One God - The Father
J. Foster Crane, New Zealand
"To us there is but one God - the Father", 1 Cor. 6.
It is a comparatively easy matter to take our Bibles and read about the Person and work of Christ, the Son of God, even though we have never seen Him.
It is far more difficult to understand the Person of God, the Father; even the disciples felt their need of help when they said, 'Show us the Father and 'we will be content', John 14. 8. John writes, 'No man hath seen God at any time', John 1. 18, and Paul speaks of 'the living God' who is 'eternal, immortal, invisible . . . dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see', 1 Tim. 1. 17; 6. 16.
In the in the period from Adam to Moses God was generally known as 'El', 'Elohim', 'El Elyon' and similar names. He was God the Creator, the Mighty One, invisible, awesome, alone and distant form man - the 'high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity', Isa. 57. 15. Heaven (was) His throne and earth His footstool, Acts 7. 49.
To Moses, however, God revealed Himself by His personal Name -Jehovah or Yahweh, 'I appeared unto Abraham . . . Isaac, and . . . Jacob', by the name God Almighty, (Shaddai) but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them', Exod. 6. 3, 'I am Jehovah: that is my Name', Isa, 42. 8; Psa. 83. 18.
Jehovah, however, is more than a mere name; it is a word with a meaning, it expresses what God is, i.e. He is the great, unchanging, eternal, self-existing 'I AM THAT I AM', Exod. 3. 13-15 - the One that has being within Himself. Jehovah was the personal God of His chosen people - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants; 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God (Jehovah our Elohim) is one Lord', Deut. 6. 4. The name 'Jehovah', usually written 'LORD' on our English Bibles, is used some 6400 times in the Old Testament.
He placed His Name on His people and on their gathering centres - the tabernacle, the temple, and the city of Jerusalem. He was there, Deut. 12. 5, 11; Neh. 1. 9; 1 Kgs. 8. 16. The people were precious to Him; all the covenant promises given to the Fathers were assured to them. In spite of their failure He would not fail, 'I am Jehovah, I change not therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed', Mai. 3. 6.
But Jehovah, with few exceptions, was not a God who was personally known by the people. His presence, glory and power, were seen and heard in the signs and voice at Mount Sinai and in the shadowy types, imagery, and figures of the tabernacle, the temple, the offerings, the cloud etc., but He Himself was distant and feared by the people.
In the presence of God Moses and the people 'trembled' Exod. 19. 16; Heb. 12. 21; Elijah covered his face, 1 Kgs. 19. 13; Isaiah confessed his sins, Isa. 6. 5; Ezekiel 'fell on his face', Ezek. 1. 28; as did John, Rev. 1. 17; Belshazzer's 'knees smote one against another', Dan. 5. 6. Jehovah was 'hoiy', Josh. 24. 19, a 'consuming fire', Heb. 12. 29.
His name was 'great', Mai. 1. 11, 'everlasting', Isa. 63. 16, 'glorious', Isa. 12. 4. A name to be feared and revered, Psa. 111. 9. Moses wrote concerning Him, thou shalt 'fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God (Jehovah Elohim), Deut. 28. 58; Nehemiah writes, 'Blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise', Neh. 9. 5; Isaiah addresses God as 'the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy', Isa. 57. 15. Moses again - 'Who is like unto thee, O Jehovah, among the Gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders', Exod. 15. 11. Even the Philistines had to say, 'Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God (Jehovah Elohim)?, 1 Sam. 6. 20.
In Old Testament times nobody - kings, priests, prophets or people -could afford to treat the person of Jehovah Elohim with disrespect or indifference. Those who feared and thought upon His name, could expect kindness and mercy for He was a God 'ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness', Neh. 9. 17; but those who despised and profaned His holy name, Mai. 1. 6; Lev. 22. 2, 22, could expect the 'fire' of His wrath to fall on them. The sons of Aaron were 'consumed in fire' because they offered 'strange fire' to the Lord, Lev. 10. 1, and those who looked into or touched the holy ark were smitten in death. It is a 'fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God', Heb. 10. 31.
Turning to the New Testament, however, God - Jehovah Elohim - is seen visibly present on earth in the Person of the Son - 'God was manifest in the flesh', 1 Tim. 3. 16. As 'Emmanuel' Jesus was 'God with us', as 'Jesus' (Old Testament Yeshua) He was 'Jehovah our Salvation', Matt. 1. 21, 23, To 'call upon the name of Jehovah' was to confess Christ as Saviour and Lord, Acts 2. 21; Rom. 10. 13.
The God of the Old Testament is no longer distant and unknowable for, in the Person of the son, He is revealed as the heavenly Father of the New Testament, Matt. 6. 26. For thirty odd years Jesus, as a man, walked in perfect harmony with God, His Father: He came from His Father, He did the works of His Father, He obeyed the will of His Father, He spoke the words of His Father, He prayed to His Father, He claimed equality with His father, John 5. 23 and eventually returned to His Father. He was the way to the Father and committed his disciples to the Father's care. To Jesus, God was, 'Father, Lord of heaven and earth', Matt. 11. 25.
With His departure God was no longer visibly present on earth, but by reason of His sinless life, atoning death and triumphant resurrection a new relationship has been established between God and man. For the believer in the Son, Jehovah Elohim of the Old Testament has become 'the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ', Eph. 1. 17; 3. 16. The Father loves His people, John 14. 21, dwells within them, 14. 23, empowers them with the Holy Spirit, Gal. 4. 6, 'keeps them', John 17. 11.
Believers, in turn, are called by the Name of the Father, Eph. 3. 15, know the Father, 1 John 2. 13, have fellowship with the Father 1. 3, are 'sanctified' by the Father, John 17. 17.
It is a high privilege indeed to know God as 'Father', to live day by day in the awareness of His love and care. But it is a privilege that carries responsibility for the holy God of the Old Testament is the holy God of the New Testament, 1 Pet. 1, 16. He is still the 'high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy', Isa. 57. 15, who dwells in light that cannot be approached unto, 1 Tim. 6. 16. Believers living under His grace cannot afford to treat His Person and Name lightly. In personal behaviour and conversation there is no place for levity or lightness, for idle talk or foolish jesting. We need to live responsibly and to remember that we are sons of the Father.
In gatherings for worship, praise and prayer there is no place for irreverence or familiarity in the presence of God. Jehovah Elohim, the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour, demands the highest honour and respect in manner of address, choice of hymns, personal appearance, and godly behaviour. 'To this man will I look', saith the Lord, 'even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word', Isa. 66. 2. 'Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground', Exod. 3. 5.