If you could have lunch one-on-one with a famous person, who would it be, and what would you talk to him or her about?
If that weren’t possible, but you knew someone who knew him well, you might ask that person all sorts of questions about what your favorite celebrity is like.
What about someone from history? What if you knew someone who was alive when he was alive? You might ask that person all sorts of questions about what this figure was like.
What about someone from the Bible? In spite of what’s written about some of the men and women of biblical history, there are plenty of details we don’t know. What did they look like? What eye color, hair color, body shape, height? What did their voice sound like? What was their favorite food?
If I say “Winston Churchill,” you can recall a photograph, even audio files of his voice. If I say “Abraham Lincoln,” you can recall pictures and paintings of his appearance. There’s even a life-size wax figure of Lincoln with his family (who were about half his height) in the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois.
If I say “the Apostle Peter,” now it gets tricky. You have nothing to go on more than words in a book—again, not counting an artist’s guess as to what he might have looked like.
But just like that friend-of-a-friend, if you know someone who knows a celebrity—if you know someone who lived when a certain historical figure was alive—the details become far clearer.
Did you know that when you get down on your knees every morning—when you call out to God throughout the day, when you come before His presence at mealtimes, or before bed—you are interacting with a Being who knew those great men and women from the Bible. He was the same God to whom they prayed!
I vividly remember thinking about this as I prayed before the premiere of my oratorio Abraham. I talked to God about how He knew the figure we were about to portray. He knew what Abraham looked like, sounded like, walked like. He knew Abraham’s habits, his favorite activities, what excited him. The Bible actually says they were friends (James 2:23).
Abraham talked with his friend daily. That’s the God you know—with whom you can have a relationship.
When God introduced Himself to Isaac, He said: “I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake” (Genesis 26:24).
God essentially told Isaac, Your dad and I go way back! In verse 3, He told Isaac that He would be with him, bless him, and fulfill His promise to Isaac’s dad.
This wouldn’t have been the first time Isaac heard about Dad’s history! Abraham—who commonly spoke with God, talked with Melchizedek, dined with Him, negotiated over the fate of Sodom with Him—would have had a lot of stories and details about God to share with Isaac.
By calling Himself “the God of Abraham your father,” God was reminding Isaac of all that history!
God introduced Himself to Isaac’s son Jacob the same way (Genesis 28:12-13). And Jacob, talking to his own son Joseph, referred to God with this title (Genesis 49:25-26).
Years later, at the burning bush, God said to Moses: “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob …” (Exodus 3:6). Later in the exchange, Moses asked God, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (verse 13).
God instructed Moses that His name is “I AM THAT I AM” (verse 14)—He is the God who was, is and always will be. Then God added: “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt” (verses 15-16).
At the burning bush, God repeatedly called Himself the “God of your fathers.”
Later, after escaping Egypt through the miraculously parted Red Sea, Moses had the Israelites sing about God this way: “The Lord … is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2).
He is “my father’s God,” yes. But, as Israel sang, God is also my God. We have a responsibility to know God as “the God of our fathers”—the God of the previous generations—but also as “our God.” This shows us how to think about God and about history—and the importance of transmitting that history to future generations.
This subject applies to any young person attending God’s Church. It certainly applies if we have literal, physical fathers (or mothers, grandparents, uncles, aunts) who had history with God. We should understand how God was involved in their lives.
It also applies spiritually when it discusses our “fathers in the truth” in more recent history—what God did for the late Herbert W. Armstrong and our pastor general, Gerald Flurry.
It also applies to everyone whose mind God has opened to His truth—including any youth in His Church. How do we know that? Because Romans 4:16 and Galatians 3:29 say we all have Abraham as our father. God is the God of our father Abraham.
Jesus Christ told the religious elite of His day how Abraham acted (remember, He was there!)—that they weren’t acting like his children, as they’d claimed to be (John 8:33-58). Consider that! These people were talking to the Being who had interacted with Abraham—yet because this man was, as they said, “not yet fifty years old,” they couldn’t understand how He had seen Abraham. But Jesus responded with that historic name—a name that evokes all that history: “Before Abraham was, I am.”
We pray to the God of our fathers—to the God who was alive and interacting with all those great figures of history!
And He is your God. He gives you “historic” experiences that you must pass on to the next generation—though you may not actively be thinking about those experiences in those terms yet. God is forging memories with you directly. These are lessons you must continue to remember and eventually pass on.
The payoff for all this is that it gives us an understanding of history to help us face the future!
Consider how history is passed on currently. Many find history boring. But every major event in your life (at one time called “the present”) comes with a host of feelings—some exciting, some terrifying, but definitely personally relevant to you. All history is like that—but it takes work to grasp it. By learning history on this deeper level—truly understanding what our forefathers went through, making it personal and relatable to us—we make it far more inspiring. If we see the meaning and emotion in it, we are far likelier to guard that history more passionately.
What’s more, God gives us “historic” experiences that we must pass on to the next generation. He is my father’s God … and He is my God.
When Moses’s successor Joshua died, something tragic happened to the national memory. Judges 2:10-12 point out that many in Joshua’s generation had died off, “… and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, … and followed other gods, … and provoked the Lord to anger.”
Where was the previous generation that knew and interacted with the great Joshua? Why weren’t they teaching all that magnificent history? How illogical and infuriating it was to God that they would forsake all that history (see also Deuteronomy 29:24-27 and Daniel 11:37).
Would you like to meet David? Well, you have a personal relationship with David’s God! David used this name for God when praying on behalf of the nation. It is also how he encouraged his son Solomon.
“And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind …. for the Lord hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it” (1 Chronicles 28:9-10).
David exhorted Solomon to know the God of his father! Part of that admonition had to do with the work that lay before Solomon: He was to build God a house. (David invoked that name of God when taking up the offering for God’s house—1 Chronicles 29:18-20.)
Years after David had died, God appeared to Solomon and talked directly to him: “And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father …. But if ye turn away, … this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus unto this land, and unto this house? And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers …” (2 Chronicles 7:17-19, 21-22).
It’s all tied here to God’s house. That temple Solomon built was often called “the house of the Lord God of your fathers” (see 2 Chronicles 24:18; 29:5). In the World Tomorrow, the temple will be called the “house of the God of Jacob” (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2).
What about your history with God’s end-time house? Many in the previous generation remember the time before it existed—the Church-wide fasts, the plans, the groundbreaking, the construction—then finally the dedication, the first Sabbath service and the inaugural concert. We each have a slightly different direct personal history with it. These weren’t dry facts we were memorizing about this time period. These were living, present events that caused us to feel things!
What about those of you given the opportunity to come to headquarters for a summer camp? You experienced going to Sabbath services there, maybe performing special music there in a camp chorus, maybe seeing Celtic Throne live, or even performing in it. Is that going to be boring history for the generation that follows yours?
One of the kings in Judah seriously mistreated God’s house (2 Chronicles 28:24) and provoked to anger “the Lord God of his fathers” (verse 25). This brought trouble from his worldly neighbors.
Notice how this king is introduced to us. Verse 1: “Ahaz … did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father.” Do you know how “recent” that history with David was? David was Ahaz’s 11th great-grandfather! More time had passed between the two men than the United States has even been a country! And yet God was holding those kings accountable for how much like “David [their] father” they were! This shows the importance of that history!
Despite Ahaz’s shortcomings, his son Hezekiah “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Chronicles 29:2; see also Isaiah 38:5). He did it just as his father—that is, his 12th great-grandfather—David had done!
In 2 Chronicles 30, King Hezekiah even appeals to what was left of Israel (the northern 10 tribes who had largely been taken captive by Assyria) and tries to convince them to come to Passover in Jerusalem: “Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria. And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the LordGod of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see” (verses 6-7).
Hezekiah was truly showing how the previous generation failed at knowing their history with God. Yet, most of those Israelites laughed it all to scorn.
In the history of the kings following Hezekiah, this name for God is referenced in the account of each one—whether that king forsook the God of his fathers or followed the God of his fathers.
This name is used again during Judah’s captivity, this time in the writings of Daniel (Daniel 2:23), then again after captivity by Ezra (Ezra 7:27; 8:28; 10:11). In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter used it when talking to Jews of his day (Acts 3:12-13), and so did the Apostle Paul (Acts 22:14; 24:14).
The Old Testament has an earlier reference to this name of God that teaches a remarkable historical lesson. It’s used about six times in Deuteronomy and Joshua when referring to Israel and the Promised Land they were about to possess.
The lesson is, God made this promise to a previous generation, and God keeps His promises! The God of your fathers even made this promise to you!
What a profound lesson!
“(The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!) … Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 1:11, 21).
This name for God was meant to inspire courage! Again, if God promised something, then you can be sure it’s going to happen. You have all that history preceding you to prove it!
This name for God was used in prayer by many of the Bible’s greatest personalities: Jacob, David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Daniel.
This is the God to whom you pray: the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other stars of the Old Testament. The God of Peter, Paul and other apostles throughout Church history. The God of Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Flurry. And in some literal, physical cases, the God of your fathers and mothers and grandparents and uncles and aunts!
You can seek out this history from your parents or parent-types in the previous generation.
To use a personal example, I can share my father’s history with Malachi’s Message with my children. I remember being days away from turning 14 when my dad received that book on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 1990. That was the first day the mail had run in a couple days because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The year my son Ezekiel was about to turn 14 (he was born a day after me on the calendar, so that made it easy to remember), I made sure to tell my children that history—him being almost exactly the same age I was when all that was happening. We can easily take that book for granted today, but back then, no one knew what to do until God used that book to show our parents!
To use another personal example—this time as a father—I regularly try to remind my children about the lawsuit against the Philadelphia Church of God by the Worldwide Church of God, and my own involvement as a publishing employee directly impacted by the ins and outs of the court case. My oldest son Seth was only 2 1/2 years old when the case ended; Ezekiel was born just after the initial terms of settlement were reached. The full impact of the case’s miraculous end can never be overdramatized: We had lost at the appellate level, were denied a hearing by the Supreme Court, and were set to go to “damages,” where they would undoubtedly suck us dry of everything we had; and then they called us wanting to settle! The only explanation for this “surrender” was what Christ prophesied He would do in Amos 9:1—wound them in the head! That’s the God I have to introduce to my children and other students.
Those are two examples—one from my father, and one from me as a father. The point is, we have our links to the previous generation, and we have our own history with God in this generation.
Our Fathers’ Return
The most astounding reference to the God of our fathers is given in Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. This puts it all in an amazing perspective. Christ is teaching about the resurrection: “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him” (Luke 20:37-38).
Christ points out that this name of God even points us to the resurrection! The fact that God was introduced that way shows, of itself, that He is planning to resurrect those fathers!
The God of our fathers is the God of the living! He is the God who resurrects!
We recently published an article about how God will teach history in the World Tomorrow. The Bible shows the kinds of monuments and landmarks God will put up to emphasize history properly. Added to all that is this element: The actual people involved in that history will be ruling members in God’s Family!
Even before their literal resurrection, though, we must keep those figures alive in our minds and daily decisions.
This points us back to the Father—the God we serve. He is the God who blesses us and gives us courage! The God who invites us into His house! The God who is building this Family! The God of the resurrection! The God—our Father—to whom we pray! Our father’s God, and your God.