The Gentleness of GodWe continue to examine the fruits of the Spirit of God to answer one simple question: What of God’s nature allows Him to be worthy of not just a place of prominence in our lives but to be first and foremost in our lives?
What better way to start a closer look the nature and character of God than with a pointed quote from Al Capone who said, “Don't mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.” I am guessing that Mr. Capone appeared kind to everyone and I further suspect that when he was kind it was only when it benefited him. Much like the ways of the world in which we live.
People do mistake kindness for weakness. Many people also mistake gentleness for weakness. Gentleness, also known as meekness in scripture, is the fruit of the Spirit into which we’ll be delving today and can be defined as might restrained by the presence of humility and grace. For while it takes a strong person to be gentle (anyone with power can lash out in application of that power), God’s gentleness is not just a matter of the tenderness we experience at His hand but also what He has restrained when dealing with us from the beginning.
God’s compassionate restraint is the hallmark of His gentleness. It allows us to know His heart wonderfully through the scriptures and for us to experience Him in a personal relationship with Christ Jesus. In the final analysis of God’s authority on one hand and our fallen nature on the other; He owes us nothing. Yet, He has given ever so gently and without a hint of compromise for us.
What might Elijah have thought when he received the following directive from God?
“Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.' And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”(1 Kings 19:11-12, NKJV)
We cannot know or grow in our appreciation of the gentle and the meek nature of God unless we fully consider the strength and power of God. We must come to know Him not just by what He presents to us but also by what He keeps in reserve.
First, there’s the great and strong wind that tore into the mountains and broke the rocks to pieces. The exact location of Mount Horeb is unknown. We don’t know the kind of rock of which it was made or how much force it would take to actually break the rocks into pieces.
We do know that it takes 1,600 kips (or 1,598,642 pounds of force) to break a concrete cylinder that is 1 yard tall and 18 inches in diameter. As a matter of perspective, if converted to pounds, this would be the equivalent of four diesel locomotives being brought to bear in the form of wind pressure. The pressure of a powerful, yet invisible wind was able to break the rocks of a mountain into pieces.
Second, the earthquake of which we do know the power and natural impact on the world. How many times has mankind felt the ground upon which they are standing shift and feel as if it is completely coming out from under foot? That which we stand upon, that which once felt solid and stable, suddenly and unexpectedly, no longer feels as such and everything changes forever. If nothing else, when the tremors stop, our view of the ground upon which we stand is changed forever.
Third, there was a great fire. In scripture fire symbolizes the presence of God; it purifies that which it touches, reduces things to ash and seemingly kills; when in fact, it is preparing the soil so that greater growth may occur in the future.
“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.’” (Isaiah 6:5-7, NKJV)
So it is with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Without Him we would be undone as He searches our hearts and seeks to occupy an ever greater portion of our all in all.
Finally, there was the strength and power of God on display in the form of His restraint, in the form of a “…still small voice.” And it is in this voice that we are guided to the straight and true of life as God would have us live it.
It is in this voice that we know He loves us more than we could ever imagine. It is in this voice that we are told to love others by proclaiming the Good News that is Jesus Christ. It is in this voice that we find the greatest comforts, the greatest commandments and the greatest commission…all held within the confines of “…a still small voice,” one that echoes the words of Christ, “…take up thy cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, NKJV)
A strong and gentle voice that so many people miss because they are not listening for it or refuse to listen for it. God absolutely has the ability to bring to bear the full measure of forces beyond our imagination, beyond the normal display of His creation; in an effort to get our attention and to proclaim His love for us. Yet He is not willing to overcome the external and internal noises that flood our senses. He acts with restraint and through His scriptures He tells us clearly how we can hear His voice.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10, NKJV)
We are to “be still”, for if we are not still we will miss the greatest display of God’s strength. We will miss the gentle whisper of His voice in our ear and the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit to our hearts. We are called to be still and hear His voice because when people hear His voice they come to know Him. When people hear His voice they come to trust Him. When people hear His voice they come to choose Him and as a result they come to dwell with Him for all time. It is so important that this is clear to the believer and the non-believer. Satan does not want any of us to hear the voice of God. Satan hates God, hates people and wants to wound the heart of God by keeping us from being in a relationship with Him. If Satan can keep us busy in our lives and in our minds; if he can prevent us from being still to hear the voice of God, he can, and will, impede our relationship with God.
For God said, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10, NKJV)
Friends, this age in which we presently live will come to an end and just as it was in the days of Noah. It will come suddenly and it will come decisively. This is why we need to be still in our self-talk, our to-do lists, our worries, our concerns, our sufferings, our good times and our great memories. We need to empty ourselves of ourselves and allow His Holy Spirit to occupy more of us so that we can feel the calm assurance of God’s touch; the kinship, the love and the adornment of Jesus Christ in us.
There will come a day when we will be confronted very clearly by overwhelming nature and presence of who He is. I cannot help but believe that we will probably react as did John where he, in Revelation, records how he “…fell as though dead” (Revelation 1:17, NKJV). When we come to know Him fully by being fully in His presence; so much greater is His might than that of the Angel He sent against the Assyrians. (2 Kings 19:35).
Can we see and feel His strength by way of His gentle nature? Do we experience His gentle nature by what He holds in restraint? We experience the strength and majesty of God when we consider the gentle and meek nature of God the Son in the person Jesus Christ! Nowhere is weakness to be found in the life of Jesus Christ!
Whether it was how Jesus approached the City of David:
“Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, "The Lord has need of them," and immediately he will send them.' ” All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’" (Matthew 21:1-5, NKJV)
How He embraced His arrest:
“Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?’” (Matthew 26:53, NKJV)
Standing silent before the authorities:
“Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?' Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you say.' And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do you not hear how many things they testify against You?’ But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.” (Matthew 27:11-13, NKJV)
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes if from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17-18, NKJV)
Calling out to His Heavenly Father while bearing our punishment:
“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” (Luke 23:34, NKJV)
Strength is displayed through a gentle nature and the meekness of Christ, always and forever and in all circumstances so that we may know the depth of His restraint; even unto a painful and humiliating death on a Roman cross. Such an unlikely place to find the nature of God as He donned the stripes He did not deserve; holding back the force that broke rocks with wind; holding back the angels that could have, without question halted all proceedings and tended the wounds of Jesus, just as they did after Satan tempted Him in the wilderness. A faithful and humble servant; as God the Son in the flesh considering everyone better than Himself and worth the sacrifice; just for the opportunity that we might choose Him over ourselves. So much has God held in reserve to give us His all in all.
This is the gentleness of God.