A friend recently asked me how I reconcile the vengeful, war-like God of the Old Testament with the meek mild Jesus. That is a question that has come through the ages. On the surface it does look like it is almost two different Gods. The God of the Old Testament does rain fire down on sinners. He does drown armies. He smites people with leprosy. He strikes down one who dared to help steady the Ark of the Covenant. There was blood and fire and law and judgment and punishment.
He was/ is a fearsome, awesome God. One who is holy – absolutely holy. He will not be trifled with – then or now.
We cannot begin to see Him through our own understanding. It fails every time. His holiness is transcendent. We have nothing to compare it to. No one, nothing in our understanding comes close to understanding the greatness, purity, holiness of this powerful, terror-able God.
And yet in the Old Testament we get glimpse of another side of His character when we read, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried….” Isaiah, the Prophet wrote, “I will make mention of the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, according to all the Lord has granted us…which He has granted according to His compassion…” He also wrote, ” Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you, behold I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands…” Jeremiah the prophet wrote, “The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning.” David, who was a sinner like us but, was called “a man after God’s own heart wrote, “Bless the Lord oh my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagles…”. David also wrote, “I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live…gracious is the lord and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate.” And of course the very famous, “The Lord is my shepherd…” And perhaps my favorite, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs, and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.”
Often God is portrayed as masculine. Heroic. Strong. Vengeful. Powerful. But my study of the Bible leads me to conclude that there is a feminine side of God. After all a woman was half of the equation when God created “man” in His image, male and female He created them. The scripture talks about God in feminine roles – teaching and feeding His people – the roles of a woman, “Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms; But they did not know that I healed them…I bent down and fed them.”
Space limits too deep a discussion of this but there is a good book on the subject, The Mother Heart of God by Trudy Bayak. I recommend it to you.
Scripture tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of God. So if we want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. John tells us “God is love.” If God is eternal and unchanging, which I believe Him to be, what is true of God in one age, is true in another.
Jesus is often portrayed as gentle, mild, meek. Milquetoast. But, in fact, He was far from it. Jesus was a revolutionary. He was dangerous. That’s what got Him crucified. He turned the world on its ear. No longer and eye for an eye but turn the other cheek. Love your enemies. Give your shirt as well as your coat. Go the extra mile. Read the Sermon on the Mount and decide if Jesus was mild. That is hard stuff.
God is “both and”. Much bigger than we can grasp. I find great comfort that God is both fierce and gentle; holy and merciful; mighty and patient; demanding and forgiving. He is a great God.
Don’t limit God in His role. He is both male and female. Both hard and gentle. He is much more than we can begin to imagine.