Dutiful parents spend a lot of their time watching over their child to ensure his or her well-being. When the child is first born, they watch their offspring while he is sleeping, making sure the young one is breathing, making sure he is covered, making sure that he is healthy. When the child begins to walk, they watch where he is going, keeping him out of cupboards, away from stairs, guarding against danger as the toddler begins to explore the wider world around himself. As the years pass the child is watched over while at play, while eating, when learning to drive. School grades are checked, behavior is monitored, friends are observed,… and when problems arise, wise parents step in to help steer the offspring in a healthier direction. Even when the home is left, dutiful parents still check in on their now adult offspring to watch over their progress. Its just part of what it means to be a parent, this watchful nature.
There are certainly heartaches which come from having the responsibility of watching over the growth and maturation of another. Broken bones, bad choices, illness, disappointments, failure and such are all common in the life of an individual and a watchful parent experiences all of these things vicariously through their child. Yet there are also joys in the experience. A parent gets to experience the thrills of watching their offspring achieve life’s milestones: the first step, the first word, the first day of school, a marriage, grandchildren. If the job has been done well there is the satisfaction of having produced a viable member of society. Not least a proud parent knows the pure pleasure of love returned.
It is a characteristic of the divine nature that God is omniscient. He sees and knows all things. On the grand scale, the Bible declares that God not only, “determines the number of the stars;” but knowing them individually, He also, “gives to all of them their names (Psalm 147:4).” On a smaller scale, Jesus reminded His followers that God has even numbered the hairs of each individual’s head (Matthew 10:30).
For the sinful man, this all-seeing nature is an inescapable problem, for God is a righteous Judge and will bring all things to judgment. The Bible says concerning this, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10),” and, “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13; ESV).” On that day, the Scriptures declare that God will judge the “secrets of men (Romans 2:16),” for we can have no secrets from God.
Yet, whilst the all-seeing eye of God is legitimate cause for anxiety amongst those who will not repent of their sinful deeds, it is a comfort for those who are the children of God.
God spoke of His fatherly concern for His people through the prophets. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son (Hosea 1:1).” “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. (Hosea 1:3-4; ESV)”
Jesus taught His followers to be mindful of God as a watchful, loving Father. “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (Matthew 6:31-32)“ “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him (Matthew 7:11; ESV)!”
As a parent carefully watching over their offspring, so does God watch over His people. As we are born again into His eternal kingdom, we are added to His family as His beloved children (cf. Acts 2:38, 47; Romans 8:15-17). As we take our first spiritual steps, God is there, guiding and guarding. As we face trials of various sorts, God is there, mindful of what we are going through. Sometimes, He is going to step in and steer us better (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13). Sometimes, He is going to let us face challenges head-on so that we grow and mature (cf. James 1:2-4). Always He is going to be watching, never far away, desiring only the best for those who call Him Father.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.