Fatherhood and Restoration
1. Knowing the succession

In the Old Testament

No legal code of adoption in OT

Jer 30 ff.  chapters of restoration.

Lam 5:7 “Our fathers sinned, and are no more;and we bear their iniquities.”

Jer 31:31- 33  forgiveness means the threat of Ex 20:5 “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me”is abolished.  Cf. Num 14:18

The new covenant promise relates to God’s own fatherhood   Jer 31:9 “for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.”

Mal 4:6  “send you Elijah” Elijah is the man (father) with power to impart the double portion.

The blessing of the first born is imparted to/on Elisha.  The double portion is the right of succession (Deut 21:17).  Double portion “of your spirit”, Elisha recognizes this is given to him when he sees Elijah depart and exclaims as this spirit is communicate dto him, “my father, my father” (2 Ki 2:12).  This is publicly recognized by others through his possession of the mantle of Elijah (2 Ki 1:8) and that he does twice as many miracles as his father in the faith.

There seems to be a sequence in fathering:

  1. the heart of Elijah is turned to Elisha, “When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” 10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”” 2 Ki 2:9 -10

He sees this happen and knows he is the prophetic successor.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist comes “in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:17)   This involves “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”(Luke 3:3).  The ministry of John “because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high” (Luke 1:78) prepares for the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy of Malachi 4:2, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”  John’s ministry, as summarized in Luke 1:17 (Mal 4:6 “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”) somehow cuts off the consequences of intergenerational sin.

There seems to be a sequence in fathering:

  1. the heart of John is turned to Jesus (In baptising him, instrumentally, John is the revealer of the Father to Jesus.  He sees the Spirit descend on Jesus as the one promised by the Father.  This is a response to Jesus obedience to John’s words. “And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” John 1:32-34)  This is the witness that Jesus is the successor of John.


The Father always knows the heart of the Son (“ All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matt 11:27).

Where, in the history of Israel, has a father been punished for the sins of his sons, or a son ever been punished for the sins of his father? (“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” Ezek 18:20)  This seems to be suspended at the cross when the Father and the Son suffer the punishment for the children of men.

At the cross (Mark 15:34) Jesus bears the curse of broken fatherhood.  This is the place of the orphan spirit, where the words of Malachi 4:6 seem untrue.  That is, where the heart of the Father does not seem turned to the Son (no Word or Spirit manifest).  Here, Jesus has no sense that he is the successor of the Father upon the earth.

The resurrection and ascension and session means that Jesus returns humanity into the Father’s glory (John 17:5) so receives power to impart the Spirit (Rom 1:14; Acts 2:33etc.) as the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4) = impartation of his whole life experience of Fatherhood.

The Disciples

There seems to be a sequence in fathering:

  1. the heart of Jesus is turned to the disciples – they see him ascend and he gives the Spirit (Acts 1 -2)  Their experience tells them they succeed Jesus in his mission on earth.

The see the succession viz. for Jesus, in his elevation to the right hand of God, is to know the return in glory (Acts 1:11)

God has always know all hearts (Gen 6:5; 1 Ki 8:39).  Through the Spirit the Father knows the hearts of the children as they are turned towards him.  “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal 4:6 – 7cf. Rom 8:16- 17)  The witness of the Spirit in the heart testifies to sonship and inheritance.  This inheritance is “kept in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:4).

The failure of the church to look for the return of Jesus from heaven signifies that it does not understand its inheritance as sons.  The desire for the second coming reveals a desire to return to the Father, who comes in the Son.  Instead, the church today is obsessed with natural succession- denominations, buildings, titles, ministry.

The World

There seems to be a sequence in fathering:

  1. the heart of the disciples is turned to the world (Acts 2>) in their continuing the ministry of Jesus (preaching, healing etc.)

Fatherhood and Restoration  Part II: Blessing and Cursing

1. Eden

This is the place of the original blessing – 1. land 2. seed (descendants) 3. dominion.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28)  The purpose of the command is the multiplication of the blessing.

(This will find its eschatological fulfillment through the Great Commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth (= land) has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples (= dominion) of all nations (= seed),  (Matt 28:18 -19)

2. The Fall

Adam falls because he wants the inheritance without the blessing of the father (cf. Esau, prodigal son).

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;” (Gen 3:17)  The curse is on the circumstances of human life.

The curse is upon Cain personally, “And now you are cursed from the ground,” (Gen 4:11).

3. Abraham

The promise of the restoration of blessing is through Abraham,

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1 -3).

Election is with a view to promise.  Abraham is commanded to be a blessing (“so that you will be a blessing” is an imperative).  The blessing outweighs (“those” is plural) the cursing (“him” is singular).

His name is changed, “No longer shall your name be called Abram (exalted father), but your name shall be Abraham (father of a multitude), for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”(Gen 17:5) indicating the multiplication of the blessing of having God as his God, “to be God to you and to your offspring after you”(Gen 17:7).

4. Covenant Violation

The covenant curses (Deut 27:9 -28:68) are warnings to Israel.  The Law is revealed so these things might not fall on parents and children, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut 29:29).

Experience of the covenant curses indicates a failure of the parents to teach the Law to their children.  The curses fall on the covenant nation when it does not walk before God in the ways of Abraham, the covenant father.  In such a state, i.e. of dishonouring the covenant father, and so the covenant Maker, the curses of the line of Canaan (Gen 9:25; Lev 18:3ff.) fall on Israel.  (God’s vengeance, as a consuming fire, due on the Canaanites (Deut 9:3), will fall on Israel (Deut 4:24).

5. The Prophetic Promise

God promises that after punishing the nation he will restore them through a spiritual circumcision, “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deut 30:6 cf. Rom 2:29; Phil 3:3)

Malachi prophesies the return of Elijah as a covenant messenger.  Repentance turns the people back to the covenant.  “Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. ….5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Mal 3:1; 4:5 -6)

The turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children means a recognition that they have not taught the Law (Deut 29:29).  Their repentance is a resolve to test the Law.  This turns their children to them, as they realise that the curse on the land/them is due to parental disobedience, “And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the Lord has made it sick— 23 the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger and wrath— 24 all the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ 25 Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, 26 and went and served other gods and worshipped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. 27 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, 28 and the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’”(Deut 29:22 – 28).

6. The New Covenant

These principles apply to the new covenant because Abraham is the spiritual father of all who have faith in the promises of God in Christ, and his blessing is the inheritance of the world and the gift of the Spirit.

11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”— (Rom 4:11- 17).

“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…. so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3:7 -9, 14)

Every family is destined for the blessing of Abraham, received by faith.  This is what Paul prays, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” (Eph 3:14- 15).  The church is to “bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Pet 3:9).  We must suppose this is equivalent to the original command to Abraham to bless all (Gen 12:2).  Not to do this will invoke experiences like the covenant curses of the Law.  (Those these have been taken away in the cross (Gal 3:13).)

7. The Root of Unbelief

The OT singles out the sin of presumption as drawing particular wrath from God so that good and bad alike suffer (Deut 29:19).  This is the opposite of the circumcised heart.

“Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. 20 The Lord will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven. 21 And the Lord will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.” (Deut  29:18 -21).

The NT strongly warns against committing this sin.  “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.”(Heb 12:15- 17)  The sensuous Esau dishonoured the promises of God in dishonouring the blessing of his father.

The sin of covenant presumption is committed by Adam, Esau, the stubborn –hearted sinner of Deuteronomy 29 and the Pharisees in John 8, “They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.”… “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (39- 40, 56)  The Pharisees could not see what Abraham saw because they lived by presumption and not faith. Cf. “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matt 3:9)

The danger for the Hebrews, in “failing to obtain the grace of God” (12:15) is the same as that for the Galatian believers, “ For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”” (Gal 3:10). All who rely on the Law are cursed, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Gal 5:4)

In context, the object of faith is Christ in the heavenly sphere (Heb 12:18-29).  This is not the signs of material favour upon the covenant people- temple, cult, circumcision, but something that can only be seen by faith.  “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Heb 11:13).

Where believers fail to live by faith and grace, and become like sinful Israel, they are in danger of encountering God as a God of wrath. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.”(Heb 12:28- 29) (This is the fate of the cursed Canaanites and reprobate Israel (Deut 4:24, 9:3)).

The church of today has committed the typical sin of the old covenant people, exchanging the covenant blessings for the God of the covenant, whom it no longer fears. ““All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. 46 They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,” (Deut 28:45- 47).

8. Restoration through the Gospel

{{JY praying, first words of hymn come to me, look it up on internet:}}

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts everywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord,
Close binding humankind.

Join hands, then, members of the faith,
Whatever your race may be!
Who serves my Father as His child
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet North and South;
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

Words: Will­iam A. Dunk­er­ley, 1908. Dunk­er­ley wrote these words for the Pa­geant of Dark­ness and Light at the Lon­don Mis­sion­ary Society’s ex­hi­bi­tion “The Or­i­ent in Lon­don,” which ran from 1908 to 1914. Many hymn­als cre­dit the words to John Ox­en­ham, Dunk­er­ley’s pseudonym.  N.b. this is a missionary hymn.

This line reminded me of Psalm 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”  We share fully in Christ in equal/absolute forgiveness as the gift of the Father.  The fathers who will bring about the restoration will and must be fathers in the gospel of final forgiveness, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (1 Cor 4:15)

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