The Lord is a badass. We need him to be tough. He must be stronger than anything we know or will ever know. The prophet goes on and on about the Lord’s strength. He can destroy this and lay that to waste…etc. Fire, fear, power and might were all reflected in today’s reading. But what is most impressive to me about a God with that sort of strength is his restraint. Every time I choose to do something against his will I deserve death. Every time you or I stumble he could shock us with a Divine dog collar if he so desired. He has the ability to shake everything. He has the power to win every test of strength and we should see that clearly. The sad truth is we tend to respect that sort of authority. I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand in awe of the might of God. I’m saying we tend to miss his mightiest acts.
I’m not nearly as impressed with a God who has the power to force his own way and does as I am with a God who is infinitely more powerful than everything I’ll ever know and yet still forgives, still shares grace, still restrains his strength. Wait, maybe it isn’t restraint? Maybe it takes more power to love in the face of rebellion? Maybe it takes more might to hold back wrath? Maybe real authority is best reflected in that sort of strength? I think so. Just look at Jesus. He was right about everything. He had the power to bend everything to his will. He instead chooses to lean on love and not insist on his own way.
Why aren’t we like that? Why do we have so much trouble seeing grace and forgiveness as an act of power and authority? Why do we tend to see the strongest reflections of God as weaknesses when they are lived out in people?
Try it, I dare you. Lay aside your rights, listen to others, submit one unto another, love like Christ loved the church, and see how it’s interpreted. When it gets frustrating, think about how God feels. He has far more strength than you or I. He chuckles at our strength, he has the very power to defeat sin and conquer death and yet when he reflects that might in grace we tend to miss it—or misuse it. The Good News—he loves anyway and in his strength we can too.
10 Though grace is shown to the wicked,
they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
and regard not the majesty of the LORD.
11 O LORD, your hand is lifted high,
but they do not see it. Isaiah 26:10-11