Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.Romans 11:22
Paul speaks of the kindness and the sternness of God. If you come to God needy and repentant and acknowledging that you need help, you will always find him to be loving, gracious, open-armed, ready to help you, ready to forgive you, ready to give you all that you need. But if you come to God complaining, excusing yourself, justifying what you've been doing and trying to make it look good in his sight, you will always find that God is as hard as iron, and as merciless as fire, as stern as a judge. God will always turn that face toward those who come in self-pride and justification in their own strength.
This is the secret of the mystery of Israel and its blindness today. As long as the Jews come to God in that manner, they will always find a hard, iron-willed, stern God. But when they come in repentance, and, as Zechariah the prophet describes, when Jesus appears and they look at him whom they had pierced and they ask him
Where did you get these wounds in your hands? he will say,
These are those which I received in the house of my friends, (Zechariah 13:6). Then they will mourn for him as one mourns for any only child, and the mourning of Israel that day will be like the mourning for King Joash in the battle of Jezreal. The whole nation will mourn. Then God will take that nation, and they will replenish the earth. This is what Paul looks forward to.
This is a reminder to our own hearts of the faithfulness of God. His promises will not fail. God's purposes will never be shortchanged. God is going to accomplish all that he says he will do. Though it may be a long way around, and though it may lead through many trials and temptations and hurts and heartaches, what God has said he will do, he will carry through. On that basis we can enter each day with a deep awareness of the faithfulness of our God.
Thank you, Holy Father, for your faithfulness. Thank you that you are the God of glory and the God of mercy. I do stand amazed at both the kindness and the sternness of God. Lord, teach me that you are not someone I can manipulate. Help me to bow before you in humble adoration at the grace that reaches out to me when I am ready to admit my need and come before you trembling and contrite.
Kindness and sternness are both integral qualities of God's character, each necessary to the full expression of His love. What are the appropriate responses to His kindness, and to His needed sternness?