And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done…
I. From these words we learn, first, that GOD IS A FATHER — "When ye pray, say 'Father!'" At the very outset, let us beware of taking this blessed word, Father, figuratively, or, to use the language of the theologians, as au accommodation. Rather is it precisely the opposite. It is the human fatherhood which is an accommodation to the Divine, not the Divine which is an accommodation to the human. For the spiritual exists before the material, as the substance exists before the shadow it casts. The meaning, the final cause, of the earthly fatherhood itself, what is it but to testify to and interpret the heavenly? Hence the deep solemnity of the Parental Institution. The parent is to the infant the image and representation of the Parent in Heaven. And the first lesson the infant learns is Fatherhood. Happy if in learning it he learns the Divine Father. hood as well as the human! Thus, the parental institution is the Heavenly Father's means of lifting His earthly children to His own Divine Fatherhood. And now let us ponder the Divine Fatherhood in light of the human, and note some of the meanings it has for us. And, first, Fatherhood means sirehood, or communication of nature. Animals are God's creatures; men are God's children. This is the very point which the Lord urges when He exhorts His disciples to trust the Heavenly Father. "Behold the birds of the air; they are not God's children; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them; will He not much more feed you, who are His sons?" This Divine inspiration or inbreathing it is which makes man God's image, God's offspring, God's son. How august the Divine record of man's genealogy: "Who was the son of Enoch, who was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God." Sirehood, then, is entailment of nature, and sonhood is inheritance of nature. As the difference between parent and babe is a difference in degree rather than in kind, so is the difference between God and man. Man shares finitely in God's infinite nature. And this is true for all men. God is not only a Father; God is the Father. True, Holy Scripture speaks of adoption, or a spectral sonship. As an earthly father discriminates between his children, admitting the dutiful ones to special intimacies, partnerships, bequests, and the like, so it is with the Heavenly Father. There is a sonship of nature in the sphere of manhead; and there is a sonship of grace in the sphere of Christhead. Again: Fatherhood means authority. The government by the Father is natural, direct, personal, supreme, inextinguishable. And this is God's government. It is based on Fatherhood. Just as an earthly father has the natural right to rule his offspring, so it is with the heavenly. Parentage, in simple virtue of its being parent. age, is imperative. God is Father-King. And authority means the right — and, when needful, the duty — to punish. Alas, how often in this fallen world is punishment needed, e.g., to vindicate authority or to amend character! And observe precisely the basis of the right to chasten: it is not age, or strength, or stature; it is Fatherhood. No man has the right to punish his neighbour's child, however vicious he may be: none but the child's own father has that right; and he has that right because he is father. Let us beware then of sentimental views of God's Fatherhood. But let us beware of the opposite extreme. There may be slavish views of God as well as sentimental. Particularly is this the case among the heathen; their God is force. Witness Jupiter Tonans, Thor, Siva, and the like And so, once more, Fatherhood means Love. The Heavenly Father's love is shown in the realm of Providence. Just as an earthly father reveals his fatherhood by arranging the conditions and providing for the welfare of his children, so does the Heavenly Father reveal in the same way His Fatherhood. And as the earthly father does not leave the wants and affairs of his children — their market and clothing and school and health and holiday expenses — robe regulated by machinery, but exercises over them his personal vigilance and guardianship, being, in short, a sort of Providence; so the Heavenly Father does not leave the wants and affairs of His children to the blind operations of Nature's laws and the inexorable sequences of fate, but He exercises over them a personal vigilance, protection, and guidance. What man, accustomed to take broad and observant views of human history, does not see that the wisest and strongest of men are often but as little infants in the Heavenly Father's hands, sheltered by Him, guarded by Him, led by Him, arranged by Him? God's Providence grows out of God's Fatherhood. But the crowning proof that the Heavenly Father loves us is seen in the Incarnation of His Son,
II. But our text teaches a second lesson. It is this: ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS — "When ye pray, say: 'Our Father'" Each is to carry the race with him, making his closet the world's oratory. As long as He who is no respecter of persons, and with whom is no variableness or shadow of turning, invites Jew and Gentile, Mongolian and Caucasian, Nubian and Anglo-Saxon, to call Him Father, so long are Jew and Gentile, Mongolian and Caucasian, Nubian and Anglo-Saxon, brothers. These two words — Our Father — for ever settle the question of the moral unity of the race. Mankind is more than an aggregate of individuals; it is a family group; we are members of one another. Moreover, these words for ever settle the missionary question. In these words — Our Father — is born and fostered and will triumph the missionary enterprise, the true "Enthusiasm of Humanity."
III. But our text teaches a third lesson; it is this: GOD IS OUR HEAVENLY FATHER — "When ye pray, say: 'Our Father who art in Heaven.'" And first, negatively: the term Heaven, as occurring in our text, must not be taken in the local sense. Containing in Himself all things, God cannot be contained in anything. "Lo, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee." Affirmatively: the heaven of our text is the moral heaven rather than the local. To express moral excellence by terms of altitude is an instinct. How naturally we use such phrases as these: "Exalted worth, high resolve, lofty purpose, elevated views, sublime character, eminent purity!" How naturally, too, we use opposite phrases: "Low instincts, base passions, degraded character, grovelling habits, stooping to do it!" In like manner, pagans instinctively localize their gods on mountain-crests: e.g., the Persians on Caucasus, the Hindoos on Meru, the Greeks on Olympus. So the Jews themselves, when fallen into idolatry, consecrated high places and hill-tops. Doubtless here, too, is the secret of the arch, and especially the spire, as the symbol of Christian architecture — the Church is an aspiration. Loftiness being the symbol of whatever is morally excellent, to say that our Father is in heaven is to ascribe to our Father every moral excellence. And, first, heaven suggests our Father's immensity. Nothing seems so remote from us or gives such an idea of vastness as the dome of heaven. Again: heaven suggests our Father's sovereignty. Be not rash, then, with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter a word before God: for God is in heaven and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few. Again: heaven suggests our Father's spirituality. Nothing seems so like that rarity of texture which we so instinctively ascribe to pure, incorporeal spirit, as that subtle, tenuous ether which it is believed pervades the clear, impalpable sky, and, indeed, all immensity. Again: heaven suggests our Father's purity. Nothing is so exquisite an emblem of absolute spotlessness and eternal chastity as the unsullied expanse of heaven, untrodden by mortal foot, unswept by aught but angel wings. Again: heaven suggests our Father's beatitude. We cannot conceive a more perfect emblem of felicity and moral splendour than light. Once more: heaven suggests our Father's obscurity. For though God Himself is light, yet there are times when even the very heavens themselves obscure His brightness. "Why has Christ commanded us to add to the address, Our Father, the words, Who art in heaven?" asks the Heidelberg Catechism. And the answer is: "That we may have no earthly thought of the heavenly majesty of God." A true and noble answer. The term — Father — expresses God's relation to us — it is fatherly. The term — heaven — expresses that Father's character — it is heavenly. Thus our text give us God for Father, man for brother, heaven for character.
(G. D. Boardman, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.