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  • Writer's pictureHoward Thompson

God of Our Fathers

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

I have been reflecting on the modern reality that even if a person’s parent(s) were regular church attenders (even that is unlikely today in many a western society) chances are less than 50% that they have continued that tradition. Reflecting on this brings to mind several places in the Lord’s Word where mention is made of the “God of our Fathers,” meaning more generally the faith that our ancestors have expressed. Such references to the “God of our Fathers” is often accompanied by expressions of sadness that the writer is not experiencing the same “god.”

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?

O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.

But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.

Our fathers trusted in You;

Why are You so far from helping Me? (repeated)

~ Psalm 22:1-4 ~

These opening verses from Psalm 22 which capture, in the internal sense, the state of the Lord’s passion also capture, in the literal sense, David’s own struggles and seem to capture our own varying state of belief and unbelief. The state I write of is that which each of us experiences as we navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of the stream of our lives. If we are committed to a belief in God many of us expect that God will give benefit to us. If we believe in God, God will protect us from harm. Readers of Swedenborg, however, understand that the Lord does not work in this way; by bestowing on His believers natural blessings and punishing those who hate Him.

“He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” ~ Matthew 5:45

The Lord’s love and His wisdom are constantly flowing into each of us, leaving us in freedom to receive this or not. A person’s reception of this influx from the Lord is based, not on the decisions of the Lord but on the decisions and actions of the person. Understanding of this truth, however, is not clear in the literal sense of the Word as there are many passages that speak of the Lord benefiting us if we believe in Him and punishing our enemies for not believing in Him.

The person, however, who is able to see beyond the literal sense of the Word comes to understand that the nature of the Lord and how He operates is far more than this simple idea of “belief and benefit.” It is this developing understanding that struck me recently. During my preparation for a sermon on Gideon I lingered over the following verse.

Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” ~ Judges 6:13

It hit me that this very thought, “where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about,” is a thought each of us has many times as we progress in our relationship with the Lord. Consider that our fathers, representing our parents who are the first ones to introduce us to the Lord and the Word, wish us to know the Lord the same way that they have. But there is a problem. How many of us listen, at first, to the lessons of our parents? Like all children, we must learn many of our lessons through experience. Each of us has to develop our own understanding and this is done by living our lives while trying to find our own way.

Recognise that our parent’s speak to us from a lifetime of experience, a lifetime of their own developing faith in the Lord. They speak to us with certainty of the Lord’s presence, counsel and love. While we may believe that what they say is true, still we must confirm these beliefs from our own experience of the Lord. When we, in our first efforts to live a life in keeping with the Lord’s commandments do not find the promised blessings come our way, we find ourselves in the position of Gideon; “where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about?”

Our parents may have many lessons to teach us but until we confirm those lessons through how we live our lives we are no better off than Gideon.

Of course, the God of our fathers is the one God of heaven and earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, but He remains the God of our fathers until, through life, we can confirm Him as our God. Then, and only then, can we start telling our own children of His miracles.

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