Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Isaiah 49: God's Motherly Compassion

Isaiah 49:15-16 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me." 

God is not only like a father to us, but also a mother to us. God has both masculine and feminine characteristics. God is neither male nor female because Scripture tells us in Genesis 1:27 that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." That verse implies that God is not created in the image of man, nor is man created in the image of God. Rather, this verse implies that both male and female were created in the image of God." It is not that God is neuter in gender but rather that both male and female derives their unique characteristics from God's divine attributes. The fullness of God's image is revealed in both male and female characteristics, not just the male. 

In Isaiah 49:15, God compares his compassion for Israel with that of a mother for a nursing infant. Maternal compassion is marked by tenderness and care. Isaiah 49:16 tells us that God's compassion is deeper than a mother's. God's love for us is tender-hearted, like a mother. Scripture is here not arguing about God's gender but about God's attributes. (Feminists miss the point when they argue for God as a female deity.) We thank God that He has both fatherly authority and strength and motherly compassion and tenderness in dealing with us. He is not the stern disciplinarian we associate with fatherhood but the tender-hearted mother in His attitude towards us.

In some sense, Jesus encompasses the characteristics of both genders: he is tough and tender. It has been said that Jesus is not like God, but God is like Jesus. Yet Jesus, though in His incarnation took on the male gender, He is nevertheless often described as having compassion on the people, especially for the women, children and the outcasts. He can be tough towards hypocrites while tender towards the weak. So, when Scripture reveals God's compassion as even deeper than a mother's love, the focus isn't on God's gender but God's character.

Father, I thank You that You are neither male nor female but You encompass both gender characteristics because You are the God who created both male and female in Your image. I thank You Jesus that You reveal to us God who is tough and also tender. I thank You that You came as a man not to affirm the male gender but to affirm all humanity - male and female. For this we are ever thankful. Amen.

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