Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Best Old Testament Message

Joseph F. Smith once said that the love of a true mother was the closest analogy we have to help us understand God's love for us. Yancey's words below expand on that theme.

"Out of their tortured history, the Jews demonstrate the most surprising lesson of all: You cannot go wrong personalizing God. God is not a blurry power living somewhere in the sky, not an abstraction like the Greeks proposed, not a sensual super-human like the Romans worshiped, and definitely not the absentee Watchmaker of the Deists. God is "personal." He enters into people's lives, messes with families, shows up in unexpected places, chooses unlikely leaders, calls people to account. Most of all, God loves.

As the great Jewish Theologian Abraham Heschel put it,

To the prophet, God does not reveal Himself in an abstract absoluteness, but in a personal and intimate relation to the world. He does not simply command and expect obedience; he is also moved and affected by what happens in the world, and reacts accordingly. Events and human actions arouse in Him joy or sorrow, pleasure or wrath ... man's deeps may move Him, affect Him, grieve Him or, on the other hand, gladden and please Him.... The God of Israel is a God who loves, a God who is known to, and concerned with, man. He not only rules the world in the majesty of His might and wisdom, but reacts intimately to the events of history.

More than any other word pictures, God chooses "children" and "lovers" to describe our relationship with him as being intimate and personal. The Old Testament abounds with husband-bride imagery. God woos his people and dotes on them like a lover doting on his beloved. When they ignore him, he feels hurt, spurned, like a jilted lover. Shifting metaphors, it also announces that we are God's children. In other words, the closest we can come to understanding how God looks upon us is by thinking about the people who mean most to us: our own child, our lover.

Think of a doting parent with a video camera, coaxing his year-old daughter to let go of the living room coffee table and take three steps toward him. "Come on, sweetie, you can do it! Just let go. Daddy's here. Come on." Think of a love-struck teenager with her phone permanently attached to her ear, reviewing every second of her day with a boy who is himself infatuated enough to be interested. Think of those two scenes, and then imagine God on one end and you on the other. That is the message of the Old Testament."

From The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey.


  1. Fabulous post to remind us of our familial bound with our dear Heavenly Parent! As a grandparent now, my love for my husband, children and grandchildren continues to grow so that I can't find words to express it. I long to hear from them, and can only imagine the feelings our Father has when we fail to pray, and seek Him earnestly.

  2. I think a lot of people feel irreverent somehow, thinking of God in such terms, but it is far from being that way! He delights to have us interact with Him personally and is joyed more than we can express to have us seek His face.

  3. These are truly tender thoughts for this day, Donna!

    The most beautiful and personal answer from the Lord I've ever received came while weeping in prayer over a child. I feel on some very deep level that I connected to the great love of our Father in that prayer. I came to know Him as my Heavenly Parent during that special encounter.

  4. It almost seems as though being a parent prepares one for Godhood...