The last few weeks at our church we’ve concluded the prophet Micah and began Nahum. Among other insights we have been blessed by the the prophets’ answer to this question: “What is God’s posture toward his people?” They don’t speak of God in abstract language or nebulous theological concepts. They speak of a God who attends personally to those staring down the barrell of a loaded Assyrian shotgun. They worship a God who meets the morning’s perilous headlines with his own letter to the editor. They pray to a God who cranes his neck to hear every heartfelt plea.
I was helped recently by the following excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain:
“The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love’, and look on things as if man were the centre [sic] of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. ‘Thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created’ (Rev 4:11). We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well-pleased’. . . . What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy” (The Problem of Pain, HarperCollins: 2001, pp40-41).
If you are in Christ, God is making you into someone he can love “without impediment.” We tend to think of God (especially the “OT God”) as one who is constantly angry until we persuade him to love us (with obedience, sacrifice, etc.). But, the prophets teach the exact opposite. We are the ones angry with God until he persuades us to love (and be loved).
God is happy whether we exist or not, whether we like it or not. He owns and rules every molecule in the universe (Ps 24.1; 50.10-12). He needs no help to be God (Acts 17.24ff). What is a God to do who owns all, rules all and needs none? Give! There is nothing for God to get; therefore, if he is to do anything at all he must give. And give he does.
God doesn’t create us primarily to get anything from us (Lewis’s point above), but to give everything (i.e. himself) to us. To make us worthy recipients of all he gives, God gives us Jesus to make us alive (dead folk can’t receive anything) and make us able (impotent folk can’t do anything). Now, every spiritual blessing is ours in Christ (Eph 1.3). We tend to make God liberal with his wrath and stingy with his love. Could there be a greater offense to God? The cross is not the work of a stingy God, but of One who is passionately jealous for a people to love (Jn 3.16).
It’s easier to expect God’s wrath than his love. The prophets lived to change our minds on that.