ATM machines. They exist for one purpose. People drive up to an ATM, put in their debit card, punch in the magic password, and transact banking business. I use my ATM machine exclusively to deposit checks and receive money. I can say with complete honesty; I have no relationship with my ATM. Zero. Nada. None. I go to it when I need something. I don’t talk to it (that would be weird), think about it after I leave, or spend time lavishing praise on it. I use it to meet my needs.
I wonder if sometimes I treat God like that. I simply show up when I want something. I seek his hand more than I seek his face. I pursue God because He can benefit me. If we are honest, we all have treated God like this.
Yet, the Bible gives a very different picture of God. He is a Father who longs for His children to spend time with Him. The New Testament introduces us to an Aramaic word, Abba. This term is used three times to describe God:
- Mark 14:36, And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
- Romans 8:14-15, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father!”
- Galatians 4:4-6, “But when the fullness of time has come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
A little language history will help. The Jewish people spoke Hebrew early in their history. The Northern Kingdom, Israel, was conquered in 722 BC and assimilated into the Assyrian culture. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, was conquered by Babylon, and the Jewish people exiled into Babylon began to speak the language of the Babylonians, Aramaic. By the 1st century, the three primary languages spoken in Palestine were Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and a few Romans spoke Latin. Many of the Jewish lay people would have spoken Aramaic.
The term “Abba,” used only connected with “Father,” was an Aramaic expression used by children to address their fathers. It is equivalent to the English, “papa,” or “daddy.”
Jesus uses the term in Mark 14 to address his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. It would seem appropriate for Jesus to utilized this intimate term for God, yet in Romans and Galatians, we are given the privilege of referring to God as “daddy.” Speechless. What are we to say to this? Because of the depth, profundity, and beauty of the gospel message, as sinful rebels we are adopted into the family of God and can cry out through the Holy Spirit, “Abba! Father!” We can call God, “Abba!”
My relationship with God is not like a spiritual ATM! This intimate, close, dear, beloved, cherished, relationship with my heavenly “Papa” is not because God is a 24/7 dispenser of “blessings” or a celestial masseur.
“As a Father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”
His name is Abba Father because he is God and there is no other! He is the King of the universe! As his children, our lives are hidden in Christ. Not a hair will fall from our heads, not a breath will be expelled from our lungs, and not a rhythmic beat from our hearts will happen apart from His sovereign purpose and pleasure. Our loving Father will accomplish his purpose in our lives and in that we rest.
Psalm 103:13, “As a Father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”
Application: When you pray today, because of Jesus’ finished work for you, you can call your heavenly Father, Abba! Father!