I used to believe that God was punitive and harsh, and that His love came with strings attached. I used to believe that He was likely to remove His covering on a whim or raise a hand to me in anger. There was a season when I genuinely believed He wanted to crush my spirit because my life, utter failure that I was, couldn’t possibly be of value to Him. Although I knew the truth about the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus, my knowledge was incomplete. I wasn’t walking in true freedom because I didn’t know His character. Yet it is written, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3, ESV).
Thankfully, my story doesn’t end with what I used to know. Because He is faithful, I became better acquainted with the emotional, communicative, and jealous God of the Old Testament. This is the God who created the most intimate human relationship and saw that it was good (Genesis 2:24). This is the God who spoke to His servant face to face, as a man speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11). This is the God who quiets His people with His love and exults over them with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). A God of whom these things can be said is neither punitive nor petty. He is not lacking in grace, nor does He desire to withhold grace from those who seek Him (Isaiah 30:18-22).
The Lord punished His people Israel when necessary, but their punishment was proportionate to their collective sin as a nation – and though the rod seems like a harsh tool, it was ALWAYS used to simultaneously attack sin and bring the wandering sheep back to safety. I fear the Lord. (Confession: more often than I should, I also fear man.) But now I can welcome the Lord’s discipline, because He disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:5-13), and perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
The depths of Jehovah’s love for me…for His church…and for every person He created…are utterly unsearchable.
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20, ESV)