And with all that in mind, it's far too much weirdness for me when I hear people splitting God into multiple personalities, when he’s reduced to a math formula or disembodied spirit floating about in the Ionosphere. Even things like “God sent his son Jesus” don’t quite grasp the fullness, because the structure implies that God committed filicide. I mean, yes: The Father, Son, and Spirit are three entities. But they are one entity. They are the Three-in-One. And the minute you separate them you have this person who is no longer God.
But I digress. Most people don’t get lost at the Trinity. They get lost at things like:
“It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save…
For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
And my year of redemption had come.
I looked, but there was none to help;
I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
So my own arm brought me salvation,
And my wrath upheld me.”
~Isaiah 63.1, 4&5
“For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
For the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
That I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
For how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.”
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
"I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
For I will not contend forever,
nor will I always be angry;
for the spirit would grow faint before me,
and the breath of life that I made.
Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.”
So what God paints is this picture where he is completely Other. He is so far removed from us as to be impossible to even know unless he breaks the fourth wall and addresses us; but he’s so close to us that there is nothing about us he doesn’t know and can’t sympathize with. According to the God of the Universe, there is absolutely no contradiction between his Justice and his Mercy, his Sovereignty and his Salvation, his Righteousness and Holiness and his Healing. And with that in mind, he reaches a climax with:
“In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
So he’s painted this picture of himself as one who is slow to anger and quick to comfort, one with wrath that lasts the blink of an eye but whose mercy is generational, one who ceaselessly looks for intercessors and who becomes indignant if none is found.
I really believe there are some things we just never fully get our heads around. When God himself can’t describe himself in ten words or less, we’ve reached the limitations of human expression. We’ll never fully understand how the universe came into being, or everything we lost in the Garden, or everything the Cross contained.
Isaiah’s this beautiful book of warnings, of discipline, of God reasoning with a people who will not listen and finally he tells them how it’s going to be, but reminds them also of everything he’s done, and reminds them also of his oath to listen to the screams and wailing of his people.
A broken spirit. A contrite, lowly heart.
And so every curse written in the Mosaic Law comes, and the God of Israel looks around, and not one person has risen in Israel’s defense.
So the God of Israel, the dread champion, stands up and straps on his armor, picks up his weapons, and goes to war.
We. do. not. understand.
And that should get us to part three.