I thought about this day a lot over the past four weeks and how I should approach it. Over the years I found that the best way to serve the people God has called me to serve as their pastor is to show them the God of the Bible. I am struck by the irony that today is the first day we begin a deep dive into The Lord’s Prayer which is something I planned on doing from the start of this sermon series. This sermon will be shorter than usual to save time for our announcement at the end of our service, but today I begin with, “Our Father.”
In Matthew, this prayer is appropriately inserted in just about the center of the Sermon on the Mount. The only other Gospel that includes The Lord’s Prayer is found in Luke 11:2-4 which was Jesus’ answer to the disciples request for Jesus to teach them to pray. My guess is that Jesus recited his prayer more than once, and what I know is that its purpose is not to function as some mantra to be repeated over and over again, but a model for how we ought to pray.
To Whom Do We Pray?
When we pray, we pray to a God that the Christian is invited to call, “Father.” This is the part of the sermon I really want you to hear. Who is this God that we call “Father”?
Our Heavenly Father is Elohim (Gen. 1:1)
Our Father is the creator God who spoke the galaxies into existence with only the word of his mouth, and he did it in six days. The Bible says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 11:3). Why do we believe this? Well… we read not only in Genesis that God did it this way, but we also read in Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.”
Our Heavenly Father is El Elyon (Gen. 14:18-20; Psalm 57:2)
Our Father is El Elyon, which means, “The Most High God.” There is no God like him and there is not a god above him. Just as we read in Isaiah 46, “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…’” (vv. 8-10).
Our Heavenly Father is El Roi (Gen. 16:13-14)
Our Father is El Roi, which means, “The God Who Sees.” Nothing goes unnoticed by him. He sees our circumstances, he sees the secret places, he sees when know else notices, he sees all things: “…does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work” (Prov. 24:12)?
Our Heavenly Father is El Shaddai (Gen. 17:2-3)
Our Father is El Shaddai, “God Almighty” which also means, “The All-Sufficient One.” He lacks absolutely nothing. He does not need to take out a loan, he never needs to take a rain-check, he cannot be outdone, and he is able to do what he says he will do. This is the name God used to remind Abraham that he does what only he can, and he will do it only in his perfect time.
Our Heavenly Father is Yahweh (Exod. 3:13-14)
Our Father is Yahweh who is the covenant keeping God; Yahweh does not break his promises. Moses encountered “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…” in the form of a burning bush. It was this God who commissioned Moses to represent him before Israel, and when he asked who he should tell the Hebrews who it was that sent him to them. So, God told him: “I AM who I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM WHO I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). However, he is not only the covenant keeping God he is also so much more! For he is also…
- Yahweh-Jireh (Gen. 22:11-14)… Our Father who provides (the Lord will Provide) for his children.
- Yahweh-Rapha (Exod. 15:26)… Our Father who heals his children.
- Yahweh-Nissi (Exod. 17:16): Our Father whose children can find their identity in him.
- Yahweh-Mekoddishkem (Exod. 31:12): Our Father who sanctifies his children.
- Yahweh-Shalom (Judges 6:22-24): Our Father who is the peace of his children.
- Yahweh-Sabaoth (Psalm 46:7): Our Father who is a refuge and fortress for his children when all else seems to give way.
- Yahweh-Raah (Psalm 23:1): Our Father who is the good Shepherd of his children.
- Yahweh-Tsidkenu (Jer. 23:5-6): Our Father who declares righteous all who find their hope and salvation through Jesus Christ, his Son.
Our Heavenly Father is Adonai
Our Father is Adonai which is another way for calling God the Sovereign One. He is the one we follow as he leads us, even when it means that we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death or follow him when we are not sure what the outcome might be, we must follow him.
As I thought about the different names of God in the Bible, it seems to me that just about every time his people faced something extraordinary, they were reminded of who he was and continues to be:
- Adonai is Elohim who brings into existence that which does not exist.
- Adonai is El Elyon, the God David wrote about in Psalm 57 as he reflected on the time when he had to hide in a cave while king Saul sought to kill him.
- Adonai is El Roi who comforted Hagar who no none else saw except God. God saw Hagar’s pain and the way Sarah mistreated her, and met her in her pain.
- Adonai is El Shaddai who was able to follow through with a promise he made to Abraham and his wife Sarah that they would parent their own child one day even though Sarah was way past the age of being able to have a child. Why? Because the All-Sufficient One can do the impossible.
- Adonai is Yahweh who is able to take a stuttering 80-year-old, washed-up, fearful shepherd by the name of Moses and use him to lead millions of slaves out of the bondage of Egypt with the aid of a number of plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and so much more. Why did he do it? Because Yahweh keeps his promises.
Adonai is the One we call “Father!” This is the One we come before every time we pray.
When we approach God in prayer, we can approach Him like a child approaches his/her father. The point Jesus is making here is that God is not unapproachable because He calls all whose faith rests in Jesus His children. Romans 8:14 informs us why it is we can approach God as a child approaches a father: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!”