Posted by: rcottrill | November 2, 2016

Abba, Father! We Approach Thee

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: James George Deck (b. Nov. 1, 1802; d. Aug. 14, 1884)
Music: Beecher, by John Zundel (b. Dec. 10, 1815; d. July ___, 1882)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The Cyber Hymnal describes this little known hymnist as follows: He was “educated for the army, and became an officer in the Indian service. Retiring from the army, and having joined the Plymouth Brethren, he undertook, in 1843, the charge of a congregation of that body at Wellington, Somerset. In 1852, he went abroad and settled in New Zealand.

The tune Beecher is also used with Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. It suits this magnificent hymn extremely well. Though not quite as effective, in my view, the tune Erie, by Charles Converse, can also fit, a melody commonly used for What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

The word “father,” designating a male parent, has been around for a long time, though many centuries ago the form was fader or faeder.

There are also diminutive words, nicknames usually used by children to express warm affection for their father. He may be called papa (from the French and Latin words for father), or even pop, a shortened form used in America since the nineteenth century, or pater in Britain. Daddy is another such word, also found in the shorter form dad.

Happy is the home where mom can summon the children’s delighted greeting of him with the cheerful call, “Daddy’s home!” Though, sad to say, there are homes in which the family cannot enter into the spirit of this. Homes where dad has abdicated his responsibility, and even cruelly abused his children. May that not be true of ours.

For nearly a century–since June of 1910 in America–an annual Father’s Day has been celebrated in many countries of the world. It has become a way to honour our fathers and show appreciation for all they have done for us. But fathers are not simply to be lauded annually on one traditional day. The Lord says they are to be respected all through our lives. The command to honour father and mother is one of the Ten Commandments introducing the Law of Israel (Exod. 20:12), and the injunction is restated in the New Testament (Eph. 6:2).

God Himself is frequently given the title of Father, and the term is used in a number of different ways. It is applied to Him as one of the persons in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). He is the Father of all in the sense that He is the Creator (Mal. 2:10). Also, God is referred to as “the Father of spirits [angelic beings]” (Heb. 12:9). He calls Himself a Father to the nation of Israel (Jer. 31:9). And we today have the right to address Him as our Father, when, through faith in Christ, we are born into His family (Gal. 3:26; cf. Jn. 1:12-13).

Our heavenly Father has for us the deepest affection and is committed to caring for us. “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear [reverence] Him” (Ps. 103:13). There, the Hebrew word for pities (racham) means much more than feeling sorry for someone. It signifies tender affection and merciful love and compassion. And that describes God’s concern for us. But as a father He also has to discipline us sometimes, for our good and future blessing (Prov. 3:12).

In the New Testament there is a special word sometimes combined “Father” in addressing God. It is Abba, an Aramaic word, that is almost untranslatable. At the human level it was used by children in the sense daddy, or papa is today. But when applied to God it was considered a most sacred proper name. The Lord Jesus called His Father by that holy name in Gethsemane (Mk. 14:36). For us, it expresses the believer’s childlike feeling toward God.

“Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Gal. 4:6).

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8:15).

Very few translators would dare call God the Father “Daddy.” It lacks a sense of awe and reverence. And the awkward “Daddy Father” doesn’t work either. It can be left untranslated as Abba, which some English translations do. But I believe it was Martin Luther who suggest “dearest Father” as a good way to express the meaning.

In 1841, hymn writer James Deck produced a glorious hymn about this relationship. All of the hymn is beautiful. I wish there were room here for more, but do check out the complete hymn in the Cyber Hymnal. Notice how effectively Deck makes use of the parable of the Prodigal Son.

CH-1) “Abba, Father!” We approach Thee
In our Saviour’s precious name;
We, Thy children, here assembled,
Now Thy promised blessing claim;
From our sins His blood hath washed us,
’Tis through Him our souls draw nigh,
And Thy Spirit, too, hath taught us,
“Abba, Father,” thus to cry.

CH-2) Once as prodigals we wandered
In our folly far from Thee,
But Thy grace, o’er sin abounding,
Rescued us from misery;
Thou Thy prodigals hast pardoned,
Kissed us with a Father’s love,
Spread the festive board, and called us,
E’er to dwell with Thee above.

Questions:
1) What does it mean to have childlike feelings toward God, even as adults?

2) What does it mean to you that we can use the same term of endearment for God the Father that the Lord Jesus used?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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