The kindness and the severity of God
We have a tendency to make God in our own image. For example, if we are choleric by temperament, we think God is like a disciplinarian. And if we are phlegmatic, we imagine God to be friendly and tolerant.
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. (Romans 11:22)
Elijah is known as a prophet of fire. He defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel by calling down fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:20-40). However, after this spectacular display of victory, he crashed into a deep depression and fled to the wilderness of Sinai because Jezebel wanted to revenge. Feelings of guilt, inferiority and paranoia gripped him and he asked God to take his life.
But at Elijah’s lowest point, God showed him another side of His divine character. At first, God sent a whirlwind, an earthquake and a bushfire. After these spectacles had passed, the Lord spoke to him in a low whisper. The Lord said to Elijah that he was not alone but that there were 7000 in Israel who had not bowed to Baal. The earlier experience has shaken the prophet to the core. But the “still small voice” restored him (1 Kings 19: 1-18).
Elijah needed to know that God is not just a God of wind, power and fire, but also a God of a gentle breeze and a soft whisper.
We can “lock” God into our image of Him, and see only one dimension of His character. And when we do that we will not be able to see both “the kindness and the severity of God: severity towards those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness…” (Romans 11:22). Like Elijah, we need to know God as He reveals Himself in the noise of battle and in the hush of silence.
By Rev Philip Lim