12 Dec 2017
One well-established theme in scripture is that of father and son. Perhaps the most well-known passages in the Bible is found in Luke 15:11-32, the reference of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal son. This resonates so easily with Christians due to the very obvious depiction of compassion and grace by the father, also in contrast to the horrific arrogance and selfishness the younger son exhibits. However, this parable tends to primarily take on a single applicable lesson: the redemption of the wayward son. While the other “obedient son” does often get identified, he is often directly contrasted to the lesson of negligence of his brother and his own jealousy (it actually isn’t far from the message found throughout the whole Old Testament, or the Jew/Gentile controversy in the New). However, many other father-and-son narratives are given (especially in the Old Testament). But consider one other from the New Testament first: The Father and Jesus. Here we have what is often considered synonymous with the same person in two places at once. While this will forever remain a grand mystery, what is known is the distinction of their personalities. After all, what significance would prayer have for Jesus if He was the recipient? The idea is exemplified best in the garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-42). While theologically it is understood that Jesus is fully man, we still are surprised when we read that Jesus doesn’t really want to go to the cross. It gives Him a very human characteristic perhaps more than anywhere else in the Gospels. The son submits because he loves his father, but not necessarily because it is his own will.
Other father-and-son sequences in scripture include the Abraham and Isaac incident (Gen 22:1-19), Isaac and Jacob in Genesis 27, and David-and-Absalom in 2nd Sam 15-18 (esp 18:33). Each of these instances does not lack for family instability. In one case, the father agrees unwaveringly to sacrifice his son, another the son successfully fools his father into blessing him, after which the father is powerless to revoke the spoken words, and finally, a father is steadfastly mournful for a son who acted in rebellion, and acquired the status of a national trader. The point here is that while a father may have the right to instruct the son in what way he is to go, it does not exclude the son from making his own choices. What is even more interesting though, is the son has the right to observe and question the deeds of the father. Consider the incident of Eli and his sons in 1 Sam 2:12-36. While the father here wasn’t directly responsible for the detestable acts, he failed to properly restrain them (2:29). It actually took a young apprentice of Eli’s to deliver a proper rebuke. While it isn’t the place of a son to rebuke his father, it also isn’t expected of him to follow in the negligent or detestable ways that the father may be modeling (or negligently permitting). There is a right and proper allowance for a son to incline his mind to the truth which he knows, and raise concern to what he is seeing modeled for him.
One popular scripture verses that are quoted among Christians is “My ways are higher than your ways; my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8-9) and “God works in mysterious ways” (which is actually a quote from a 19th century hymn). Rather than simply submitting to the Father Gods will, we first of all have the right to “not like it” (like Jesus). Second, we have the right to ask about it (like Abraham in Gen 18:18-33).
After all, isn’t one of the most sought-after characteristic of the children of God in the Old Testament communication? How many times do we find God relenting of His decreed destruction by sincere repentance (and even for those rowdy ‘neighborhood kids’ (book of Jonah). If God is truly faithful, steadfast, and loving, we must trust that His will is so well-established that it isn’t beyond our questioning. Just as a loving father anticipates instructing his son in honorable characteristics, He would likewise appreciate clearing up confusion his son may have on some unclear event or instruction. The love a father has for a son will likely receive it’s just reciprocation if the son can see reasonable meaning behind his instruction (or at least encouraged by the availability of his father to more complicated instructions). We may have a God that exists beyond our physical plain, but that doesn’t mean we can’t question His instructions. Isn’t this I large part of what prayer is?