Brewers many years ago. It was a big deal. Where I used to live, the Brewers were the gods of bat, ball, and diamond. Every devout Wisconsinite watched them on TV. Those who could afford tickets would make the pilgrimage to County Stadium. But to enter the locker room? That was the “holy of holies”—the inner sanctuary of the temple where no mere mortal could ever think to go.
I had an “in,” though. Paul Molitor was the captain of the team, and because I knew him, I was welcome at the lockers. I was even allowed to speak to the players face to face. I shared teaching from the Bible with the entire group, and they listened… all because of Paul. He elevated me to a different level in the eyes of these amazing athletes. They were willing to listen to me because of my relationship with him.
Things worked similarly with God and the Israelites:
Then Moses said to him… “How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:16)
God the Father does the same thing for us. His presence in our lives sets us apart from others. He distinguishes us. As His children, we are spiritually changed and unique in this world… and that makes our message of true Life in Christ attractive to those who are searching for truth and meaning.
Father, I pray that You would elevate my lifestyle in such a way that I am obviously different from the world. Let me be an example of what life is like in You so that others may know Your awesomeness. Amen.
Your Perfect Provision
If God owns everything and knows everything, if he loves us and is perfect and holy in all he does, then everything he gives and everything he withholds can rightly be recognized as a good gift from him, even if we are unable to see it as such. —T. A. Hillard
Sometimes people have unreasonable expectations of God. They expect things He never promised and then get frustrated if they don’t get them right away. But God doesn’t give us everything we want. He gives us what we need.
Moses was aware of the great need he and the Israelites had for God’s presence. It wasn’t just a desire; Moses knew it was a necessity.
Then Moses said to him… “How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked….” (Exodus 33:16-17)
God knew that Moses’ request reflected a real need for their mission—His presence. So God said He would do it, and He provided for their need because He is a perfect provider. Here’s why:
- God owns everything. (Psalm 50:10-12)
- God is generous. (Acts 14:16-17)
- God is aware of our needs. (Matthew 6:31-32)
Therefore, we not only ask God for what we hope He will provide, but we can be confident that He’s providing the very things we need right now!
Can you tell the difference between your desires and what a loving Father knows you need? Do you believe that God is providing for you right now everything that you truly need, just as He will provide for you in the future?
God, thank You that You ARE providing everything I need today. I pray that You make the difference between what I want and what I actually need very clear. Thank You for Your promise of providing for my future, just like You did yesterday and the day before that. Amen.
The Pleasure Is All His
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it. —Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
Maybe it was through art, maybe through fiery, angry sermons… I don’t know where for sure, but somewhere along the line, many of us got the idea that God the Father is angry—and He’s sitting up in heaven on a cloud… keeping score… all the time. He has a list of laws and rules in one hand and a lightning bolt in the other. He’s just waiting for you to screw up. And when you do? Kapow!
Is that accurate?
Not even close. Look at what God told Moses when he requested God’s presence:
“I will do the things you have asked because I am pleased with you…” (Exodus 33:17)
God is pleased with us.
God told Moses that He would be present among them because He was pleased with him. Now you might say, “Yeah, that’s because it’s Moses. I’m no Moses.” Moses is supposed to be this great godly leader, right? Well, he’s supposed to be, but he’s not. Do you know what happened right before this passage? Moses’ followers built a huge, golden cow and worshiped it instead of God. If Moses was supposed to be some great leader, shouldn’t his followers, like, maybe, follow? But in reality, his people were a mess… just like we are, just like you are. But still, God finds pleasure in us in spite of poor performance.
Lord, it’s so hard to understand that even though humanity is broken, You still love us—even in the worst of times. Thank You for finding pleasure in me in Christ, where the world only sees failure! Amen.
Interested and Attentive
Always respond to every impulse to pray. The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this—always obey such an impulse. —Martyn Lloyd-Jones
How important would you feel if your father had 3 billion kids’ phone numbers in his iPhone, and yours was just one of them? How much attention could one man give that many children? Virtually none. But our heavenly Father has no limitations on His power, knowledge, or ability to be everywhere for everyone all at once! He made this clear in His talk with Moses when He said:
“I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:17)
Years ago, I was sitting with thousands of college students at the Urbana conference at Illinois University. The arena was packed to the rafters. At one point in the program, they asked all 20,000 of us to pray… out loud. I was overwhelmed not just by the noise or the cumulative effect but by the simple fact that God was capable of hearing each prayer and answering it perfectly.
For God the Father, every prayer we pray is the only one He hears. There’s no such thing as background prayers. Why?
Because He’s interested.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)
God knows your name, and it’s always on His heart. If you have a thorn in your foot, He cares about it—even though there may be floods and famine elsewhere on the planet. He can give you 100% of His attention and not have any less for anyone else. That’s your significance in God’s eyes!
Father, I’m thankful that You are listening to this prayer and can give Your attention 100% to me! Thank You for being interested in me, for caring for me, for loving me. Amen.
I choose kindness… I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me. —Max Lucado
I love the passages that talk about God being compassionate.
“…for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” (2 Chronicles 30:9)
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate…” (Exodus 34:6)
Verses like these show that God the Father is full of compassion for us. He really cares, and He feels that caring toward you and me.
That’s a very radical thought if you think about it… Compassion simply means “with passion,”—but consider the implications of these three words: God. Compassion. You. Your heavenly Father is not mechanical in His love for you; He feels it.
I was in the Philippines with a mission team during college. In one village, we came across a boy with leprosy. He was shunned by all—an untouchable. But the gracious pastor of the tiny evangelical church in town reached out with his hands. He was the only one willing to embrace the boy’s disfigured face, hands, and legs.
But I’ll never forget the morning I came around the corner and found this little boy sitting in the lap of one of my teammates, Randy. Randy had taught him how to play “Patty-cake.” As Randy’s palms made contact with the boy’s stumps, his face burst into a pure smile, and I saw a vivid picture of the compassion of God—but with one big twist… I’m the boy sitting in the lap of my Father God.
Father, sending Your Son to suffer for me was the ultimate form of compassion! Let me see myself as the leprous child on Your lap. Thank You for loving me with a passion only You could muster, for loving me to wholeness. Please help me to see the world through Your eyes so I may also show Your compassion to the world! Amen.
The Good Gift of Grace
Don’t judge me. I made a lot of money. —Samantha Bee
We are constantly judged in this world by our performance, appearance, and possessions. Although it’s never really said outright, your earthly value is based on these things. Without them, you are nothing.
But God deals with us in no such way. Because He is love, our acceptance is based on something entirely different:
Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:5-7)
He is gracious.
That’s the God we call “Father.” His grace changes the rules on all things. He lavishes His best on us even though we have done nothing to deserve it.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What can you say to that? How do we respond to such love?
God, thank You SO much for holding us to a different standard than the world. Releasing me from constantly changing expectations that are unachievable is relieving. Help me to focus on Your gift, salvation I cannot earn, and find worth in that above anything else! Amen.
The Father’s Perfect Patience
Lord, give me patience, and give it to me NOW! —Unknown
Remember when I mentioned that people often build their view of God based on what their earthly fathers were like? Whereas many of us have great, loving dads, some people have a father figure who is constantly angry with his family. Perhaps he vents stress from other parts of his life onto the nearest and least resistant source. Or maybe he holds the people nearest to him to ridiculously high standards and reacts irrationally when they aren’t met. Regardless of the source, angry dads can lead people to think that God the Father is like their father—angry at everybody and everything. That’s not only wrong but contradictory to what the Bible tells us!
God revealed Himself to Moses as the Father who is “…slow to anger…” (Exodus 34:6). And David sang of the Father with words like these:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love… As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:8,13-14)
God the Father is patient.
I’m learning this one the hard way. I’ve done some basketball coaching over the years. Back when my son Liam was just a little guy in elementary school, with years of learning ahead of him, I (embarrassingly) expected him to be where I was when I played in college! I would see what he was doing, expect something else, deal with him in “coach” lingo, and see his eyes well up with tears. Oh, how I sometimes wish it was God coaching that team and not me! I was impatient with him, expecting him to be what he would one day be today.
God knows our weaknesses. He knows how we have been made, and He gives us slack when others might just cut us off. Amazingly, He sees us as we are “in Christ” and knows full well who He is shaping us to become. He recognizes the process of development and growth and is thoroughly patient with us as we trudge along the path. I don’t know about you, but I am thoroughly happy we have a Father like that!
Father, Your patience is long, deep, and loving. I don’t deserve such an act of caring, so thank You for caring enough to act like that toward me. I pray this patience will be shown in my life as I interact with others so they can see what You’ve done in me! Amen.
Giving Credit Where It’s Due
“Knowing” in the Biblical sense is a very intimate thing. It implies to actually experience. It is not just head knowledge, cerebral assent, or muscular posing. John 8:32 says, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.’ You participate; you experience life and make it “biographical.” So, your theology becomes your biography. —Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat
This entire time we’ve been looking at different aspects of who God the Father is, talking about what He wants to do in our lives, and considering how He wants us to act toward Him. These are definitely important things to have in your head…
But the buck doesn’t stop there.
It’s one thing to know all of these things in our heads (to know things about God), but what a tragedy it would be if we never go further than that! God’s revelation evokes a response in the heart of those who are sensitive to His leading. When Moses received God’s revelation, he saw himself in proportion to the God he now knew. And how did he respond?
Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. (Exodus 34:8)
He saw that God is praiseworthy.
Moses praised God with his whole being. It wasn’t just something he knew in his head. He was experiencing God in a radical way, getting to know Him personally. Not only does it put us in our place and God in His, it also changes our hearts and deepens our experience of spiritual intimacy with our Creator.
After Moses praised Him, God began to make Himself known to others through Moses. God had revealed Himself as Father. Moses saw himself as a child. And together, they walked forward in truth to the glory of God.
Father, whenever I get the chance to learn more about You, I pray that You take what I’m putting in my head and move it to my heart. Make this REAL in my life. I want to radically experience You every day! I love You, and You are worthy of ALL my praise! Amen.
Your Changeless Father Is Faithful
Your love never fails,
It never gives up,
It never runs out on me. —“One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture
Fathers can be busy people. Oftentimes they have jobs that require all their attention, energy, and time. Sometimes they make time for hobbies, golf, and the weekend binge of TV football… leaving other parts of their life (like their kids) neglected and forgotten.
God not only has billions of people to interact with, but He also has the rest of the universe to play with. Chances are that the inner workings of a solar system are way more interesting than anything we have to capture God’s attention! And yet, what does the Bible tell us about God’s attitude toward us?
“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
Because God is God, He doesn’t get sidetracked; He doesn’t get distracted; He doesn’t get bored. He has everything He needs right now. He has absolutely no reason to leave you, or give up on you, or go somewhere else.
He is faithful.
Now, my dad is a faithful man. In fact, I know what I’m going to say about him at his funeral: “He was faithful to his Savior, to his bride, and to his calling. We were fortunate to have that model of faithfulness in our family.” But compared to God, my dad’s faithfulness is minuscule. God never changes, never flounders and never turns His back.
When we believe in His faithfulness, peace, and relief, descend on our fearful souls. He’s not going anywhere; He’ll keep His promises; and He’ll follow through with His pronouncements. This makes our faith walk both possible and logical.
Father, thank You for Your incredible faithfulness, for being the constant in my life, for better or for worse. I pray that You help me take to heart the promise of Your presence and help me to remember it when I need it most. Amen.
Alas! how difficult it is not to betray one’s guilt by one’s looks. —Ovid
Guilt is huge… and heavy. Like a lead anchor strapped to our feet, past sins—both big and small—can submerge us in an ocean of shame. This causes some of us to sincerely believe that our sins are unforgivable by man (which may be true) and sometimes even by God (which isn’t true!). We can end up thinking God doesn’t want to forgive us, or worse yet, that He won’t forgive us.
And yet, like so many times before, we know from the Bible that God is quite the opposite.
“…forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:7)
He is forgiving. God the Father forgives the one who truly believes in Him. He forgives everything and does so completely.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)
You may need to let that soak in for a moment.
The Bible is a description of the forgiving character of God. It culminates in the New Testament in the person of Jesus Christ by the method of His death and resurrection. It’s all because He is a forgiving Father.
He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
God, I am not worthy of Your love and much less of Your forgiveness because of my sin. Thank You SO much for having compassion, for being gracious, and for being patient with me. You not only look past my sin but save me from it! Thank You for Your forgiveness. I believe in it. Amen.
The Necessity of Justice
Everybody wants to see justice done, to somebody else. —Bruce Cockburn
In some families, the father punishes his children in ways that aren’t right or fair. Maybe he’s too harsh on his child for a small mix-up in the house, or maybe he withholds something good from them for no good reason.
Earthly fathers can misuse the power given to them. And if we apply these imperfections to our concept of God, we’ll end up questioning His authority, motives, and, ultimately, His justice.
If anyone should have been inclined to think God is unfair, it would have been Job. That guy lost everything he had—but he kept his cool and stood by his innocence. His friend, Elihu, helped to make sense of it all by affirming God’s justice:
“He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.” (Job 34:11-12)
He is just.
God loves His people, but that doesn’t erase the fact that He is also fair. He is perfect, so everything He does is right and good—meaning that He cannot overlook sin.
So we can thank Him that justice was satisfied on the cross. Sin was not overlooked that horrid day when Jesus paid the price so we could be forgiven. That act of sacrifice shows God to be both loving and fair. If we are in Christ, the punishment for our sin falls on Christ.
But for those who refuse this gift, their punishment will be swift and just.
Father, don’t let earthly injustice taint my perspective of You. Give me eyes to see the cross as the historical place where Your power and justice, and love came together perfectly for me. Amen.
The Father’s Core Quality
It is staggering that God should love sinners; yet it is true. God loves creatures who have become unlovely and (one would have thought) unlovable… Love among men is awakened by something in the beloved, but the love of God is free, spontaneous, unevoked, uncaused. God loves men because He has chosen to love them. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God
God is enormous and unfathomable. There is more to God than we could ever hope to understand on this earth. Fortunately, out of His incredibly vast self, He chose to reveal the most important and most accessible parts about Himself to us. And there’s one trait He’s revealed that’s the most incredible of all.
“…abounding in love … maintaining love to thousands…” (Exodus 34:6-7)
He is loving.
This one attribute of God is at the core of all we seek; the answer to all the questions we ask about knowing Him and making Him known.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)
Deep inside each and every one of us is the desire to be loved. And while we might find some love in limited measure from things the world offers us, the true love that we seek can only be found in Him because He is the love that we seek.
Oh God, I can’t possibly thank You enough for what You’ve done for me! Your love is endless and unconditional. I pray that You will make that love apparent in my life as I interact with others. Before Your love, I was lost, but now I’m found! Live through me in such a way that Your love brings others to Yourself! Amen.
From Facts to Faith
It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand. —Mark Twain
With revelation comes responsibility. With knowledge comes opportunity. That’s certainly the case when it comes to God as our perfect Father. We can learn all the basic facts about God the Father easily enough. But are we willing to allow the Holy Spirit to live through us in such a way that those facts become faith?
The city of Jerusalem didn’t make that transition from fact to faith. Though the prophets came time and time again, the people of Jerusalem still chose to live independently of God.
Woe to the city of oppressors,
rebellious and defiled!
She obeys no one,
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the LORD,
she does not draw near to her God. (Zephaniah 3: 1-2)
Ouch. What a waste! Knowing the truth about God is like a huge invitation to an incredible festival. Open that invitation, and it says:
Hey you! Come feast with Me! Come rest in Me! Come as you are, and just be with Me! RSVP ASAP, God.
Ask God, right now, to focus your heart on just one of His attributes—the one fact that He wants you to transfer into faith today:
- He’s around
- He’s comforting
- He distinguishes
- He provides
- He’s pleased
- He’s interested
- He’s compassionate
- He’s gracious
- He’s patient
- He’s praiseworthy
- He’s faithful
- He’s forgiving
- He’s just
- He’s loving
Father, take this one truth about who You are and conform my life to it. I rest in You now. I stop my own efforts. I ask that, in Jesus, You would redirect me, give me trust in You, and draw me into deeper intimacy with You because of this truth. Amen.
- Which of God’s fatherly qualities speaks most tenderly to your heart? Why?
- How is the cross a powerful revelation of God’s fatherly character?
- In what ways has this study deepened the intimacy of your relationship with God as your Father?
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