27th June 2023

David Mathis shares


A Father's Glimpse into the Heart of God

Few events have changed me like having a daughter.
We first had twin boys, and then our first daughter came
along more than four years later, with a strange and
wonderful effect on this father's heart -
and perhaps it feels all the more significant because
I did not expect it.

When God made two sexes, he put into place
four distinct kinds of parent-child relationships.
Jesus honours all four in his healing ministry.

A father's love for his son.
A father brings his son who "has a spirit that makes him mute".
The disciples try their hand at the exorcism, but fail.
Then Jesus steps in and casts out the demon and returns the son
to his father.

A mother's love for her son.
A young man dies, "the only son of his mother, and she was a widow."
Jesus sees her weeping and feels compassion for her.
He approaches the lifeless body and says,
"Young man, I say to you, arise."

A mother's love for her daughter.
A Gentile (Syrophoenician) mother begs Jesus to cast out the demon
from her daughter...
She responds in beautiful, humble boldness:
"Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."

When a synagogue official named Jairus approaches Jesus and falls
to his knees to plead for help, he says,
"My little daughter... It's a term of endearment and particular care,
a glimpse into a father's heart for his daughter -
which is not the same as a father's heart for a son.

There is a special kind of love and affection that exists between a
godly father and his daughter, whatever her age,
whether three or twelve or thirty.
We would be foolish to rank a father's love for son against his love
for daughter, but we'd be naïve not to see the distinctions.

Paul gives us a glimpse in his first letter to the Thessalonians.
"We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of
her own children".

Jesus picks up on Jairus's term of endearment for his daughter,
and when Jesus arrives at the house - after she has already died -
and takes her by the hand, he says, "Little girl, I say to you, arise".
We learn she's twelve years old, which isn't "little" today,
and especially not in the first century when some 12-year-olds
were on the brink of marriage.

"My little daughter" and then "Little girl" are expressions of a
tender, affectionate, and protective fatherly heart.

But it's not just women who need to know themselves loved by God
as a daughter.

All who are in Christ receive, not only the Father's care as beloved sons,
but also as cherished daughters.
The peculiar kind of loving condescension and deep compassion and
personal delight and fierceness to protect that a good father has for
his daughter is what God made us all to receive from our heavenly Father.

In Jairus's heart for his daughter, and Jesus's heart for his,
we catch a glimpse of God's father-daughter love for his people,
alongside the other distinct aspects of his love.

He looks on us with the compassion, delight, and protective affection
that a daddy has for his little girl.

It is good for women and men alike to know themselves loved by God
like a father loves a son, and like a daddy loves his little girl.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for
desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church.
He is a husband, father of four, and author of Workers for Your Joy:
The Call of Christ on Christian Leaders (2022).