God’s “Humanness”

I wrote the title to this post and then I sat here and wondered for a minute if it sounded blasphemous.

We’re just to thinking of Christ as fully human – the Word after all “became flesh” (John 1:14) – and yet we hasten to tack on, “and fully God!” at the end, as though not doing so will make us dwell a little too much on His mortality.  And though we are happy to ascribe “humanness” to Jesus, we rarely ascribe such a word to God the father, settling instead for descriptors that (rightfully) emphasize His omnipotence, His omniscience, and His perfect Holiness.

But then I read Isaiah and the book wrenches my view of distant, serene, holy, all-surveying God from its axis.

The God of Isaiah is passionate, alternatively joyful and despairing and wrathful.  “For a brief moment I abandoned you,” God admits, “but with deep compassion I will bring you back” (Isaiah 54:7).  He upbraids Israel for their idolatrous ways, then patiently takes the time to explain His own.  The crescendo of verses leading up to the description of Israel’s savior is exultant, almost giddy in its joy: you can feel God’s delight at pulling back the curtain to show a glimpse of His plan, to show the masterwork that will make it possible to save the obstinate, forgetful people He loves.

I used to avoid the Old Testament like the plague, not least because it is difficult at times to read and to understand; , unfortunately, because of that, I had a mistaken image of Old-Testament God as a white-haired, bearded patriarch, sitting on high with a furrowed brow and uttering harsh judgments, forever despairing over the fate of those He loves.

Make no mistake; God judges. He is holy and He is sovereign. But he also loves.  Loves in a way that is all-consuming.  He can be moved.  He pities.  He delights.  He grieves deeply.  He gets angry and just as quickly swears that the anger against those who love Him will not be lasting.  His joy in the plan of salvation He has created is present in every exclamation and proclamation.  And His protective, fierce affection – His determination that those He loves will not be put to shame – underscores every single verse.

I read Isaiah and I think, how human.  God is so wonderfully human.  But in reality, that is not the case.  Rather, God has placed in us a spirit that is delightfully divine.  When we think about things like our capacity for joy, our angers and sorrows and hurts, our ability to love, we tend to think of those as human qualities, and we ascribe them to God as such.  But we have received those qualities from God: they are His, in full and rich measure, and part of what it means to be made in His likeness.

When we laugh, when we smile, when we cry, it’s worth taking a moment to think of the God who surely does all of those things, whose passions are on fire for the entirety of the Old Testament and then visible in Christ in the New.  The full range of our experience and the depths of our hearts come from Him: a God of love, who created humans who could feel it too.


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