One of the things I most love about slowing down to read and think and ponder is how it gives me the bandwidth to notice common themes that pop up again and again. A recent theme has been the love of God for us in Christ.
I saw this several places: in a song by Twila Paris, We All Bow Down
For He is love
He is the Love of God
I saw it again in D.A. Carson’s meditation on Psalm 103:8, The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love,
On the first signs of genuine repentance, he turns from wrath, for the Lord is “slow to anger, abounding in love.” Strict justice would be immediate–an easy thing for Omniscience! The truth is that God “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities (103:10)p. 6585, For the Love of God, Volume 2
I saw it multiple times in both the Old and New Testaments,
Sing, O heavens!
Be joyful, O earth!
And break out in singing, O mountains!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
And will have mercy on His afflicted.
God Will Remember Zion
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
And my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;Isaiah 49:13-16a
Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,Exodus 34:5-6
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30
Then as I was listening to the Knowing Faith podcast a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Michael Kruger said,
…God that is presenting Christ as a propitiation…God is basically offering His own Son to be the sacrifice that He Himself demands and so there’s this sense in which no one could say that God is this wrathful deity who’s angry all the time and you’ve got to placate Him with blood. No, this is a God who loves you and is going to give His own Son for you and He’s the One who offers Him. (Episode 121, you can start at where he is talking about propitiation at 27 minutes in but the whole episode is worth listening to)
Most of all, I have seen it in a book I’ve been slowly, slowly reading over the past several months, Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund. While I knew the theology behind what the author was saying in his book, I have found it too easy to forget that, in Christ, God the Father’s heart toward me is one of compassion and mercy, not judgment. This book has turned my heart and mind to the truth of God’s mercy and love for His children.
Filled with quotes from the Puritan writers, Gentle and Lowly returns again and again to who God truly is. Ortlund makes the point that the God of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament are the same God, the One who loves us with an everlasting love, the One who has engraved us onto His hands, the One who redeems and clothes, sustains and provides for His people.
How easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking that God is angry, especially when we think of the Old Testament. Ortlund writes,
The Christian life, from one angle, is the long journey of letting our natural assumption about who God is, over many decades, fall away, being slowly replaced with God’s own insistence on who he is. This is hard work. It takes a lot of sermons and a lot of suffering to believe that God’s deepest heart is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger.” The fall in Genesis 3 not only sent us into condemnation and exile. The fall also entrenched in our minds dark thoughts of God, thoughts that are only dug out over multiple exposures to the gospel over many years. Perhaps Satan’s greatest victory in your life today is not the sin in which you regularly indulge but the dark thoughts of God’s heart that cause you to go there in the first place and keep you cool toward him in the wake of it.P. 128, Gentle and Lowly
In fact, before we were born, before God even created Adam, from all eternity the Godhead had already agreed to what theologians call the Covenant of Redemption, which was God’s Plan A all along. R.C. Sproul explains it more fully in this article, but the gist of it is that God the Father sent God the Son into the world to save sinners and that God the Son willingly did so. It wasn’t some last-ditch effort because Adam and Eve messed up. No, God the Father loved us before He created us and had planned to save us from the beginning.
In one of the end chapters, Ortlund talks about our tendency toward “law-ish hearts” being so natural to our sinful selves that we struggle to see God’s lavish heart toward us, just as the Galatians did in Paul’s time. Ortlund writes,
And the Christian life is simply the process of bringing my sense of self, my Identity with a capital “I,” the ego, my swirling internal world of fretful panicky-ness arising out of that gospel deficit, into alignment with the more fundamental truth. The gospel is the invitation to let the heart of Christ calm us into joy, for we’ve already been discovered, included, brought in. We can bring our up-and-down moral performance into subjection to the settled fixedness of what Jesus feels about us.p. 160, Gentle and Lowly
His heart toward us is one of love and grace, not harsh condemnation because of Jesus. What good news is this!?
I highly recommend this book to all Christians. It’s one that I will go back and re-read often as it reminds me of the thing that I most often forget: God’s magnificent, all-encompassing love for His people. Our beliefs drive our actions so the more this truth sinks into my soul, the more I will be able to live it out in my daily life. And then extend that love and grace to those around me.
Do you believe the Father’s heart is one of compassion and mercy towards you? How could believing that truth change your thoughts and words and actions today?