God Is Most Like . . .

Photo by  Adam Birkett  on  Unsplash

Photo by Adam Birkett on Unsplash

"I can’t do that.  My heart will not let me utterly destroy them.  Because I am God and not man." Hosea 11:8-9

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."  II Peter 3:9

Multiple Choice Quiz

God is most like . . . 

A.  A Policeman

B.  A Judge

C.  A Legislator

D.  None of the above

The images we have of God are, I suppose, derived no chiefly from Scripture, but probably from a whole culture full of symbols, caricatures, models and images.

Many see God chiefly as a Judge — sorting out justice, sending sinners off to prison (hell).  He is austere, brooks no nonsense, and certainly does not mess around with the sort of foolish defenses that trick modern human judges and juries.  No “twinkie” defenses at the last judgment.

For others, He’s a Policeman, walking around, always checking on us, ready to stretch out the long arm of the law if we break a rule.  Like all good cops, He’ll give friendly advice to law abiders, but He’s tough on crime.

Or, maybe God’s seen as the Legislator.  He makes the rules, starting with the ten big ones, but then a multitude of little ones too.  He makes the list of “dos” and "don’ts,” and, like Santa, He’s making a list, checking it twice.

But in Scripture, the most revealing, prominent and persistent image of God is none of those — though, in some respects, He is each of them.  The image of God, from the encounter with Adam, through Abraham, on into the New Testament and our Lord’s life and work is not God as Judge, or Legislator, or Policeman, but God as Promisor — a God who covenants, who enters into relationship with his people.

All the time He’s doing that.  He is seeking out a people, and promising to them his faithfulness, his dependability, his commitment.

In recent years we have seen the rise of Promise Keepers — an effective, and I believe a very blessed ministry.  I’ve personally seen its impact in the life of my own family. And the message of PK is right, about the call to keep our promises.  But, of course, the real Promise Keeper is not us, but God.

For all the talk about our being faithful, the bottom line about mankind is his unfaithfulness.  From Genesis on, the story is never about mankind’s loyalty — but always about God’s persistence, God’s “hanging in there.”  It is the theme of the famous poem, “The Hound of Heaven” picturing a pursuing, relentless, focused God who will not be interrupted or diverted.  He is the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep; the systematic seeker of the lost coin. He is the one who is faithful, pursuing, pleading, calling the faithless, the prodigal.

We have a hard time accepting this persistence and promise-keeping quality of God, perhaps precisely because promise keeping is something we do so little of.  Our courts, our families, our political life is filled with illusory promises. Contracts are breached, excuses are made, defenses are raised. Marriage promises collapse.  Our promises whether by children, spouses, or partners are routinely adjusted. “Changed circumstances” are invoked. After all the law itself says it is usually OK to break your promises — just pay the damages and move on.

We learned all this as children.  Promises didn’t count if your fingers were crossed, or if you didn’t “swear” on it.  So maybe it's no wonder we have such a hard time living in the power and the love of a faithful, promise-keeping Lord who, when he is about to totally reject his people, recoils at the through and declares,

“For I am God, and not man.”

By Lynn R. Buzzard


L. Buzzard, Week 3: God is Most Like _____, in WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU? 12-13 (L. Buzzard ed.1997).

Used with permission of the publisher, Advocates International.