Greetings once again friends!
This is Episode two of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “My Father’s House.”
This is the first of a three-episode series focusing on and exploring our understanding of God—including thoughts about the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
I thought I’d begin today by sharing a little bit about my childhood home.
As some of you already know, I was the youngest of four children growing up on our family farm near Outlook, Washington, located east of the Cascade Mountains in the farmlands of the Lower Yakima Valley.
Our house was a big, old farmhouse with a distinctive, almost classic structure.
Some of you might like to see a photo of the old house, although this shot is from a later time after our family no longer lived there. But, you can get a good idea of what it looked like.
Our family lived there for forty years! My parents and three older siblings moved in about two months or so before I was born. I grew up in that house and lived there until leaving for college when I was 18. My mother continued living there after my father passed away until she could no longer live alone. At that time the house was sold, and the Fentons no longer had a presence there.
In the minds of many community old-timers, however, the old house on North Outlook Road is still “the Fenton house.”
I’ve driven by it a number of times through the years, primarily just to take a little trip down memory lane. That house holds a truckload of childhood memories for me.
(A poem by Edgar A. Guest from a generation ago comes to mind—“It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house to make it a home.” And that certainly was true for our house.)
It provided shelter from the storms of life, both literal and social.
We experienced times of great laughter, and many tears.
That place quite literally became the Center of my World! It was a base for all the dreams of my childhood and teenage years.
In later years, wherever I was in some distant place—even overseas— I always figured out how far it was back home to Outlook. And, still today, whenever I chance to drive past, there is a tug at my heart because my roots grew so deeply there. Recently someone has begun some repair and restoration on it. I’m looking forward to how that turns out!
But, enough of nostalgia, let’s move on.
Truth be told—as much as I loved the place where I lived all during my growing-up years, from those early days of life until this very moment right now, I’ve been learning about another “home” waiting for me “just over the hilltop.”
Our Heavenly Father has a place prepared just for me — and for you, too(!) — in the beautiful Earth Made New that John wrote about in the Book of Revelation, chapter 21.
Here’s another wonderful promise I dearly love, found in the Old Testament:
1He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’ (Psalm 91:1-2 NKJV).
In this verse, an unknown ancient song writer identifies the “dwelling place” of the person who believes in and puts his/her trust in God. That “home”—that “abiding place”— is in the “secret place of the Almighty.”
The word “Almighty” here is translated from the Hebrew language expression El Shaddai.
According to Strong’s Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary, the title Shadday (sic) really indicates the fullness and riches of God’s grace, and would remind the Hebrew reader that from God comes every good and perfect gift—that He is never weary of pouring forth His mercies on His people, and He is more ready to give than they are ready to receive.
(That quotation is from Strong’s word listing #7706, for all you Bible students who may be into dictionaries and concordances and similar reference materials.)
All I can say is, “Wow!”
I’ve always understood “El Shaddai” to simply mean “The Almighty,” indicating the great Creator God’s ability to accomplish anything and everything He wanted or decided to do.
Okay, all that might be well and good, but here Strong’s dictionary expands that basic idea with the focus on God’s limitless mercy and grace!
The “secret place of the Most High”—the very heart of God—is our spiritual home!
That “place” is the unquenchable fountainhead of everlasting agape love—the inexhaustible source of Creation, forgiveness of sin, restoration, and renewal.
No wonder the Apostle Paul exclaimed, I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NLT).
And, again, By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV).
So, let’s explore a few more verses in the Bible that help us know even more about our heavenly home, and even more specifically, truths we can discover about our Heavenly Father.
Luke 15:11-31 records Jesus’ parable about a lost son—commonly referred to as “The Prodigal Son.” Much of the story focuses on the arc of the son’s life—from restless farm kid to party animal in a “far country” to his tearful, repentant return to his father’s house.
However, I’m thinking this story should be labeled “A Father’s Unconditional Love.” My guess is that most of you listening to this podcast are already familiar with this story. It’s one of the most repeated stories of the New Testament.
If you happen to NOT know the story—and even if you HAVE heard it countless times—I’d encourage you to get your Bible, look up Luke, chapter 15, and read it again.
In my book My Seven Essential Daily Prayers I speculate in one place about the possibility that a young Jesus working with his earthly father Joseph may have become acquainted with the family of the two boys in his story.
Right during the time when Jesus was growing up in Nazareth, the regional so-called “king” of Galilee undertook the rebuilding of a city called Sepphoris as the capital city. It was a project that took many years from start to finish.
Sepphoris was only about five miles north of Nazareth, the home of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. A great construction project like this would certainly need skilled workmen—including carpenters and other tradesmen. If, in fact, Joseph worked to help build Sepphoris, it is not unlikely that his young son Jesus might accompany him to the job sites to help with the work and, in the process, learn the carpenter’s trade.
With the swelling population, there would also be a critical need for farm produce to supply the food markets in town.
We know from Jesus’ story about the young prodigal that his family were farm people. They had hired workers, servants, some cattle, and undoubtedly grew some food crops as well. We actually don’t know the location of their farm, but Galilee around the area of Nazareth and Sepphoris was rural, farm country.
And again, it’s only speculation on my part, but I like to think that perhaps the young Jesus working with Joseph, and the two boys of his parable accompanying their parents to deliver food to the markets in Sepphoris, may have become acquainted there—perhaps even counting each other as friends.
But, back to the story itself—and what it says about our Father God.
First, the father never gave up hope for his son’s return. When he saw the boy coming down the road—starving, filthy, and dressed in rags—he RAN to gather him into his arms.
Love and grace won the day, and lavish gifts poured from the father’s rejoicing heart. His own robe. His own ring. His own sandals for the barefoot boy. Strike up the band! It’s time to sing and dance. “This my son,” he cries, “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (vs. 32).
What a beautiful illustration of our Heavenly Father!
The Apostle Paul writes, Because you are [adopted] sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:6-7 NKJV).
And, Jesus instructed his followers, When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8 NKJV).
A few chapters later Jesus says, Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31 NKJV).
Are you beginning to get the picture of how much your Heavenly Father loves you? I don’t know about you, friend, but as I think seriously and deeply about God’s immeasurable love and grace He has for me, I am just blown away!
“Wide, wide as the ocean,
High as the heavens above,
Deep, deep as the deepest sea
Is my Savior’s love.
I, though so unworthy,
Still am a child of His care,
And His love teaches me
That His love reaches me
Now, there’s one more thing we need to look at before we close out this little study about our Father God.
Reading through the Bible you will find many names for God. Twelve of these names in the Old Testament begin with “Yahweh” (or “Jehovah” in the old KJV). Then, each of these twelve names are hyphenated with another word which expands our understanding of God’s nature.
Being the curious person I am, I wondered—what might be the underlying root meaning of “Yahweh.” Again, Bible dictionaries and concordance prove their worth!
The ancient Hebrew word for God’s name is known as “the Tetragrammaton.” IT contains only four letters—all consonants. If you speak with someone well-versed in biblical languages, and mention the “Tetragrammaton” that person will know immediately what you are talking about.
The Tetragrammaton is often translated simply as “LORD” (using all caps) in our English-language Bibles. The purpose of using all caps is to indicate that the Hebrew source-word is the Tetragrammaton, rather than other commonly used words which are also translated “lord,” but are based on other Hebrew words.
In the English alphabet, letter for letter, the word is spelled “YHWH.”
Checking a Bible dictionary that indicates root words for individual listings, I discovered this: One of the underlying roots of YHWH carries the implication of finishing a task, or a job.
The very first time this name is used in the Bible is at the end of Creation week following the statement that God “finished” all the work of Creation, and then declared it “very good.”
So, for me, it makes perfect sense to paraphrase God’s name Yahweh into “The God Who Finishes What He Starts.”
God not only finished the work of Creation, but at Calvary Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” indicating that the divine plan of redemption for Adam’s fallen race was now completed. Christ had won the victory over sin, and the way of salvation was now permanently open.
That’s truly wonderful, but there’s one more thing we also have to know.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi these encouraging words: He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
I don’t know about you, friend, but that promise brings me great courage! I love the string of letters that goes “PBPGINFWMY!” Which means, “ Please be patient. God is not finished with me yet!”
I’m so glad God continues to work with each one of us. The Father’s amazing grace, agape love, and unfailing providence truly declare to us that He is worthy of worship.
Once again, thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
The title of next week’s episode is “My Brother’s Love.” The focus will be on Jesus as the Word of God, the Second Person of the Godhead, and Savior for all of Adam’s race.
I hope you can join me for that.
Also, a reminder, the regular schedule for posting each weekly episode of the podcast is now every Monday.