Mighty and Tender

The fortieth chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah has taken me three mornings to get through, so thick is it with meaning and application.  If you have a Christian background, you may be familiar with some of its verses, whether the ones John the Baptist quotes as he's "preparing the way" for Jesus, or the ones that speak of the grass withering and the flower fading but the word of God enduring forever. 

What I found so profound in this most recent read-through of mine is this notion that God is both supremely mighty and intimately tender.  The prophet toggles through both of these facets in this chapter.  The chapter is book-ended by reminders of the availability of God's comfort to His people, and there is a wonder image right smack dab in the middle of the chapter about how He gathers His people into His arms like a shepherd would do with his sheep. 

Yet there is no doubt that God is also to be feared and revered.  There is a long section that hearkens God's "brag session" in the book of Job; He mocks idols and those who make and worship them, He reduces rulers to nothing, and proclaims He has no equal.  And right before the verse about God tenderly gathering His people to Him is a verse that speaks of His mighty and ruling arm.

My take-away from all this juxtaposing is that we cannot disentangle God's might with His tenderness.  When we call on God to be mighty, we must remember that mighty God is also a tender God.  And when we call on God to be tender, we must remember that tender God is also a mighty God. 

A lot of people have picked and chosen their way through the fortieth chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah, quoting one verse here or another verse there, and that's all well and good.  But my hope for them and for me is that they'll live in response to the God who is portrayed in the whole of the chapter, and in the whole of the Bible.  And that God is both mighty and tender.
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