I often find myself having more questions than answers when it comes to my Christian faith. Now don’t get me wrong, the Bible gives me more than enough answers to satisfy the depths of the heart, mind, and soul. However, there are still things that my finite mind cannot fully grasp because let’s face it….the human experience falls quite a bit short of the totality that is the Lord God Creator of the universe.
I was recently stumped by a particular passage of Scripture that I was studying to prepare to teach at my community group. Hosea chapter 11 is a beautiful passage that expounds on the faithful love of God. It starts with this imagery of God as a loving Father who gently raises up His children and guides them through life’s ups and downs. But in verses 5-7 God presents Himself as the scorned lover who has been betrayed, cheated on, and trampled upon. He is justifiably filled with a righteous anger and decrees punishment upon His unfaithful lover. And then we have verse 8:
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
It’s as if God is torn. The all mighty, all powerful Lord of creation has been overcome with emotion. His heart is in turmoil over His lover, His people. It would seem that God is having this internal struggle to reconcile His righteous wrath and His loving mercy. He must punish evil, yet how can he give up on His people? Can God be moved to change His mind? Can He resolve the conflict between His wrath, holiness, and justice and His love, mercy, and grace? I wrestled with this concept for a while. It wasn’t until I looked at the cross that I finally started to understand a little bit about this paradox that really isn’t a paradox.
Israel was called a son of God that was lead out of Egypt. He (Israel) turned His back on God, broke His Law, and rejected His sonship. In Matthew 2:15 we see the story of another Son brought up out of Egypt. Jesus was God’s Son who submitted to the will of His Father, fulfilled the Law in every way, and glorified His Father. In both instances, the wrath of God was ultimately satisfied. His wrath was poured out in partiality on Israel but His love and mercy allowed for that wrath to be withheld to an extent. His wrath was fully appeased on His other Son, the innocent Son. In a beautiful picture of both ultimate wrath and ultimate love His Son was hung on a cross. It is the cross at which point in history both the wrath, holiness, and justice intersect fully with His love, mercy, and grace.
The Christian faith will never be fully understood while we are citizens of this earth. How can beauty be found in blood? Why would the innocent die for the guilty? How is it possible for their to be life through death? Our God is a beautiful paradox of love and wrath, life and death, holiness and mercy. Yet, in this paradox we find life, peace, joy, wholeness, and salvation. I may not fully grasp it, but I’m grateful God has revealed enough to satisfy my heart, mind, and soul.