By Lynn Buzzard
God is most like:
A. A Policeman
B. A Judge
C. A Legislator
D. None of the above
I can’t do that. My heart will not let me utterly destroy them. Because I am God and not man. Hosea 11:8-9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. II Peter 3:9
The images we have of God are, I suppose, derived not chiefly from Scripture, but probably from a whole culture full of symbols, caricatures, models, and images.
Many see God chiefly as a judge, sorting out justice and sending sinners off to prison (hell). He is austere, tolerates no nonsense, and certainly does not mess around with the sort of foolish defenses that trick modern human judges and juries. No "twinkie" defenses at the last judgement.
For others, He’s a policeman, walking around, always checking on us, ready to stretch out the long arm of the law if we break a rule. Like all good cops, He’ll give friendly advice to law abiders, but He’s tough on crime.
Or, maybe God is seen as the legislator. He makes the rules, starting with ten big ones, and then a multitude of little ones too. He makes the list of "dos" and "don’ts" and, like Santa, He’s making a list, checking it twice.
But in Scripture, the most revealing, prominent and persistent image of God is none of those – though, in some respects, He is each of them. The image of God, from the encounter with Adam, through Abraham, on into the New Testament and our Lord’s life and work is not God as judge, or legislator, or policeman, but God as Promisor – a God who covenants, who enters into relationship with His people.
All the time He’s doing that. He is seeking out a people, and promising to them His faithfulness, His dependability, His commitment.
For all the talk about our being faithful, the bottom line about mankind is its unfaithfulness. From Genesis on, the story is never about mankind’s loyalty, but rather is always about God’s persistence, God’s "hanging in there." It is the theme of the famous poem, "The Hound of Heaven," picturing a pursuing, relentless, focused God who will not be interrupted or diverted. He is the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep; the systematic seeker of the lost coin. He is the one who is faithful, pursuing, pleading, calling the faithless, the prodigal.
We have a hard time accepting this persistence and promise-keeping quality of God, perhaps precisely because promise keeping is something we do so little of. Our courts, our families, our political life is filled with illusory promises. Contracts are breached; excuses are made; defenses are raised. Marriage promises collapse. Our promises whether by children, spouses, or partners are routinely adjusted. "Changed circumstances" are invoked. After all, the law itself says it’s usually okay to break your promises – just pay the damages and move on.
We learned all this as children. Promises didn’t count if your fingers were crossed or if you didn’t "swear" on it. So maybe it’s no wonder we have such a hard time living in the power and the love of a faithful, promise-keeping Lord who, when He is about to totally reject His people, recoils at the thought and declares, "For I am God, and not man."
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This article [slightly edited] comes from CLS' sister-international ministry's, Advocate's International, devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?” Lynn Buzzard is a former professor at Campbell Law School and the former executive director of Christian Legal Society.