The Song of the Mountains – Verse XXXI
The apostle Paul writes, “For through the grace given me, I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of yourselves than you ought to think – but to use sound judgment, as God has assigned to each person a measure of faith” (Ro. 12:3).
Have you ever thought more highly of yourself than you should have? Did you find out the hard way that perhaps you were not as good or as great as you believed? Let’s leave that for now.
A humbling message.
The Lord’s Prayer begins with a revolutionary message: the covenant Lord, creator of heaven and earth, is our Father. By faith in Messiah, through the spirit of adoption we now enjoy a new relationship with Him; a relationship that is difficult for some to accept because of various parental issues and circumstances, but one that can be properly developed and healed through prayer and time.
This, however, brings us to another point, a point that we might read past, and gloss over: in heaven. Surely, Yeshua/Jesus does not need to remind us that the Lord of creation is in Heaven, goes He? Or is He attempting to do something else?
From the beginning.
With the hindsight of history, we can easily articulate that Yeshua began something revolutionary; a way of being reconciled with God by faith in Him, by the acceptance of His sacrifice before the Father (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 2:8-10).
Still, this way of renewal was not limited to the Jewish people. It would be extended into all the earth – to every tribe, tongue, nation and people (Rev. 7:9). It took time, by some estimates nearly ten years before the Gospel was delivered to the house of Cornelius and the beginning of Gentile inclusion in God’s Kingdom, with earlier starts recorded in Acts 8:4-25 and Acts 8: 26-39.
This event speaks precisely to why Yeshua adds, “in heaven” to the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer – to humble us. The Jewish people believed that Gentiles were too far from God to be saved because of their practices (Gal. 2:15); yet, they were humbled when the Lord began to shed His grace upon un-covenanted people (Acts 11:18).
Don’t think more highly.
Often, this “delay” of the apostles going out into the world finds criticism among contemporary gospel preachers. It has been argued that they did not fully appreciate the Great Commission, the Gospel, or that their cultural bias kept them isolated. I find that the Gospel message went out precisely when the Lord intended it to. According to His sovereign design.
Yeshua moved and taught cautiously; not taking His disciples beyond what they were able, until they were prepared. The revelation of Gentile inclusion, apart from formal conversion (by circumcision for men), would be difficult for Jewish believers to hear when first presented with it (Acts 15). It would lead, and did lead, one part of the family to think more highly of themselves than they ought. Either because one was already accepted, or one was apparently accepted differently – I’ll leave you to consider the fine points of that observation.
We need to have some objectivity about ourselves. Yes, the Lord is our Father in Heaven; but we are still here upon the earth. The danger is that we will begin to act more like a prince or princess of the Kingdom of God, rather than servantsof the King.
Consider this, the Lord is being worshipped in Heaven by untold myriads of angels – along with those saints who have gone on to heaven. Am I really so great and wonderful here on the earth, that I can act so much greater than everyone else? Probably not. The book of Ecclesiastes warns us, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”
Yeshua is teaching us, yet again, to be humble, and maybe even a bit circumspect as regards our attitude in light of our relationship with the Lord, a message to both Jewish and Gentile believers: don’t take yourselves too seriously.
Additionally, Yeshua is reminding us just how great and how vast the Lord is, and how we should approach Him. This opening statement, “our Father,” invites us to intimacy with God. That He is in Heaven causes us to consider Him in His supreme majesty. Intimate and majestic. Not contradictory. Yet, causing us to approach Him in love and awe.
The three O’s.
Bearing in mind how intimate He can be with us, doctrine has developed over the centuries that speaks of the Living God in three terms: Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient. The prefix ‘Omni’ means all or every. Omnipotent: all powerful. Omnipresent: all present. Omniscient: all knowing. There is no part of His creation that He is separated from. Nothing is beyond His knowledge. There is no power greater than Him. We have limitations, but He does not.
All that to say.
It takes faith to believe that He knows us, as we have not yet seen Him face to face – as He is Spirit, dwelling in inexpressible glory, beyond our capacity to fully appreciate. Compared to all this, how or why should we think more highly of ourselves? There must, again, be balance with this – those He has redeemed are special to Him, a treasure that He purchased with the blood of His Son; yet, we cannot walk and serve others with an outward attitude based on that cherished reality.
He is our Father, and He loves us; but we must be ever mindful of the great truth expressed in lyric by Walter Chalmers Smith, echoing Scripture, “Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, most blessed, most glorious, the ancient of days, almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.”
The heart again.
The issue, then, is one of the heart. The heart is a continuing struggle in the human life. Our hearts must be softened. Humbled in order to repent, and be reconciled to the Lord. Furthermore, the heart must be continually humbled before the Lord in the life of faith.
It seems, then, that there is a deeper dimension to how Yeshua opened this prayer for His disciples. By identifying Him as “Our Father in Heaven…” He is addressing the subject of humility. For it is by humility that we receive the substance of what we pray for: daily need, forgive as we have been forgiven, protection, and endurance to overcome temptation.
We pray these words humbled before God our Father, leading to a life of humble interactions with the human others around us.
Shalom. Be well.