God shares some characteristics that a mother would show to her children. First, God comforts His children like a mother would. "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you" (Isaiah 66:13). No one can comfort as effectively as a mother. A child may have a special babysitter or a favorite aunt that he enjoys immensely, but when he is tired or sad or injured or scared, he will bypass that special person and go straight to his mother. There is something about the way she holds him, the words she says, and the way in which she says them that makes the mother the only desired source when comfort is needed.
Second, God's devotion to His children is undying, just as a mother seems incapable of ever forgetting or neglecting one to whom she has given birth. "Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49:15). As seemingly impossible as it would be for a mother to forget her baby, God is even more mindful of His own. He can never forget or neglect those whose names are written permanently on His loving hands. For a fuller discussion of this topic, see A Mother's Love.
Most of the revelation about God's parental love describes God as a father. Sadly, this picture loses some of its intended impact in our world due to the absence of fathers in many homes; it also suffers from the neglectful, inexpressive nature or the harsh, demanding demeanor of many fathers who are present. A good father, on the other hand, is a great blessing, and God is the best Father, the only perfect one.
God Himself claims this relationship. "'And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' says the Lord Almighty" (II Corinthians 6:18). God even willingly claims those who are most needy. "A father of the fatherless . . . is God in His holy habitation" (Psalm 68:5). Believers enter this precious relationship when they accept God's love through the new birth. The relationship truly is one of love. "For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father" (John 16:27). All other aspects of the relationship extend from this great love.
First, the Father meets the needs of His children. Christians should not worry about basic needs such as food and clothing. God meets the needs even of the tiny birds and fragile flowers. "Are you not worth much more than they?" (Matthew 6:26). God will not fail to meet these needs due to ignorance or neglect; "for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" (Matthew 6:32). In fact, even if believers did not express their needs to God, He would still supply, "for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him" (Matthew 6:8).
Second, the Father responds to the requests of His children. Other Scriptures reveal guidelines for prayer, but the unshakeable reality is that God hears the prayers of His children, and He answers those prayers according to His wisdom. God does not hold Himself back or ration His responses to what His children ask for. "Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you" (John 16:23).
Third, the Father gives good gifts to His children. These gifts come at times in response to requests and at times without any request having been made. God wants to pour out blessings on His children. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:11). "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).
Fourth, the Father cares about His children's pain. In a wondrous surpassing of the love of earthly fathers, God knows every hurt that His children experience. "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from Your Father. . . . So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29,31). The Father responds to these hurts with the most tender and understanding compassion. "Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:13-14).
Fifth, the Father teaches His children. In fact, He concentrates on teaching them the best things, truths with eternal value. "At that time Jesus said, 'I praise You, Father, . . . that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants'" (Matthew 11:25). "Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17). "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Ephesians 1:17).
Sixth, the Father rewards the labors of His children. This is particularly true when those efforts are directed for His glory and not for the purpose of human recognition. "Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:4). The Father honors service rendered to Him. "If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him" (John 12:26).
Seventh, the Father corrects His children when they are going astray, and He lovingly works to bring them back to the right way. "For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights" (Proverbs 3:12). "It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?" (Hebrews 12:7).
Finally, the Father graciously forgives. Even when His child has been wayward and has perhaps rebelled against God for some time, the Father lovingly waits to receive him back and to restore him in his precious position as a son. The parable of the prodigal son illustrates this tender heart of God. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). Just like the mother who cannot forget her child, so is the father who is always ready to forgive and receive his child. Divine love creates a bond that can never be broken in spite of the shortcomings of the child.
"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are." I John 3:1 (NASB)
This study was prompted by and partially based upon the final sermon in a series about knowing God that can be ordered here.