Isaiah 63:16

Doubtless thou art our Father. The Jews were the children of God. But they had been for a long time so neglecting him that they had lost all the nearer and dearer thoughts of him; and imaged him to themselves through the bleared and blinded vision of their own indulgences, wickedness, and sin. He became to them only a God to be feared, in the sense of "frightened at." Then the prophet's message of a merciful God, fatherly still, recovering and saving even the guilty, was indeed good news from heaven to such a people. But that which is true of many Jews in the times of the later monarchy, is, in measure, true also of us. We have let our practical neglect of God set him far from us, and darken our thoughts concerning him. We think of God as hard, severe, or indifferent, and let the bitterness of orphans enter into our souls. Then it is good news indeed concerning God which is brought to us when it can be said, "Doubtless he is our Father. Two consequences of this assurance about God may be illustrated.

I. HE WANTS US TO BE HIS RESTORED, OBEDIENT CHILDREN. True children, worthy children, of the heavenly Father. But this is a more difficult matter than we at first: suppose. For what sort of children are we now? And what changes must we go through before we can become the children we should be? But God's interest follows the prodigals. He can have no rest until they come home. Shepherds never willingly lose their sheep. Mothers cannot bear to lose a child. Our Father's seeking, saving mercy reaches even to the height of the sacrifice on the cross. It restores; it fills with the home-feeling; it prepares us for the eternal home-place. Now are we the sons of God," etc.

II. HE WANTS US TO LEARN OF HIM HOW TO BE GOOD FATHERS AND MOTHERS TO OUR CHILDREN. Good sons and daughters make the best fathers and mothers. We may learn of the great Father:

1. The power of a sustained example of purity.

2. The influence of the spirit of self-denial.

3. The value of strictness to that which is truthful and righteous.

4. The gracious triumph of long-suffering patience.

These are just the things we need for our human fatherhood and motherhood. - R.T.

Doubtless Thou art our Father.
The true sense of the verse, as it appears to me, is that the Church or chosen people, although once, for temporary reasons, co-extensive and coincident with a single race, is not essentially a national organization, but a spiritual body. The father is not Abraham or Israel, but Jehovah, who is and always has been its Redeemer, who has borne that name from everlasting.

(J. A. Alexander.)

"For Thou art our Father; for Abraham is ignorant of us, and Israel knows us not. Thou, Jehovah, art our Father; from of old our Redeemer is Thy name." Jehovah is Israel's Father (Isaiah 64:7), i.e. begetter (Deuteronomy 32:6); His creative power and loving, merciful purpose called it into existence. The second "for" justifies this confession, that Jehovah is Israel's Father, and that it can therefore look for fatherly care and help from Him alone; even the dearest and most honourable men, the nation's progenitors, cannot help it. Abraham and Jacob — Israel — have been taken away from this world, and are unable of themselves to intervene in the history of their people.

(F. Delitzsch, D. D.)

These words came from the heart of the Jewish people when they felt themselves "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise." They had wandered from the God of their fathers, and they feel as if their fathers had east them off. If Abraham were to appear on earth, he would not know them; if Jacob were to return, he would not acknowledge them; and what then can they do? They cannot endure life, cannot bear the burden of its sorrows and struggles without a father and a friend. What can they do but pass up beyond men, and seek a father in God? Their heart is an orphan everywhere, else, and is forced to this door of refuge; "Doubtless Thou — Thou art our Father.

(J. Ker, D. D.)

It has never died out, and is present still in many a spirit.

I. THE WORDS EXPRESS A DEEP LONGING OF THE HUMAN HEART. With all its folly and frivolity and sin, the heart of man has been made to feel after these words: "Our Father — our Father which art in heaven." The lower creatures have not this cry, because they have not our wants, our aspirations, or the possibility of our hopes. There are wonderful instincts among them — most wonderful often in the most minute. But what curious microscope ever discovered among them a spire pointing heavenward, or tokens of prayer and praise? The magnet which is passed over the earth to draw things upward finds nothing in this world which trembles and turns to it save the human heart. It is very true that many hearts make little viable response, and seem to bear the want of a heavenly Father very lightly. But even in them there may be discerned the heart-hunger that shows itself in unnatural cravings which the lower creatures do not feel. The void may be discovered in the restless attempts men make to fill it. When we look at the length and breadth of man's history, it ,tells us that this cry constantly returns, "O that I knew where I might find Him! There have been men in all ages to whom the answer of this cry has been the one necessity of life, and if you could convince them that is impossible to find a heavenly Father, they would smile no more.

II. YET IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO SPEAK THESE WORDS WITH FULL ASSURANCE. The struggle to reach them is evident in the men who use them here, and is felt in the very word "doubtless," with which they begin their claim.

1. There is one difficulty, which belongs specially to our time, in the mind of man as it deals with the universe and its laws. There is a form of science which says, "I have ranged the world, and there is nothing in it but material law. There may be a heart in man, but there is no heart beyond to answer it; or, if there be, the heart of man can never reach it."

2. Besides the mind, the heart finds difficulties in itself. There are so many things in life which make it hard to believe in the love of God.

3. And still beyond the mind and heart there is the conscience. When we think of a Father in heaven, we must think of a righteous Father, of One "who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." The weak, indulgent fatherhood, which is passed so lightly from hand to hand, will not fit into the parts of the world's history which show the terrible penalties of sin; it will not satisfy the soul when it is brought face. to face with the majesty of God's law and the holiness of HIS character.

III. WITH ALL THESE DIFFICULTIES, IT IS A FEELING WHICH CAN BE AND HAS BEEN REACHED. There have been men who could look up and say, "Doubtless Thou art our Father." They have said it not only in sunshine, but in storm and in the shadow of death; have given up their lives that they might testify to it clearly and fearlessly; and have shut the door and said it to their Father who seeth in secret. But we are to, think of One, the greatest of all. Even those who take the lowest view of Jesus Christ will admit that He, beyond all others, taught men to think of God as a Father, and gave the example of it in His own life and death. How strong it made Him, and how patient, how active in doing good, how comforted in solitude, that His Father had sent Him, and was present with Him, putting the cup of suffering into His hand, and ready to receive Him when He said, Father, into Thy hands commend My spirit!" But His example, His influence, wonderful as they are, would not enable us to follow Him to God as a Father, unless there was something in His death which laid hold of us with stronger power. It is this which enables us to go to God the Judge of all with confidence, because we go through the blood of sprinkling. And when the conscience can say, My Father; the heart beans to say it also. When the heart has found a Father in God, all the world's laws cannot lay hand on it to imprison it; it moves "through the midst of them, and so passes by."

IV. THIS FULL SENSE OF GOD'S FATHERHOOD IS NOT GENERALLY GAINED AT ONCE. We do not say that the position is not gained at once. As soon as any one comes to God through Christ, he is no more a stranger and an enemy, but a child, and all the, dealings of God with him are paternal. But he may fail to recognize a Father's voice and hand. Think of the ways by which it may be gained. Come, first of all, by a more simple and loving faith to the death of Christ in the fulness of its meaning. Then seek more fully to give Christ entrance into your heart and life. As the-heart is purified we see God. To have God for our Father is not merely to be forgiven, it is not even to be sanctified; it is to be one with Him in thought and feeling, to listen to Him and speak with Him, as one speaks with a friend. It is peculiarly the work of the Holy Spirit to lead us into this inmost sanctuary of sonship. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." But to be led by Him, we must not grieve Him by sin or neglect, but welcome His whispered admonitions; and then, as we listen and obey, we shall reach the innermost room where "the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."

V. TO USE THESE WORDS TRULY IS A MATTER OF INFINITE MOMENT TO US ALL. Here is a Friend we need in every stage of life, and in every event of it.

(J. Ker, D. D.)

There are three chambers by which we advance to the assurance of Fatherhood in God. The first is the upper chamber of Jerusalem, which comes to us ever and again in the Lord's table, with its offer of pardon and peace. The second is the chamber of the heart, to which we give Him admission in love and obedience. And the third is the home, where the Holy Spirit teaches us to cry, "Abba, Father."

(J. Ker, D. D.)

I. This noble utterance represents THE CONSOLATION AND FINAL APPEAL OF TEE SPIRIT OF MAN, baffled and dissatisfied with what the poet calls "the riddle of. this painful earth," or despised and rejected by his fellow-men; and that appeal is to the responsibility, omnipotence, unalterable love, and unerring justice of a Divine Father.

II. The cry of Isaiah is THE INSPIRED TEXT OF THE OPTIMIST, of the man who, in spite of the riddles and difficulties and waste and failure in a world teeming with injustice, persists in enthroning God alone behind all worlds, and saying to Him, "Doubtless Thou art our Father, though scientific materialism be ignorant of us, and the facts of experience seem to be against us."

(Basil Wilberforce, D. D.)

Our Redeemer
"God" signifies both a redeemer and an avenger, but the latter only as he is the former. Hence one reason for the close linking together of the two books of Isaiah. In the first Jehovah is the Avenger of the nation against the oppressor, of the poor against the godless rich, of the widow and fatherless against the unjust, of the outraged Theocracy against the no-gods which claim to be Jehovah's rivals and equals. In the second He is the Redeemer, who ransoms and delivers through the Nan of His choice. It is used in both senses throughout the Books of the Law, and in the Psalms. But in the writings of the prophets it is nearly confined to Isaiah.

(F. Sessions.)

The Lord is our Redeemer for the soul. It is a great comfort to know that it is our heavenly Father who is our Redeemer. It is God in Christ.

1. Our Redeemer has suffered for us.

2. He is our Redeemer from the grave of sin.

3. He is our Redeemer, bringing us to God.

4. He is our Redeemer from our wicked self, and from the power of sin.

(W. Birch.)

"Our Redeemer from everlasting is Thy name."

(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

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