One can learn much about how God wants us to think of him from studying the names He has chosen to call Himself in the Bible. For instance, at the first mention of God in the Bible He is identified as “Elohim,” (Elohay), meaning “strength” or “power” and has the characteristic of being plural in form. This name, when combined with other descriptives tells us much about His true nature. He is… Elohay Kedem – God of the Beginning: Elohay Mishpat – God Of Justice: Elohay Selichot – God Of Forgiveness… and numerous other names. There is also the form “El,” which is obviously a part of Elohim – El Shaddai: “God Almighty,” and El-Elyon, “The most high God.”
One of the most interesting and enlightening ways in which God wants to be known by His people today is as “Abba.” This is how Jesus addressed the Father in His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36).
This word, “Abba,” comes from the Aramaic language which was common in Jesus’ day among the Jews, and could be translated as “Daddy” or “Papa.” Many people are reluctant to think of God in such a familiar way, but we must remember that this is how He wants us to think of Him! He wants us to think of Him in the same way Jesus thought of Him! Paul told the Roman Christians…
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15).
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6).
We find it much easier to think of ourselves as servants of God. But Paul tells these people that they did not receive the spirit of slavery. That is, they were not to think of God as a slave thinks of his master – with fear or dread of his presence. A slave would just as soon that his master not be near him, scrutinizing everything he does. If he were found doing something wrong – even innocently – he could be subject to punishment. God does not expect us to earn His love and approval as a slave would. He loves us because it is the nature of fathers to love their children.
The term, “Abba,” tells us how God looks at our relationship with Him and how He wants us to look at it. Abba is a term of endearment. It indicates closeness. The idea I get from this is that of a little child eagerly running to his father who sweeps him into his arms, smothering him with affection and receiving squeals of delight from the child who adores his “Abba.” That is something of the kind of relationship God wants with His children. That eagerness for a loving relationship is seen in the father of the prodigal son. When the son finally “came to himself” and decided to go back to his father, “his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20). In the parable, the father represents the heavenly Father. Jesus was teaching about the love and grace of God who welcomes even his straying, penitent children with a loving embrace.
What an honor is is that we are thought of – and claimed – by God as His beloved children! In the reference in Romans 8:15 Paul says, “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” I have heard of adoptive parents telling their adopted children they are special because “we chose you to be ours.” Well, God chose us to be His, and that makes us special! We are to think of ourselves as being highly honored to be God’s own special people.
No, we shouldn’t use “Abba” flippantly as I have heard of some people addressing God in prayer as “Hey, Dad!” God deserves our highest respect. After all, we are dependent on Him. As a good earthly father would, He provides for our needs, protects us from harm, guides us in the right way, corrects us when we go astray. In all these things He merits our respect and reverence. Even though our relationship with him is to be thought of in terms of closeness and endearment, we must never take that relationship for granted.
Like the relationship between our earthly fathers and ourselves, our relationship with the heavenly Father must be carefully protected and strengthened. As loving children, we must be obedient to Him. We must respect, reverence – and yes – even fear Him. The greatest fear we should have of Him is the fear of disappointing Him. We have a high calling to live up to our “family” name. After all we are children of our heavenly “Abba.”