How Great Is God's Gentleness
Have you ever felt like you were fighting a losing battle? Did it feel like no matter how hard you tried, no matter what different strategies you employed, you couldn’t win because the foe was just too great? Years ago, as a first time homeowner, I came across a situation like that with my first foray into gardening. My wife and I thought it would be a nice idea to have some fresh herbs. So we planted some basil, oregano, chives, and cilantro. Sadly, the three herbs we actually wanted never really flourished, but the chives did. In fact, they flourished so well that I couldn’t contain them. I tried to pull them and plant other things around them and put landscape fabric down to rein them in, but no matter what I did, the chives kept growing and spreading. Finally, I just designated the flower bed where I planted them to the chives. We never cooked with them, but they did produce pretty flowers and our kids liked to eat them. That being said, the kids ended up with terrible breath and the flowers smelled like chives while attracting flies. But we learned to live with it because we realized that we were fighting a losing battle.
God Is Terrifying In His Judgments
To an infinitely greater degree, the Scriptures describe God as an insurmountable foe when we encounter His holy wrath towards our sinful rebellion against Him. In Psalm 90:7-9, we read, “For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.” Similarly, in Psalm 2:11-12a, we read, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.” Indeed, as the author of Hebrews says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrew 10:31). In a culture that likes to embrace and promote a fluffy view of God, we would be wise to remember that the Scriptures do not mince words about God’s holy wrath. On our own merits, that is all we have earned from our Creator (cf. Romans 1:18-20; 6:23).
God Is A Refuge For Those Who Will Humbly Trust In Him
When we look back at Psalm 2, though, we find that after the psalmist expounds upon the terrifying wrath of God’s Son, the Messianic King, he closes with the following refrain, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” In other words, the only place to find refuge FROM the King is IN the King. By grace through faith in Jesus, we must take refuge in the provision that God has made for our salvation from His coming wrath that we deserve on account of our sin. In the classic words of Augustus Toplady, from “Rock Of Ages” [LISTEN HERE],
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.
However, while God’s holy wrath is unquestionably the greatest storm we face, it is not the only storm we will encounter in this life from which we need refuge. But Jesus died to secure that refuge for us, as well, and He graciously offered it to us during His earthly ministry. The very same King whose wrath is quickly kindled said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). All we need to do in order to find this rest that Jesus offers, that rest that our souls so sorely need, is to stop looking to the created things on this earth for refuge and, instead, come to Him, the Creator. As Peter said years later, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). It is humbling to come to Jesus for refuge and rest, because we must admit that we cannot find them anywhere else, nor can we manufacture or secure them through our own efforts.
Is Your House Ready For The Storm?
I came across a message on this subject wherein the preacher drew upon Jesus’ image of building a house to describe how we are building our lives. In the real world, no one ever faults a builder for anticipating the risks when building a home. For instance, one might choose a plot that is located outside of a floodplain. If one lives in an area that is prone to earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, extreme heat or cold, or hurricanes, one is wise to construct the home in such a manner that it will not only withstand but also provide refuge from those threats.
Similarly, when we build our lives, the Bible is quite clear about the risks involved. In fact, God permits and even sends trials and hardships into our lives to accomplish His sanctifying work in us. James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Peter added, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Of course, as we have already seen, Jesus Himself will be our refuge and rest in the midst of these storms if only we will turn to Him. Sadly, though, we have this prideful tendency to take matters into our own hands, trying to find refuge and rest through our own efforts as we accumulate wealth or power or even human relationships. One preacher put it this way, “How infinite is our folly in seeking to remove by our own power the mountains and hills that bar our way! … He claims such work as His own; why should we meddle with it as if we could do it better than He? … [The devil] says, ‘This little mountain you might surely mange to remove,’ and then we set to work with pickax and shovel. Yet behold, the mountain grows as we strike it!”
But take heart, there is a better way! It is found by seeking refuge and rest in the arms of our loving and gentle Savior. We can take a cue from the story of Bartimaeus (cf. Mark 10:46-52). He was a blind beggar who cried out for mercy from Jesus, the Son of David, because he knew Jesus was the only One who could help him. The crowd told him to keep quiet, but Bartimaeus persisted until Jesus called him over. “And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”
How great is God’s gentleness! Are you overwhelmed by trial or trouble today? Stop trying to fix it by your own efforts. Stop looking to the created things of this world for what they were never intended to provide. Instead, come to Jesus, cry out to Him for mercy, and find refuge in the King! For, He is “gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”