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The Kindness of God Knows No Bounds

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

The kindness and live of God

Readings: Isaiah 63:7-9; Matthew 2:13-23; Hebrews 2:10-18.

Some people think God has two faces. The God of the Old Testament is bad-tempered, and the God of the New Testament has finally mellowed out and is in a joyful mood. But a careful reading of both the Old and New Testaments shows us that the nature of God is consistent throughout. God is a God of awful wrath, and his hot fury burns against evil and injustice.

You might ask, “How can God be so angry if he is a God of love?”

It’s because of God’s love and goodness that he is wrathful against evil. A God who allows injustice and evil against others, the innocent and the marginalized, would be a “cold” God of indifference. And for those who wish to take part in evil, God upholds the freedom of his creatures in his perfect goodness while insuring justice. His respect for human freedom of choice is unconditional.

I talk of God’s wrath, or his anger, because one cannot speak of his compassion and loving-kindness without addressing this part of his kindness, and it’s there that I want to focus.

Today is the first day of the new year. Last year was a painful, disappointing, and confusing year for many of us. Understandably, we might be tempted to ask, “Where was God in all of it?!” But I want to start this year by painting a vision of Christ so that you and I might behold him, whatever may come our way. I invite you to behold the compassionate Christ, God whose kindness is infinite and eternal.

Footprints on the Riverbed

You might have read the short poem “Footprints in the Sand.” I have a better one, it’s “Footprints in the Riverbed.” It’s not a poem, it’s a real story of when I was eight years of age.

My family and I went on a week’s vacation to Hole-in-the-Wall about 8km due south of Coffee Bay, in the old Transkei. After a few days, my father and I packed our fishing rods at about four o’clock in the afternoon and made our way along the road, down through what we called the “Secret Forest,” onto the grey rock boulders, and across the knee-deep Mpako River. A little further and we reached a suitable place to fish. We fished for a long while. The salty air became chill, and dusk set in. It was time to pack up and head home. We arrived at the river’s edge. The tide was now unusually high. Anxious, I looked up at my father, “How are we going to cross?” My father hoisted me on his shoulders and carried me across the river and we headed back home in the dark. While the river was not very deep, even at high tide, it was enough to make a child anxious. But on my dad’s shoulders, there was nothing scary about it at all, if anything, it was a bit of an adventure.

On the one hand, it was one of the most special moments I had with my father, I often think of it. On the other hand, it’s what any father would have done for his child. Like my story, Isaiah writes, “In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them.” (Isaiah 63:9b). When we are disheartened and hurting, God the Father hoists us up onto his shoulders, and wades through the water in the dark carrying us until we reach the other side.

The reality is that just because it’s a new year does not mean that all our hurt and challenges disappear. Some of them may continue through into this year, and we may even face new ones. But know this, God wades through it with you on his shoulders. “Hold on to me, my son, my daughter, don’t let go…. And if you do, I’ll grab your hand, I am right here.” God says.

While I don’t wish to diminish God’s hot anger against evil and injustice, some of us get fixated on that and find it difficult to come to our Father who is infinitely compassionate with kindness that knows no bounds. You read of God’s righteous anger in Isaiah 63:1–6 when he says things like, “I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath.” But then in verses 7–9, Isaiah praises God for his wonderful works that have been done, his goodness, and all the good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion, and not just kindness, but many kindnesses. God relates to you and me not as a Lord over his subjects, but as a tender father towards his children.

The God of High Heavens is Compassionate and Kind

God is intimate, he is our loving Father. Yet, at the same time, he is infinitely transcendent. His mind is unsearchable, his holiness is ineffable, his power is incomprehensible, his beauty is indescribable, his wrath is utterly dreadful, and his light is warm, glorious, and brilliant.

Some of the greatest theologians tell us that you can’t compare God to anything, he is entirely other, far beyond the imagination of our dull minds. This celestial King of the highest heavens has a heart that continuously bursts forth with bright, endless energies of divine compassion and kindness, such that he condescends to you and me and shows himself to us as our Father, the one who stoops down and lifts us up onto his shoulders.

God is interested in his creatures, he comes to us and says, “Tell me about your day … Tell me about your fears … Tell me about your pain, I care, and I want to listen.”

I am fortunate, I have a good father, but others have not been as lucky as I have. You might have had an abusive father and find it difficult to relate to God as Father, or maybe you have never had a father. I can’t imagine what it must have been like. Yet, God calls us to look to him as Father with overflowing compassion, kindness, love, and mercy before we begin comparing him to others. And if you look to God the Father first, you will soon discover that he is incomparable!

God’s Compassion and Kindness in his Son’s Infancy

We have just celebrated Christmas, the celebration of God coming to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus was not born in a palace with servants waiting upon him and his family. Instead, he was born in the back end of nowhere, Bethlehem. In our context, think of it like this, Jesus wasn’t born on the Canals, the Links, or in Santareme, but in the little town of Hankey. If it was not for the bright star in the night sky, the Magi would never have found Bethlehem. It was small and insignificant. Yet there the three wise men find themselves standing before the Christ child, enamored by their cosmic king.

Remember the great prophet, Moses? He was born in Egypt and at that time, Pharoah gave the order to all the people of Egypt that all Hebrew boys born must be thrown into the Nile river (Exodus 1:15-22). His mother was prudent and made a plan to save him. When Jesus was born, a similar edict was given by Herod the Great, king of Judea. He was outwitted by the Magi, and so in fury and jealousy, Herod ordered the execution of all male children who were two years old or younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16–18). This is known as the Massacre of the Innocents. This is the hostile world in which God sends his Son, it’s no place for a king! Joseph gets wind of this edict, and he too has a plan, so they head off at a moment’s notice for Egypt, the very same place where Moses’ life was threatened as a child all those centuries ago. If you read the accounts of Moses and Jesus you will discover several striking parallels, this is one of them.

Another parallel is that both Moses and Jesus left Egypt to rescue and save their people. But Jesus takes this to an entirely new level. God gave Moses the mandate to rescue the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and lead them into the promised land. But if you read the Old Testament from that point onwards through to the very last page, you will find that the Hebrews often disobeyed. Last time I preached to you I mentioned king Ahaz and his promotion of the worship of Molech and Baal. Not only that, but he promoted child sacrifice. Herod the Great, Israel’s king wasn’t much better either. He was a client of Rome, a puppet king, who massacred male infants.

I lead a team of academic professors, and one of them is a seasoned Bible scholar and Anglican priest. He has also participated in numerous archeological diggings in Israel (He is a bit of an Indiana Jones). Once he told me that I would be surprised how many figurines of Baal they have discovered in ancient Israelite dwellings. If you read the Old Testament cover to cover, it’s actually not very surprising! They may have been God’s chosen people, but they did not always behave like it.

At the time of Jesus, the temple and its priesthood were evil and corrupt, except for a few individuals—faithfulness towards God was long forgotten. But despite an unfaithful Israel and its puppet king, Herod the Great, God comes into our world and lives among them in ancient Israel, not in Moses’s tabernacle, or Solomon’s temple, but in person as the God-man, Jesus Christ. Not even Herod was able to interrupt the faithfulness of God. God quietly sidesteps Herold and his evil antics and brings the child king out of exile from Egypt when the time was ready and settles him in Nazareth.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16), Jesus Christ, Son of God, and decedent of David, to become Israel’s legitimate King. Yet this compassion and kindness of God overflow such that this promise to Israel cannot be contained to the chosen nation but overflows to every other nation and beckons all of us to come worship and honour him as the legitimate King. He is faithful and compassionate; his kindness knows no bounds.

Compassion and Kindness in his Son’s Death

How far does the compassion and kindness of God reach? God becomes a man so that he might suffer and die and therefore save and reconcile us to himself. As Anselm, the medieval theologian says in his famous book, Cur Deus Homo, “Why the God-Man?” Jesus had to be God because only he could make a sacrifice of infinite worth for an infinite God, and he had to be a man (human), to represent us to his Father, and so reconcile us to him through his atoning work.

Jesus also took on human flesh so that in his death and resurrection he may overcome the power of Satan, sin, and death in victory. Humankind, together with the chosen nation of Israel was unfaithful to God, and yet God remains faithful to us. So, in his faithfulness, Jesus became fully human without losing his divinity so that he may become the faithful high priest for you and me, by suffering temptation like the rest of us, and then sacrificing himself for the forgiveness of our sins. God utterly abhors human sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:35). Yet, for the sake of humanity and their salvation, he accepts the willing sacrifice of his only begotten son, Jesus Christ.

Don’t make the mistake of saying that although Jesus was man, he was also God, and so he was able to endure scourging and crucifixion with little effort. No, he was fully man, he would have experienced suffering like any other human being, otherwise, what was the point of it? His suffering would have little value. And yet, the greatest mystery of all is that God becomes human, not only for 33 years, but Jesus continues to be human even now and into eternity future. The compassion of God is so explosive and transcendent that he willingly took on the nature of a human being forever while remaining divine. This is why we say that Jesus has two natures, human and divine, united in one person.

It was always God’s plan that Jesus, the Son of God, through whom everything and everyone exists, would suffer and die to make perfect salvation reconciling all of God’s sons and daughters and bringing them into glory. And in so doing Jesus proudly says that we are his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:10-18) because as a human person he identifies with us; we truly are his brothers and sisters.

Concluding Thoughts

I have just finished writing a manuscript for a book on the resurrection in the afterlife, and one of the chapters was on near-death experiences. I did quite a bit of research on it, and yes, I know some stories are dubious, but there are also many legitimate accounts of the afterlife and encounters with God. Those who meet God, and many of them do, describe God as light brighter than a billion suns, and then they almost always tell of the indescribable love, compassion, and kindness of God. It’s like nothing you have ever experienced in this world, and there are no words in any language capable of describing it, they say. It’s all-embracing.

If God demonstrates his love and compassion for the world by sending his Son to live and die for us, we can be assured that he listens to our cries when we are hurting, fearful, or disheartened, and sets us on his shoulders as he wades through our dark waters until we reach the other side. That should comfort us!

I love how the English Puritan, Thomas Goodwin, put it in his little book title, The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth. In it he describes how when Jesus lived among us, his love, compassion, and kindness were overflowing from his human heart. But now that he has ascended on high in glory and is seated with his Father this same love and kindness is unrestricted, and unlimited, knowing no bounds.

My prayer for you and I is that we will experience the boundless compassion and kindness of God this year. May this be our vision of Christ as we move into 2023. Amen.


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