By Femi Aribisala
What kind of father tells his son to marry a prostitute?
Have you not noticed that many people in the bible sought to escape from God? When Peter recognised that Jesus is the Lord, he pleaded that he should depart from him. (Luke 5:8). David too wanted to run away from God but did not know exactly how. Since he could not get directions from any man, he sought one from God himself. He asked God how he could escape from God. (Psalm 139:7-12). In his case, Jonah ran away to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3).
The Prodigal Son would also rather live away from his father. Once he came into his inheritance, he packed his bag and baggage and moved away to a far country. He moved to a place where he could live his own life; a place where he would not have his father breathing down on his neck. He sought accommodation out of the Ark only to be confronted by the Flood. It did not rain: it poured. It poured buckets and buckets of problems.
The scriptures say that God is love. But I ask you, what kind of love is God? Let me tell you. God’s love is strange. He is love and at the same time a rock of offense. His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9). He secures our welfare through schemes that are often unpalatable to us. He takes delight in disappointing our hopes and in frustrating our plans and expectations of grandeur. He is determined to thwart our own purposes in life.
It is important to appreciate that God’s love is different from man’s love. God’s love is a hard love. (Matthew 25:24). God’s love is not sentimental. Look, for example, at how God’s love was expressed to the chief young ruler who was seeking eternal life: “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mark 10:21).
Jesus looked at the man and loved him. But the expression of that love was in telling him to go and sell all that he had and to give them to the poor. The expression of that love was in the bid to impoverish the man. What kind of love is that? The God kind of love. The man clearly had no appreciation for it. How can somebody love you so much and then seemingly wish you so much harm? He went away and did not come back.
Therein lies a kingdom dynamic that we don’t seem to understand and find difficult to accept. Because God loves us, he gives us a hard time. The Lord himself says: “I continually discipline and punish everyone I love.” (Revelation 3:19). If God loves you, there are so many liberties he would give to others that would be forbidden to you. Others may be able to get away with all kinds of shenanigans, but not you. It might seem unfair, it might seem discriminatory, but it is actually the expression of the goodness of God in your life.
God is unfair
Arguably, God can be palpably unfair. He visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations. (Exodus 20:5). Jeremiah observes that: “Our fathers sinned and are no more, but we bear their iniquities.” (Lamentations 5:7).
It was David who committed adultery with Bathsheba, but it was his son who died. It was David who sinned, but it was 70,000 Israelites who died. “David said to God, ‘Was it not I who commanded the people to be numbered? I am the one who has sinned and done evil indeed; but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, O LORD my God, be against me and my father’s house, but not against your people that they should be plagued.’” (1 Chronicles 21:17).
It is Lazarus, the man that Jesus loves, who falls sick and dies. (John 11:3). It is the man that God loves who undergoes persecutions and tribulations. Many, insists the psalmist, are the afflictions of the righteous. (Psalm 34:19). Take a look at how God presents himself in scripture: “I, even I, am he, and there is no God besides me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39).
God the Father
What kind of father tells his son to marry a prostitute as God did with Hosea? (Hosea 1:2). What kind of person tells the Levites to carry a sword and kill members of their own family and relations? (Exodus 32:27). What kind of person instructs Isaiah to go around without his trousers for three years? (Isaiah 20:2-4).
What kind of person instructs Saul to attack Amalek and kill all the men, women, children, babies, sheep, camel and donkeys? (1 Samuel 15:3). What kind of person kills off millions of his own children, the Israelites, one by one over forty years in the wilderness? What kind of person forsakes his only begotten son to die a gruesome death on the cross? God; that is who.
Whatever you may call that kind of person, I would have you know that he cannot be a nice person as men regard it. If God were a man, he would not be a nice man at all. God’s concept of goodness is different from that of men.
So what do we really mean when we say glibly: “God is good all the time?” I would have you know that, from the human point of view, God is not good most of the time. I will even go so far as to say if you see a man who has no problems, who always has another testimony of success or enrichment or promotion, it must be because God does not love him. (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Son of God
Jesus called a woman who came to request healing for her child a dog. (Matthew 15:26). He refused to help John the Baptist when Herod arrested him. When he knew his good friend Lazarus was dead, he said he was glad. (John 11:14-15). He kept company with disreputable people. (Matthew 9:11). He took sides with a woman caught in adultery. (John 8:7).
He asked a man who had been sick for 38 years if he would like to be healed. Then he healed only that man and left all the others unhealed. (John 5:6-9). He pronounced woe on the Pharisees, calling them “whitewashed tombstones.” (Matthew 23:27). He told some Jews the devil is their father. (John 8:44). He denied his own mother and brothers. (Matthew 12:47-50). Clearly, Jesus is not a nice man as men call nice. But this same Jesus is our righteousness.
Jesus says: “Blessed is he who is not offended because of me.” (Matthew 11:6). Blessed is he who is not offended by God’s strange ways. Blessed is he who is not offended by what God chooses to do and what he chooses not to do.