Abba Father
& The Old Testament


Jesus not only referred to God as his father, he sometimes used the highly intimate name, Abba. The New Testament in its original language (Greek) sometimes left this Aramaic word untranslated because it is so special (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). The closest English equivalent is exactly Daddy, but Dada Ė a babyís earliest attempt to name its father. Perhaps abba, dada, papa, mama all sound similar because they reflect a childís natural speech limitations when learning to speak. They are often the first discernable words a baby ever utters. Abba conjures warm feelings of a happy, trusting child reaching out to its delighted, doting father.

Picturing oneís relationship with God as being this tender is in stark contrast not only with eastern religion (in which God is usually seen as impersonal) but with virtually every other religion. It even startled some of Jesusí cold, elitist Jewish contemporaries (John 5:18).

Someone only vaguely familiar with Jewish Scripture might presume from his contemporariesí reaction that Jesus had departed from the ancient Scripturesí portraying of God. Such a presumption, however, is so off-track that, years ago, when I was searching the entire Bible for whatever verses most beautifully portray this tender relationship between God and his children, I discovered that every quote I had gathered was from the Old Testament. See for yourself:

The Old Testament shows the Lord not as a father who only becomes involved with his children when they get older, but someone who tends to a babyís needs from the moment of birth, even teaching the baby to walk:

    Hosea 11:3-4 Yet I taught Ephraim to walk. I took them by his arms; but they didnít know that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with ties of love; and I was to them like those who lift up the yoke on their necks; and I bent down to him and I fed him.

    Psalm 22:9-10 But you brought me out of the womb. You made me trust at my motherís breasts. I was thrown on you from my motherís womb. You are my God since my mother bore me.

    Psalm 71:6 I have relied on you from the womb. You are he who took me out of my motherís womb. I will always praise you.

    Isaiah 46:3-4 Listen to me, house of Jacob . . . that have been carried from their birth, that have been carried from the womb. Even to old age I am he, and even to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear. Yes, I will carry, and will deliver.

    Isaiah 66:13 As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you. . . .

    The following, including what is in square brackets, is the Amplified Bibleís rendition of the verse immediately preceding the above:

    Isaiah 66:12 For the Lord says, Ď . . .  and you will nurse. You will be carried on her side, and will be dandled on her [Godís maternal] knees . . .í

The Old Testament reveals that as a little child is frequently lifted and carried by its parent, so God lifts up his children into his arms:

    Deuteronomy 1:31 . . . that the Lord your God bore you, as a man does bear his son, in all the way that you went . . .

    Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your dwelling place. Underneath are the everlasting arms. . . .

    Psalm 40:2 He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay. He set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand.

    Psalm 145:14 The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all those who are bowed down.

    Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction he was afflicted . . . In his love and in his pity he redeemed them. He bore them, and carried them all the days of old.

As a little, trusting child holding the strongest, yet gentlest hand in the world, Old Testament writers saw themselves holding Godís hand:

    Psalm 37:24 Though he stumble, he shall not fall, for the Lord holds him up with his hand.

    Psalm 63:8 My soul stays close to you. Your right hand holds me up.

    Psalm 73:23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you. You have held my right hand.

    Psalm 139:10 Even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will hold me.

    Isaiah 41:10 Donít you be afraid, for I am with you. Donít be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.

    Isaiah 41:13 For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ĎDonít be afraid. I will help you.í

    Isaiah 42:6 I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand . . .

The Almighty is more faithful than human parents:

    Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, these may forget, yet I will not forget you!

    Psalm 27:10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

Hereís yet another beautiful Old Testament picture of Godís tender love:

    Isaiah 40:11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom. He will gently lead those who have their young.

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