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The Old Testament God as Father: in the Book of Job (Old Testament Continuity)

March 18, 2020

The topic of Old Testament/New Testament continuity and discontinuity I find interesting, as I notice more of the continuity that is there.  From my recent readings and audio sermon series, a few observations regarding the concept of God, Our Father, as revealed in the Old Testament.

That God, the first person of the Trinity is our Father (in a personal, individual sense), in the New Testament is clear and undisputed, starting with the gospel accounts and the Lord’s prayer.  Yet today some teach that this is strictly a New Testament understanding, completely unknown before Jesus expounded the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer.  The reasoning here is that the Old Testament’s only explicit references are to God as Father in a general, national sense; therefore Old Testament believers had incomplete notions about God and related to Him in some true ways but not as we would in this New “enlightened” age.  Here also is the logical fallacy of looking for a truth to be taught explicitly and directly, and in particular words—and if not found, that voids the very idea itself.

Online articles have responded to this, pointing out the many references to God as Father in the Old Testament (and the clear meaning behind it all).  Al Mohler, in his book The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits, writing about the phrase ‘God, the Father Almighty’ observes:

The revelation of God as “Father” has roots in the Old Testament, where God is described as the Father of Israel (Deut. 32:6).  The fatherly love of God is also present throughout the Old Testament.  The prophet Hosea spoke of God as a Father carrying Israel as a child (Hos. 11:1-4), and David described God as a “Father of the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5).

From Danny Hyde’s sermon series on the book of Job, Whom Do I Trust? (see this previous post), comes another interesting example.  After the many chapters in the book of Job, the three cycles of speeches from Job and his friends, God finally answers Job, in a ‘wrestling match’ of wits.  ‘Job, you think you can be God?  Okay – where were you when ….?  And several more chapters of questions for Job to respond to.  The analogy here is like that of parents with their children.  God is here dealing with Job as a father with his son, and like parents do with their children.  When the kids get uppity and start thinking they can do everything, the parent responds with this same type of attitude:  okay, you think you can do all this, then you (the child) go ahead – you go to the grocery store, you carry in all the groceries; you pack the towels and everything needed for the trip to the beach.

Yes, the New Testament clearly reveals more directly the truth about God as our personal Father, but God is the same and His way of relating to His people has always been the same.  Though the Old Testament does not explicitly teach the doctrine of God as our Father, or the doctrine of our adoption, yet the concepts are clearly there, if shown indirectly through the historical narratives of the lives of the saints and in the wisdom literature such as the Psalms, and even the book of Job.

  1. Gerry
    March 18, 2020 at 6:44 am

    Hi Lynda:

    I agree completely with your points in this post with respect to God presented as a father in the Old Testament.

    I will never forget the blessed feelings of the reality of this after being abandoned by my earthly Father after it became obvious to him that I wanted to be more than a nominal Christian and had rejected the pseudo Christianity taught by his guru, Dave Hunt.

    This feeling of love and acceptance and protection came to me at various times of severe affliction as I read David’s words which refer to this as you mention in your post, as well as other Old Testament passages including Job and many others.

    As I read those words, and recalled how David as a young man had been consigned to the sheep fold duties, and was completely forgotten by his earthly father who preferred his older more humanly appealing brothers when Samuel came to anoint the new King.

    There David was, out in the fields meditating on and communing with God, forgotten by his natural parents, but not by his Heavenly Father.

    Is this not real life? Am I the only one who has taken encouragement from these words as His Spirit came and applied them to their soul in the midst of trial and testing?

    I think not. And did not God speak to Moses and Abraham as a friend? Was that just for them and not for today’s believers?

    One would think so by much modern teaching, but I find no such limitations as I read Gods Word and “seek first His kingdom and His Righteousness”.

    Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday today and forever”, and so is “His Father and my father”, and my father as Jesus assured His followers before He left personally and reminded them of the “promise of the Father”, which would come to them after his departure.

    Our limits in experiencing Him as our Father are the products of our own wandering from Him, not His wandering from us, or any supposed boundaries artificially established by men who yet know no such communion.

    Bless you, my sister for bringing forth this truth for we need it, just as we need Him, to be more than an “intellectual concept, or a matter of mental assent”.

    Our intellectual concepts and ascents are essential and must be guided strictly by His Word, but as I read and study the works of the best of the Puritans and Reformers, I find no artificial boundaries to communion with God. No, rather, indeed I find that communion insisted on as a part of the normal Christian life, and that because Paul, John, Peter, and yes, The Lord Jesus, insisted on in their own precious Words to us.

    In Him

  2. March 18, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I’ve thought about this before and continuing to think about it as I am beginning the O.T. again and am in Joshua so far. I know God is more fully revealed in the N.T., especially/fully in Jesus Christ; and maybe there are some “technical” distinctions between God as Father of the nation of Israel and God as a personal Father to each of His adopted children in this age…. but just in reading, and including in Psalms and Proverbs and Isaiah, etc. I’m not seeing a lot of difference. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said “our Father”. The epistles are mostly written to congregations (vs. individual believers) so on the face of it, the reference to God as our Father can be seen as “corporate” as they say it was in the O.T. ….. maybe there is a glaring verse I’m missing or several verses that clearly teach a clear and distinct difference ——- That individual believers in the O.T. did NOT consider God as their (personal) Father as we in the N.T. time are taught to do.

    • March 18, 2020 at 1:48 pm

      Good observations, Robert. Yes, there is more continuity rather than discontinuity, in spite of the fact that some people today neglect the serious reading of the Old Testament, that some have a more superficial, nominal faith, and they do not see the depth of what is actually there in the OT and the salvation and experience that they also had with their Father God.

      • May 10, 2020 at 7:28 am

        I just (re?)noticed the difference over the last few days… in the N.T. believers are called “sons” (i.e. sons and daughters and/or “legal” sense of “son”, right?)….. It seems like this personal sense from the “son” point of view is more personal/emphasized in the N.T. (?)

      • May 11, 2020 at 2:48 pm

        Hi Robert,

        I would say that the NT addresses the idea more directly and explicitly, so more emphasis in that sense. Which is different from the view that says that if something is not mentioned (explicit) in the OT that means it wasn’t there; we recognize the teaching was always there, since God never changes, and OT believers understood their relationship with God as their Father; the canon of scripture was not then completed, and now it is, along with the more clear and more direct statements in the New Testament.


      • May 10, 2020 at 7:47 am

        ha, couldn’t edit my comment… should have included “children”

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