We refer to the first person of the Trinity as “God the Father,” and it is important to understand that God’s fatherhood comes before any fatherhood among human beings. In other words, God did not create human fathers and then begin to describe himself in reference to them. Rather, God has always been Father and created human fathers in reference to him.
Thus, when our earthly fathers act in compassion toward their children, they are merely imitating the compassion of the heavenly Father. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).
Yet only God is infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably compassionate, which is why Matthew Henry can say that “all the compassions of all the tender fathers in the world compared with the tender mercies of our God would be but as a candle to the sun or a drop to the ocean.” Even at our finest moment, we are only ever the palest imitations of the perfectly and wondrously compassionate God.
And yet what a joy, what a blessing, what an honor that we can be that—that we can be even a pale imitation of One so marvelous, so compassionate, and so lovely as our Father. No wonder, then, that we pause on this day to celebrate our fathers and our Father.
(Excerpted from my forthcoming book Understanding and Trusting Our Great God (Words from the Wise))