The teaching about the Fatherhood of God is present in the Old Testament, but in a subdued form. The father emphasis there revolves around that of a given family as an integral element of the nation under God’s direction. The focus shifts in the New Testament in which the Fatherhood of God becomes the unifying relationship between Him and all believers. We get a hint of that revolutionary change in Matthew 23:9 in which Jesus says, “and call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heave.” He was not suggesting that we substitute pa or papa for the word father. Instead, He was setting the framework for a theology built around the family of God which transcends human relationships. In the fellowship of believers, human loyalty to a paternal relationship must never be used to disrupt the functioning of the local church.
Yet the Yahweh of the Old Testament dispenses spiritual benefits (vv. 2-5). His worshipers are called upon to “bless the Lord” with the soul, the center of affection and gratitude. This admonition is repeated in verses 2, 22 and in 104:1, 35. These are not vain repetitions criticized by Jesus (Matt. 6:8), but represent spiritual emotion as exhibited in His words on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46c).
The reader is called upon not to forget God’s benefits. Too often we hide behind the quibble, “but what have you done for me lately?” Unfortunately, we remember hurtful acts longer than beneficial ones, remembering the bad ones as far back as childhood. The psalmist starts with the most basic relationship in that God forgives all our iniquities. For every complaint against our treatment by others, we have committed acts forgotten by us, of sins against God. He cleans the slate of wrong incurred by us. As for healing our diseases, we understand that healing must come from God, but not necessarily in the way and time we might expect. The healing of the soul is a top priority.
In our daily activities, we can recount many times when God rescued us from destructive activities as a result of His providential care. We realize more and more that He crowns us “with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” We come to realize He satisfies our tastes with good things and constantly renews our strength like the eagles who use contrary air currents to rise to new heights.
The Bible then turns our attention to the plight of the oppressed (v. 6). Concern for the poor and oppressed, usually understood as a reference to widows and orphans, was a prominent feature of the Mosaic Law. It commanded harvesters to leave areas of the field accessible to the needy. The giving of alms was a religious duty. In the great eighth century prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah), attention was directed the first time in history to prophetic voices demanding help for the oppressed. We see the beginning of this emphasis in some of the psalms.
Yahweh deals with His people much as would a father (vv. 8-13). The most dominant feature of God is His lovingkindness, one translation of the Hebrew word hesed. It comes the closest to the New Testament concept of grace and becomes a forerunner of it. The psalmist describes God as slow to anger and full of mercy, one who is not always chiding His children for every mistake. His mercy is described as being as high as the heavens are above the earth. He has removed transgressions as far as east is west. He then compares God’s feeling for His children as a father who has compassion on his own children. Just as human children render honor and respect toward their fathers, so does the Heavenly Father expect His children to revere Him.
Finally, the mercy of the Lord reaches from everlasting to everlasting (vv. 17-18). God’s mercy is not a quality of temporary duration which He applies in particular circumstances. It is a part of His eternal being, a quality necessarily existing in Him. However, human experience of it fulfill two requirements. (1) They are participants in His covenant. (2) They must remember the terms of the covenant and obey its commandments.
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