W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 12-15-2021
Read: Isaiah 9:6,
“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
There are two primary words for God in the Bible: YHWH (commonly translated as “LORD”, the proper name of God in the Old Testament) and Elohim which means “God”. Elohim is our focus today. Elohim is a plural word, but it’s always used in a singular context in the Bible. It’s like saying, “They is loving and faithful”, referring to God. It’s fascinating that the “im” ending of “Elohim” indicates that in that plural group (they) is the presence of both males and females. The English language doesn’t have the pronouns to distinguish this truth, as French, Spanish and the Hebrew language does. What does it mean? It means that God is ONE, but God’s nature also encompasses all the qualities of both maleness and femaleness. It tells us that God is beyond gender definitions as we use them.
The authors of the Bible use many varied images to try to communicate part of the mystery of Who God is, i.e. “A mighty fortress”, “the Lord is my Shepherd”, “my Rock and redeemer”, “a mother hen!”, etc. A very common image of God is as our “Heavenly Father”. That doesn’t mean that God has a male body, or is like Zeus sitting on a cloud with lightning bolts ready to throw, or is like “Father Time” – an old guy with a long white beard. It also doesn’t exclude the feminine nature inherent in Elohim. A clergy colleague once shared that her favorite image of God was of a mother bear protecting her cubs – there’s spiritual truth in that image. And, referring to God as our “Heavenly Mother” is no disrespect to God. The point is that images convey spiritual truth – to a point, but we can’t take them literally.
That said, the prophet Isaiah reveals that the Messiah is our “Everlasting Father”, which is a comforting and beautiful image. In ancient patriarchal society the father was the head of the family, the provider, the protector, the decision maker and direction setter. Having a God Whose love is “steadfast and everlasting” as our “Everlasting Father” is a great blessing. Jesus (because of varied scriptural images), is both our “Everlasting Father” (see also John 10:30) and our brother (Hebrews 2:11, Mark 3:34-35). That’s a little strange, but both images convey important spiritual truths, and both are wonderful blessings and promises.
Pastor Rob Nystrom