While we were ministering in Brattleboro, Vermont, Jerry and Fern Hill visited us, along with one of the elders from the Patchogue church on Long Island to do a "Strengthening Families" seminar. One thing he said has stuck with me ever since. He pointed out that the model father is God. A few years later, I heard Joe Beam say the same thing as he was preparing to launch his parenting seminars. Typically we compare God to fatherhood, when in reality it should be the other way around.
Since then, I have made a conscious effort to try and look to God and his example for instruction on fatherhood without being selective. It is important to not be selective because I have seen the results of this from people who like to point out how hard God was on people in order to justify their harshness as a father.
Here are a few of the characteristics of God as a model father from the 103rd Psalm that is good to reflect on as a father.
1. v.8, 13 - The model father is compassionate and gracious. God's compassion and grace is unfathomable, as the cross demonstrates. God has compassion on us, even when we sin and suffer natural consequences for our sin. He will not give up on his children.
2. v.8 - The model father is slow to anger. This means that he is tolerant and patient. He has every right to be angry many times when his children do not trust him or obey him, but he does not fly off the handle. Even when they sometimes complain, he provides for them with tolerance and patience, as he did the first few times Israel complained in the wilderness.
3. v.8, 17 - The model father abounds in loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is hesed in Hebrew, which can be rendered love or loyalty. God is lovingly faithful to his children even when they disobey him and do not observe his instructions or heed his discipline that he gives out of love (Proverbs 3:12). God loves his children, even though they sometimes are not faithful.
4. v.9-10 - God does not keep his anger and does not reward us according to our wrongdoing. When God does get angry, he doesn't hold on to it. The model father lets things go. Even though he has every right to punish, he doesn't always do so, and when he does punish, it is at times less than what the crime deserves.
5. v.12 - God removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. The model father does not throw the past in your face. Once something is forgiven, once it is over and done with, it is gone.
6. v.14 - The model father understands our limitations. As a kind and compassionate father, he knows what we are made of. He will not put on us more than we are capable of handling.
This is not exhaustive by any means, but is a good start to reflect on the character of God as the model father.