“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV)
In his prophetic writing Isaiah lets us know that this long anticipated Savior-Messiah will be called Everlasting Father. Now for us as New Testament people we are very familiar with this title. We’ve come to know God as precisely this, a Heavenly Father. Jesus uses the expression more than 150 times to refer to God. Most notably he taught us to pray to “Our Father in Heaven.” And the Apostle Paul also urges us to cry out to God our “Abba, Father.”
But for the first audience hearing Isaiah’s message, it would have been almost completely unheard of to refer to God as Father. In fact, while the word Father is used over 1,200 times in the Old Testament, less than ten of those instances refer to God as the Father. Isaiah uses the title the most, four times alone, nearly half of all the references to God as Father found in the Old Testament (9:6; 22:21; 63:16; 64:8).
Now I fully understand that a lot of people are hesitant at, even resistant to, this idea of calling God their Father. Usually because there is a lot of negative association between them and their earthly fathers and so they can’t bear the connection. As someone who personally didn’t really grow up with a Father because he took his own life by suicide, I get it. I really do.
But I think to ignore or avoid this title of Everlasting Father because of those negative associations would be a huge mistake.
Because what we see beginning to happen here with the prophet Isaiah is a revolutionary shift. The more familiar understandings from that day and age of God as almighty, unapproachable, impersonal, mysterious, and all-powerful are slowly being replaced with an image of God as personal, intimate, and relatable.
For people who had gone their whole lives thinking of God as some distant supreme entity, think about what it must have been like for them to consider God as a person instead of a power, as someone focused on relationship rather than requirements.
Not only is there a shift happening here to a concept of God as more personal, intimate, and relatable as denoted by this title “Everlasting Father.” But this revolutionary concept is carried even further in the incarnation, which we celebrate this season of Advent.
It is through the birth of Jesus that we can come to know God for ourselves in relationship, because he has taken up residence among us. This God who would otherwise be thought of as distant or impersonal or detached from our lives, is suddenly intimately involved and entirely relatable. We can now personally come to know him as a Father, a parent, someone who gives life, loves unconditionally, provides for our needs, encourages, and protects. This happens on a worldwide scale, but it can also happen on a personal level in each one of our hearts and lives.
Part of what it means for us to search for the Savior this season, is to search for this God who is personal and relatable. And to learn to live into this new revolutionary reality that he is our Everlasting Father, but also that we are his children. All of which, we’ll be exploring more this coming Sunday, so see you then!
“But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” (Isaiah 63:16)