God: Tiger or Pussy Cat?
December 11. 2016
So your mother says to you: “Just wait till your father comes home.” How do you react? That kind of depends doesn’t it? Why’s he coming? And what’s he going to do? Did you just sass your mom and refuse to do as she said? Did you just break something valuable with your careless rough-housing? In that case, you better be afraid. But what if he’s coming home after he’s been away for awhile? Or what if it’s your birthday and you suspect that he just might be bringing you a present. Well then that’s something completely different isn’t it? Now you can start to get excited Dads coming! Yippie! Can’t wait for it!
And then there’s way your mom says it. The same phrase can mean something completely different simply in the way she says. Suppose she said it in this way: “Just wait till your Father comes home” (said happily, lightly) That’s one thing, but if she says “Just wait till your father comes home.” (said ominously) that’s a completely different thing isn’t it?
I heard my mother say it both ways as I was growing up. And if you had a good father, you probably heard it both ways too. That’s the way dads are, they are to be both feared and loved. They are at once just and merciful. So depending on what the situation calls for, a dad can be either a tiger or a pussycat. If something is not right, if something threatens the children from without our from within, the tiger will spring into action and will be swift to bring justice. On the other hand, the children need comfort and reassurance the dad is more like a pussy cat showing kindness and mercy. To have a good dad you can’t have just one or the other…you got to have both.
As it turns out, the same thing is true for God. People of today are kind of confused on that point. As they read their bibles they notice that some passages of the bible show that God is amazingly kind and loving and generous, which he is, but then they read other parts of scripture and they see that the Lord can be exceedingly tough and will bring vengeance upon those who are evil and people cannot seem to hold in in their brains that God can be both of these things. They understand that fathers can be this way, but something has been at work that prevents them from understanding that God might also be this way. It’s that vengeance part, that righteous judgment part that bothers them. It’s only the pussycat God that people want to follow in in our time.
So Stanza 3 from O Come O come Emanuel which says “Oh come oh come oh Lord of Might” must be edited out of the song for the people of the day because it doesn’t match the pussycat God they want to believe in. Oh, and verse 4 from Isaiah 35 is also lost on them because it says “Your God will come with vengeance” Don’t want to think about God being that way! No no no no… he’s only a greeting card- ersatz- inspirational wall plague precious moments God.
But here it is, in the Bible. The Bible is our source of truth about God. It’s not like a salad bar where you can take what you want and pass on what you don’t. It’s God’s word in which God introduces himself to us. And if you read it selectively, your not really meeting the real God…. you are instead fashioning a an a la carte God to suit your own pleasure and making an idol. Jesus says that on the last day many will come to him and say “Lord Lord!” and he will say “I don’t know you!” This is why…by editing his word to suit yourself you are not really meeting the real God.
So let’s go back to your mother. Lets’ suppose your mother spoke the words found in Isaiah 35:4 “Your God will come with vengeance!” How do you react? Kind of depends doesn’t it? what tone of voice does mom have? It’s hard to tell. We can get a better idea of what her voice sounds like if we get at the greater context.
Let’s back up one verse to verse three and read all of verse 4 with it. “Strenghten the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, Be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance with recompense of God . He will come to save.” This verse is meant to be a profound encouragement! If your mom were saying it she’d say “Your God will come with vengeance” (said hopefully) and you’d understand it. He’s coming to the rescue! He’s coming full force! Look out anyone or anything that is seeking to hurt you!
This is God going full tiger, springing into action to defend his children! You want this! This is a big part of your salvation! It’s God fighting for you against the enemies of your soul! Against those that would kidnap you, and take you from him. In Ephesians Paul explains who our enemies are “For we do not contend against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the cosmic power over this present darkness agains the spiritual forces evil….. And Isaiah in our text would add: Strengthen your shaking hands, and your wobbly needs, still your wildly beating heart, Be strong don’t be afraid, because he’s coming. He’s going to fight for you!
When you first heard that word vengeance, the first thing that may have into your mind was probably “oh, oh, now I’m going to get it!” Because you know you’re a sinner. You know you haven’t always lived rightly. And anytime you hear the word “vengeance” in the same sentence with God you automatically assume that he’s coming for you. Indeed you are sinner. But don’t you believe on Jesus? Weren’t you baptized? Yes you are. By faith in Christ you are now his children. He’s not fighting against you but for you like any good father.
But but but what about Judgment day. “In a sense, Judgement day has already happened for you because of your faith in Jesus.” As he was on the cross. Deep darkness descended over the land. There were peals of thunder as suffered there. The earth shook violently as God’s justice against your sins was meted out on him. Then and there, any vengeance that might have been directed at you landed on him. “It is finished” said Jesus. Paid For, over and out, done.
So what vengeance remains, remains for those who would steal you and other Christians away from your fathers house. That would be the devil, the unholy angels that serve him, his human minions, false teachers and preachers and sometimes also, your old sinful nature. Is that who you are? Probably not. You’re a Christian, you repent of your sins, you by the grace God has given you in Christ. The vengeance of the coming Lord is not directed against you….but for you, you are one of the redeemed. And if your sinful nature is taken to task by God you understand why and you welcome it.
God’s got great plans and a great future in mind for you… ultimately he wants you to join him in the world made new…ultimately he will wipe away every tear from your eyes.ultimately he will seat you at the great banquet of salvation…. ultimately he would give you all that is his. But in the mean time, he’s going to fight for you. “If God is for us, who can be against us?…. “who shall separate us from the love of Christ”……“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor demons, nor things present nor things come, nor any powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You know this verse from Romans you’ve heard it many times. You’ve rejoiced in the fact that nothing can separate you from the Love of God…. And now you know why…because God, he’s tough…and he’ll fight…he’ll protect…and he will bring it to anyone who tries to separate you from him. In other words, your father in heaven is a real Dad. He is at once just and Merciful. AMEN