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The God of Our Fathers

June 17, 2016

In Moses’ great hymn of thanksgiving after the waters of the Red Sea washed over the Egyptians, he exalts his heavenly Father. But have you ever noticed that he pays tribute to his earthly father as well?

I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.

The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song;

He has become my salvation.

He is my God, and I will praise him,

My father’s God, and I will exalt him. (Exodus 15:1-2 NIV)

Because the Hebrew word used for father in verse 2 is singular, Moses is most likely referring to his biological father rather than the fathers of the nation—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Why is that significant?

According to Numbers 26:59, Amram and his wife, Jochebed, had three children—Moses, Aaron and Miriam. Born into slavery, Amram and Jochebed worshiped the one true God when many Israelites had forsaken him and embraced the gods of their oppressors. Perhaps more significantly, the couple passed their faith on to their children.

It is unlikely that either parent was still alive when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. But when he penned the hymn of triumph recorded in Exodus 15, he acknowledged that the highly exalted God who had hurled the horse and its rider into the sea was the God his parents had worshiped.

Mom and Dad, he seemed to say, were right all along.

Two Hymns About God

Moses’ hymn reminds me of one we sang on Father’s Day each year in the church my family attended during my childhood—“God of Our Fathers.” Reverend Daniel C. Roberts wrote the hymn in honor of the centennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was first sung at the Brandon, Vermont, celebration held on July 4, 1876.

In “God of Our Fathers,” Roberts praised many of God’s attributes that Moses exalted in his hymn. Here are some comparisons:

Both men referred to God’s omnipotence. Moses wrote, “The Lord is a warrior…Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty, you threw down those who opposed you” (vv. 3, 6). Similarly, Roberts wrote, “From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence; be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense.”

Both hymns highlight God’s love. Moses said, “In Your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling” (v. 13). Roberts wrote, “Thy love divine hath led us in the past; in this free land by Thee our lot is cast.”

Both men also asked God for continued support in the future. Moses said, “You will bring [us] and plant [us] on the mountain of your inheritance—in the place, O Lord, you made for your dwelling” (v. 17). Roberts wrote, “Be Thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay” and “lead us from night to never ending day.”

These truths about God sustained Israel on their journey to the Promised Land, and they encouraged the people of Roberts’ time. They should also motivate us to stand firm in the faith of those who have gone before us.

Three Truths About Faith

First, we should remember that the only strength we have—as individuals or as a nation—comes from the Lord; therefore, the only victories we achieve are those our gracious God has accomplished for us. As the mighty warrior King David noted, “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory…for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine” (1 Chronicles 29:11).

Second, it is God’s unfailing love that motivates him to act on our behalf. We have neither earned his blessings by past deeds, nor can we earn them by future ones. As Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 7:7-8: “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples…But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery.”

Third, only when we make God’s Word “our law,” and his “paths our chosen way,” as Roberts wrote, will his “bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.” Roberts echoes what the psalmist penned in Psalm 119:165: “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Did Moses, Miriam, and Aaron ever sit around a campfire at night and reminisce about their parents? If they did, I’m sure they mourned the fact that their parents never saw the waters of the Red Sea part or Mt. Sinai tremble with the thunderous presence of God. Perhaps one sibling said to the others, “How grateful I am that Mom and Dad taught us to worship the one true God.”

My siblings and I were also blessed with parents who taught us to worship the God that Moses and Rev. Roberts praised in their hymns.

Along with Moses, I sing:

Who among the gods is like You, O Lord?

Who is like You

Majestic in holiness,

Awesome in glory,

Working wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

And with Roberts, I sing:

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand

Leads forth in beauty all the starry band

Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,

Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Even if your biological father didn’t teach you to worship the one true God, you probably learned about him from a spiritual father or mother—a pastor, coach, teacher or friend.

You may not be a hymn writer, but you could write your spiritual parent(s) a thank-you note. Express your appreciation to those who shared their faith with you, and then exalt your “father’s” God by sharing your faith with someone else.

God of Our Fathers

The Author
Denise Loock

Denise K. Loock is a freelance writer, editor, speaker, and Bible study teacher. She is the author of Open Your Hymnal: Devotions That Harmonize Scripture with Song and the founder of, a website devoted to helping Christians dig deeper into the Word of God. She lives in Waynesville, NC, with her husband Mace and cat Ginger.

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