The first of the irrevocable gifts or privileges included in Israel’s high calling of GOD, as enumerated by the apostle in this Scripture, is expressed in the Words:
to whom pertaineth the adoption
, or more literally, ‘the sonship’. At the very beginning of their national history, when GOD sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt, His Word to Pharaoh was;
Israel is My son, My firstborn, and I say unto thee, let My son go that he may serve Me.
Thus Jehovah avouched them in a special sense as His peculiar people - His firstborn from among the nations
;and all His subsequent self-revelations to them, and all His dealings with them, were designed to teach them what is implied in this blessed relationship; what it means in the Spirit and in truth to pronounce the word Abba. Hitherto, though Israel had this most precious Name of GOD much on their lips, they have not as a nation entered experimentally into its meaning, nor have they as yet corresponded to the character of children of the living GOD. There has, indeed, always been the little remnant according to the election of grace, who worshipped GOD in the spirit and in truth, and who by the spirit of adoption which was in them cried,
Doubtless, Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; Thou, O Jehovah, art our Father, our Redeemer; Thy Name is from everlasting (Isaiah 63, verse 16); but to the people as a whole the words uttered by Malachi to the priests may well be applied:
A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; if then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear?’ saith Jehovah of Hosts.
One of the most pathetic complaints of GOD against Israel in this connection is to be found in Jeremiah 3, verse 4. In the first verses of that Chapter, He reminds them of their many grievous sins, and apostasies from Him - of their spiritual adultery, which, if He dealt with them according to law, would be sufficient to separate them from Him forever; but being full of compassion, He is willing to forgive all the past, and cries,
Yet return again to Me, saith Jehovah.
Then follow those wonderful Words which give us a glimpse into the yearning and love of His heart for His people, and show us His longing that they should at last understand and enter experimentally into the relations in which He stood to them according to His covenants and promises:
Wilt thou not from this time (Wilt thou not now at last) cry unto me, Abi (‘my Father’) - Thou art the Guide of my youth? The word alluph, translated here guide, is the same as in Proverbs 2, 17, where it is used of the strange adulterous woman who forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her GOD - a truer rendering, however, of which would be: Who forsaketh the mate, or a friend (or husband), of her youth; and so, by this act, forgetteth, or breaketh the covenant of her GOD.
Now these were the two great and blessed relationships into which GOD had entered with His people - that of a father to his son; and that of a husband to his wife. In both of these Israel has thus far proved unfaithful. As a Father, GOD has to complain of His disobedient and gainsaying people, that they are
children who have corrupted themselves and become corrupters (Isaiah 1, verse 4): and as a Husband He has to pour out His heart’s grief and pain ever so many times at Israel’s spiritual adulteries,because she had played the harlot with many lovers. But, blessed be His Holy Name, He abides faithful and true, though all men may prove liars,
He will ever be mindful of His covenant (Psalm 11, verse 5); and in spite of all their disobedience and apostasy, He has never ceased to be a Father to Israel, or to call Ephraim His firstborn (Jeremiah 31, 9 and 20). And in the end, Israel will at last enter experimentally into the blessedness of both these relationships.
It is beautiful to note in that same third Chapter of Jeremiah, where, in the second part, a glimpse is given us of the future - when Jerusalem shall be called, the throne of Jehovah - we read,
But I (Jehovah) said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a goodly heritage of the hosts of the nations?’ and I said, Ye shall call me Abi (‘my Father’),and shall not turn away from following Me(verse 17 to 19).
Wilt thou not, from this time, cry unto Me, ‘Abi?
Not yet has Israel as a nation apprehended that for which they were apprehended of GOD; not yet has the people as a whole responded to their high calling and looked up to the GOD of heaven and earth crying, My Father. But to them pertaineth the huiothesia - sonship, and, in the end Jehovah has pledged Himself to bring them, actually and experimentally, into this blessed relationship.
And I said- it is His irrevocable purpose -
ye shall call Me Abi -for He who has called them to be His son, His firstborn, will pour the spirit of adoption - the spirit of filial fear and of love into their hearts, so that they shall be obedient children and shall no more turn away from following after Him.
So also that other near and precious relationship of the Bride to the Bridegroom, or of the Wife to the Husband, to which Israel was called, shall become an actual experimental reality of their history; for after Israel repents of her past unfaithfulness, and returns to her first (or lawful) husband (Hosea 2), we read:
Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate; but thou shalt be called ‘My delight is in her,’ and thy land ‘Married’; for Jehovah delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married; for as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy Builder marry thee; and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride; so shall thy GOD rejoice over thee. Isaiah 62, verse 4 and 5.
Meanwhile, during this period of Israel’s unfaithfulness and disobedience, there is a remnant according to the election of grace from that nation, and a people taken out for His Name from among the Gentiles, who enter into the enjoyment of those very gifts, or high privileges, to which Israel was called. To us too, if we be Messiah’s, belongeth the huiothesia - the sonship -
for as many as are led by the Spirit of GOD, they are the sons of GOD. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of sonship, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The Spirit Itself, beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of GOD. Romans 8, verses 14 to 16.
I was asked not long ago by a prominent evangelist, the meaning of the repetition of the word Father in this passage, and also in Galatians 4, verse 6. There is meaning and beauty in it. Abba is, of course, the Hebrew for Father; and Ho Pater, which immediately follows, is the Greek for the same word; and the repetition in the two languages is in keeping with the character of the Church in this dispensation, in which there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, who through Messiah, have access together by One Spirit unto the Father, for the same Holy Spirit; which creates in the believing Israelite the spirit of sonship and teaches him to cry, in his language, Abba, fulfills the same blessed mission in the heart of the Greek believer - the Greek standing in the New Testament as the representative of the Gentiles - and teaches him to cry in his language, Ho Pater.