A New Vision of the Father

When the Spirit of the weeping Father is released through the church the hard – hearted Aussie culture[1] will miraculously soften in an unprecedented openness to the things of Christ (Rom 2:4).[2]

Most prophecies concerning revival inAustraliahave been descriptive and predictive. This prophetic teaching seeks to enter more intimately into what God is saying about a spiritual awakening. A vital key to understanding this is a symbolic interpretation of the story of the prodigal son.

Luke 15:21describes the emotion – laden response of the father to the return of the prodigal, “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” The father’s embrace and the words, “let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’.” (15:23- 24) impart unconditional forgiveness. The image is of a perfect fatherly love that expels all fear of punishment (1 John 4:17- 18). This climate of love must be restored to the church.[3]

Recently my attention was drawn to a print of Rembrandt’s Return of the prodigal son.

Rembrandt - Return of the Prodigal Son-public domain

Rembrandt – Return of the Prodigal Son (public domain)

The figure on the right is upright, supported by a walking stick, this is the self –righteous older brother. He represents the superior attitude of the church as it looks down on the lost.

The prodigal and the father are bowed in positions of humility, the light of grace is upon them[4]. The son’s ear listens for his father’s heart beat.

The hands of the father are extraordinary. The right hand is delicate and smooth – it is the hand of a woman/mother. His left hand is gnarled and strong – it is the hand of a man/father. This is painter’s way of conveying the fullness of Fatherhood – God is to us all that a mother and father should be.

Perhaps Rembrandt knew that God claims his tender care exceeds that of a mother[5]. It is unlikely he understood that principal word for compassion in Hebrew is the plural of “womb”. This is an emotion equally present in women and men[6], but most especially characteristic of Jesus (Matt9:36;14:14;15:32; Mark6:34; 8:2; Luke7:13).

The two hands of the prodigal’s father recall the theological image of the Spirit and the Word as “the two hands of God”. It is by the work of the Spirit and the Word that the Father fully reveals himself in the world. Pentecostal pioneer Smith Wigglesworth correctly prophesied that the greatest global revival would see a restoration of both Word and Spirit to the church. There is however an intimate connection into the Godhead that Wigglesworth and many others may not have seen.

Genesis 1:2 pictures the Holy Spirit brooding over creation like a bird, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The rare word for “hover” is also used of how God guided and protected Israelin the wilderness (Deut 32:11). Since this is the role of the cloud of glory (shekinah, Ex13:21- 22; Num14:14 etc.), it indicates that the Spirit enveloped creation in the glory cloud of God.

From God’s intimate presence in the Spirit the Word is spoken bringing form to creation (Gen 1: 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26). The penetrating power of the Spirit takes shape through Word/Logos of God (compare John 1:3; Heb 1:2 -3). The pattern of creation and restoration are identical.

The Father is stretching out his sheltering presence over our land and the church, saying, “the Word is in the wings of the Spirit”[7]. Jesus was the Word who came in the Spirit’s glory[8] and offered God’s compassion to Israel[9]. The sheltering presence he offered then he is about to give to us[10]. There is about to be an outpouring of the compassion of the Father[11] in an unusual way.

If “according to a human point of view” we naturally think of the Father as male, the Word in the Spirit manifests all that is characteristically masculine and feminine, revealing a true spiritual picture of God[12]. Biblically, it is male and female together that fully image God.[13] A new wholeness between men and women in the church is foundational to the coming move of God.[14]

The Spirit is drawing my attention to this prophetic Word, “”How long will you waver, O faithless daughter (Israel)? For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man.”” (Jer 31:22) The word for “new” here is used for both the original creating (Gen 1:1) and spiritual renewal[15]. The difficult expression “a woman encircles a man” is followed by the promise of the new covenant (vv.31- 34). It seems to mean that previously rebelliousIsrael will now cling tenaciously to the LORD. Ultimately this speaks of the church as the Bride holding fast to Christ her Head (Eph5:23).

Since the word for “encircle” in Jeremiah is the same used in Deuteronomy 32 for the work of the Spirit in the glory cloud[16], it points to the church entering into the glory of God in the Spirit as it is penetrated by the Word.[17]

This glory should be in marriages before it is in the church[18]. Since Christ reveals his love for the church in the husband wife relationship (Eph 5:25- 32), the church will not cling to Jesus intimately (“encircle”) without a renewal in Christian marriages. Marriage must be re –discovered as a sanctuary of glory.[19] Only the power of the gospel[20] can restore true oneness in marriage, and at the heart of the gospel is that unconditional forgiveness seen in the story of the prodigal son and promised in the key passage of Jeremiah 31[21].

Jesus is speaking directly to two deeply interrelated emotions within our marriages that reveal the grace of forgiveness is not flowing. Unless the spiritual strongholds of fear and anger are broken the Holy Spirit cannot fulfill his desire for us to “encircle” Christ to the glory of God the Father[22].

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they (men and women) shall be called the sons of God.” (Matt 5:9). Sons of the Father are peacemakers in their most intimate [23]relationships. God is not divided, as the war between the sexes seems to indicate, his right and left hand (feminine and masculine/Spirit and Word) are one. Anger in our marriages is creating a climate of fear that grieves the Spirit so that we are not being penetrated by the Word[24]. We are repelling the presence of the Holy Father[25]. Marital conflict (polarisation in the image of God) symbolises to the principalities and powers[26] a “spiritual division” in the Godhead itself. No wonder we cannot presently walk in the powerful loving union of the Spirit in the Word.[27]

If a purely human sense of injustice is provoking self –righteous anger in our households then we are not trusting that the Father is in control of all the circumstances of life[28]. We are not accepting that all God’s judgments are good. Of these things we need confession and open repentance- first in our marriages and then in the church.

Men, cease being angry with your wives, wives, may your fear of God be stronger than that of your husband.[29] Until these matters are dealt with there can be no great move of God[30].

Most of the church is living as if it is under threat of divine punishment[31]; this represents a deep confusion, because the full and final forgiveness in the cross means that the Father could no more be angry with us than he is with Jesus[32]. However, there is a new thing coming. The Lord is about to speak to us in the gentleness of the Spirit and the power of the Word in a way that will deal with our deepest fears.

The time is coming when men will intercede with a passion of a woman in the pains of child – birth[33]. Aboriginal Christian leaders will arise in the grace that manifests the gentle compassion of an all forgiving Father[34]. Finally, we will witness what it is like to have mature men and women in the church, people of the Word and the Spirit, who will truly reveal that “God (Father) is love” (1 John 4:8).

[1] Years ago I was given Matthew 25:24 – 25 as a description of how most Australians see God, He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, “‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.”

[2] “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rom 2:4)

[3] Sadly, I am regularly drawn to minister to those who have experienced bullying from “father figures” in ministry in our city.

[4] “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

[5] ““Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isa 49:15).

6Used of Joseph ,“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.” (Gen 45:1)

Of a prostitute, “Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” ” (1 Ki 3:26)

[7] “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Ps 91:4)

[8] John 1:1ff;3:34. Note also the descent of the Spirit as a dove on Jesus (John1:32 -33), recalling Genesis 1:2.

[9] “”O Jerusalem,Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matt23:37).

[10] A foretaste of the promise, “Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy.” (Isa 4:5)

[11] “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over,Israel?…My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” (Hos 11:8) “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” ( Luke 6:36).

[12] This is not to imply that gender physically exists in God. However, traditionally the Spirit’s role in intimacy and wisdom (Hebrew ruah for Spirit and Greek sophia for wisdom are feminine nouns) have led to an association with the feminine, while the Logos = Jesus is a masculine noun.

[13] This is indicated by the structure of Genesis 1:27, “So God created man (a) in his own image (b) , in the image of God (b) he created him (a); male and female (a) he created them (b).”

[14] This has nothing to do with political correctness but is a prerequisite for enduring revival in our time and place.

[15] “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isa 43:19)

[16] “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. 11 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, (Deut 32:10- 11)

[17] This is how “he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor6:17). The image appears sexual, but only because the sexual is fulfilled in the spiritual.

[18] At creation the people of God and marriage were identical, Adam and Eve. This preceded any institutional form of church.

[19] Compare Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 11:7, “For a man/husband ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman/wife is the glory of man.”

[20] Rom1:16

[21] “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house ofIsrael after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer 31:31- 34)

[22] The focus here is on marriage, but much of it applies to male –female relationships in general.

[23] Our prosperity obsessed culture and church does not believe that suffering can be within the good purposes of God (Rom8:28).

[24] “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil … do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:26, 30)

[25] “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

[26] “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” Eph3:10; “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of (not offending) the angels.” 1 Cor11:10)

[27] The growing incidence of homosexuality in previously “Christian” societies is a primary manifestation of the failure of husbands and wives to show that sexual union with someone of a different gender than oneself is a good thing. In many families the spiritual climate in the home makes it appear to the children as if God is wrathful at the very place where his intimate love should be most manifest – the covenant of marriage.

[28] “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom11:36); “who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph1:11).

[29] I am not so naive to suppose that men are never fear women nor are women never angry with men. But I think this is the dominant pattern, and that in marriage the husband is to be addressed first.

[30] “If we are going to see a great move of God we need to make sure marketplace Christians understand their calling to the marketplace and are ministering where they work. But, if we are going to see the marketplace transformed it will require married couples to have a solid biblical marriage because a businessperson’s ministry will only advance to the extent his marriage permits.” (Jack Serra).

[31] 1 John4:18 “fear has to do with punishment”, faithless fear has within it a foretaste of final punishment.

[32] “as he (Jesus) is, so are we in this world” (1John4:17)

[33] “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Gal4:19 Cf. Rom8:22- 23)

[34] The late Uncle Ronnie Williams was a person like this.

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