I feel like one of the unintentional capstones of many churches in the past couple of generations (at least) has been an ignorance of the role of God the Father. Maybe I just don’t remember my upbringing correctly, but I don’t feel as though I was truly introduced to the Dad-ness of God until even after I was saved in the summer of 2011. And I grew up in church!
See, the God that I grew up knowing was King, which is absolutely correct. What wasn’t correct was the lack of of a fatherly view that I was taught. God is King, yes. But He is so much more than that. This leads to the story, which is a little less personal and more factual than Part I.
One of the first things that I learned post-salvation is the weight that the name “YHWH” (pronounced yah-way) carries. YHWH is the most personal name for God. And when I see most personal, I mean that it is the name that God explicitly gave himself when talking to Moses in Exodus. I learned that orthodox Jews, both in the Old Testament and now, will not say the name (much less tattoo it) because they see it as too holy and pure for human lips to mutter. And honestly…it is. That is exactly why I got it tattooed on my body.
When Jesus busted on the rabbinical scene in 1st century Israel, he came on as a “semicha” rabbi. To put it simply, some of the roles of a semicha rabbi was that they typically travelled and taught rather than staying in one specific city or temple. Another role of theirs was to interpret the Torah (the Law). A semicha rabbi might say something like this when teaching:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…
“You’ve heard this…but I say this…”
This isn’t a rabbi trying to illegitimate Scripture; rather, this is a rabbi offering the correct interpretation of Scripture. That quote is from Jesus in Matthew 5, if you would like to see more of Jesus’ semicha rabbi-ness. So, what does this have to do with YHWH? Well, I’m excited that you asked that question because that’s exactly where the story lies. Let’s go to Matthew 6.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.”
Jesus already had an entire chapter before this to blow his audience’s mind with his interpretation of Torah (not sure their reactions, but I’m sure someone there had to be mind-blown). This phrase, though…this phrase probably silenced the large crowd that was with him. I can hear the crowd muttering right now, “Did he just call God ‘patēr’?”
This word, “patēr”, is the Greek word for Father. In the Old Testament, the word that would have been used would be the word “abba”. Abba is a name that only natural children will call their dad; that’s how intimate of a name it is. Did you catch that? Jesus busts on the scene and tells this large crowd of Jews to pray to God and call him Father!
He doesn’t say “When you pray, call God ‘Lord’ until He deems you holy enough to call him ‘Father'”. No, Jesus jumps from a name that is unthinkable to speak (YHWH) and goes straight for the most intimate name a child can call a parent (patēr/abba).
THIS is just a glimpse, a fraction of the freedom that Jesus brought with him and lavished on those for which He died on the cross. I am so incredibly forgetful of the freedom that Jesus gives me. I get to call God “daddy” and I get to hold both hands up and be picked up and held and told that He is taking care of everything and that He loves me and that I am free. This is what any good earthly father does, so how much better is our Heavenly Father? This is why I got this tattoo on my right wrist: I need the constant physical reminder that I am free and that it is for freedom that Christ has set me free.