Life + Culture

The Good Father of the Spiritually Fatherless

The Good Father of the Spiritually Fatherless

Many children begin walking with the Lord without parents to show them how. They hear, “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), and wonder, But what about me? They see God calling fathers to “bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), but their dad never even opened a Bible.

They strive to grow in faith, mature in godliness, and deepen their joy in God, but without a day in, day out model and guide. It can feel like the spiritual equivalent of Hatchet, the classic American novel for boys. Thirteen-year-old Brian, the son of divorced parents, is the sole survivor in a plane crash out in the Canadian wilderness and teaches himself how to make a shelter, hunt, fish, and forage for food, and start a fire — all with just a hatchet. Young Christians are often left to fend for themselves in their own homes, having to teach themselves how to pray, hear from God in his word, and pursue holiness — all with just a Bible.

And a Father in heaven. If your parents have not been positive spiritual influences on your faith, you are not as alone as you may feel. Many have met and followed Christ without godly parents, and each of them has been fathered in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Son Without a Father

If you feel like you’ve had to survive on a hope and a hatchet, you may be able to relate to Hezekiah. His father makes even the worst dads look okay. As king of Israel, he led a whole nation astray by making metal idols and then altars to worship his false gods. Instead of protecting and sanctifying God’s temple, Ahaz stole from it and shut its doors. Instead of caring for the precious sons God gave to him, he murdered his own children, burning Hezekiah’s brothers as offerings to false gods.

Ahaz contributed to Hezekiah’s walk with the Lord by showing him who not to be.

And yet, “Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old. . . . And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Chronicles 29:1–2). Not his father Ahaz but his spiritual forefather (and kingly ancestor) David. When Hezekiah could not imitate his dad, he found a faithful man of God worthy of imitation.

Despite His Father

Instead of stealing from the temple and closing it to God’s people, Hezekiah “opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them” (2 Chronicles 29:3), and he did so immediately, in the first month of his reign.

Instead of following his father’s horrible example, he confronted his father’s iniquities and confessed their wickedness: “Our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God” (2 Chronicles 29:6).

Instead of blaming his father and avoiding the consequences, he took responsibility and bore the burden of his father’s failures: “Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us” (2 Chronicles 29:10).

Instead of leading others away from God and into transgression, he called the people of God to reject temptation and return to God:

“O people of Israel, return to the Lord. . . . Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers. . . . Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.” (2 Chronicles 30:6–8)

Instead of presuming on grace and mercy, Hezekiah refused to take God’s kindness and compassion for granted, pleading earnestly for the people to repent: “If you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him” (2 Chronicles 30:9).

Instead of bringing judgment and destruction on his family and nation, his steadfast faith and godly leadership brought healing (2 Chronicles 30:21), and “there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:26). While he knew great misery because of his father, he spread great gladness because he trusted and obeyed God.

In the midst of a threatening spiritual wilderness, with the worst of spiritual examples in his father, Hezekiah found a true Father and learned how to survive, grow, and serve by faith in him.

If You Are His Child

If you follow Christ, you have a good Father, even if you didn’t have a good father. If you are led by the Spirit into confession, repentance, and obedience — like Hezekiah — you are a chosen and precious son of infinite love and strength. “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). Before you were adopted, you were enslaved to fear, and for good reason. But now, your Father’s Spirit lives in you and casts out the fear of punishment (1 John 4:18).

The Spirit lives in you to remind you that you’re not an orphan anymore (Romans 8:16). And if you are a child of God, then you also are an heir of God with Christ (Romans 8:17). And if you are an heir of all things with Christ, you also will be glorified with him. You were once alone, abandoned, and spiritually helpless. You were fatherless. Now you have received a supernatural adoption, an infinite inheritance, unimaginable glory, and the Father of fathers.

God did not adopt you reluctantly, but lovingly. He formed even the best parent-child relationships to be only hints of the kind of love he feels for his children. He sent his own Son to die for you in order to make you his (1 John 3:1–2).

Sons and daughters without a loving human father are not lost for love. All those who know true love, no matter what kind of love they have experienced in their family, have learned it through being loved by God (1 John 4:9) — the good Father of the spiritually fatherless.

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