Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Like a Warrior...Like a Woman"

In preaching through Habakkuk 3.8-15 I spoke of how God is a warrior coming to do battle against the house of evil (Hab 3.13) and on behalf of his people.  I began by quoting Exodus 15.3 in which Israel sings that "Yahweh is a warrior, Yahweh is his name."  They sing this after their deliverance from Egypt through the Red Sea.  God is a warrior who comes for the deliverance (salvation) of his people.

This morning I came across more "warrior" language but also something else.  Isaiah 42.13-14 reads:
The LORD will go forth like a warrior, he will arouse his zeal like a man of war.  He will utter a shout, yes, he will raise a war cry.  He will prevail against his enemies.
I have kept silent for a long time, I have kept still and restrained myself.  Now like a woman in labor I will groan, I will both gasp and pant. 
Here is a wonderful multiplication of images which is startling.  God is like a warrior raising a war cry against his enemies.  He is also like a woman panting in labor for the deliverance of his people.  Both images are captured in the same context.  Now I reject all notions of calling God "our Mother."  This is a trend for some.  I was reminded of the words of Mark Driscoll when he states his concerns regarding this growing trend among some in the "emergent" church.
I am particularly concerned, however, with some growing trends among some people...the rejection of biblical names for God, such as Father, which is essentially apologizing before the unbelieving world for the prayer life of the flamboyantly heterosexual Jesus, who uttered the horrendously politically incorrect "Our Father" without ever having the decency to apologize for being a misogynist patriarchal meanie."  Confessions of a Reformission Rev (p. 22)
So our God is Father.  And yet he uses this profoundly and uniquely feminine image of a woman in labor to communicate his grace.  Regarding this image E. J. Young writes:
A strong figure introduces the second line and is placed first for emphasis.  As the travailing woman shrieks in pain, so will God also do, for, as Calvin justly remarks, it is only by such figures of speech that God's ardent love toward us can be expressed.  The implication is that it has been difficult for God to hold His peace when He beheld wicked men forming a kingdom with the express purpose of destroying His own kingdom and bringing His purposes to naught.  His own loved ones were the objects of the enemies' wrath, and yet God must constrain Himself.  Yet He longs to deliver His own, and now shrieks aloud, as though unable to endure longer.  The time for action has arrived.  The Book of Isaiah (vol. 3), p. 129
These images of the warrior and the laboring woman are powerful communications of the character and action of our God in his sovereign quest for salvation and deliverance.

One final thought: any doctrinal formulation of impassibility must make its peace with theses images without muting them or gutting them of their force.  D. A. Carson has short but insightful discussion of this issue in his little book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God:
It is no answer to espouse a form of impassibility that denies that God has an emotional life and that insists that all of the biblical evidence to the contrary is nothing more than anthropopathism.  The price is too heavy.  You may then rest in God's sovereignty, but you can no longer rejoice in his love.  You may rejoice only in a linguistic expression that is an accommodation of some reality of which we cannot conceive, couched in the anthropopathism of love.  Give me a break.  Paul did not pray that his readers might be able to grasp the height and depth and length and breadth of an anthropopathism and know this anthropopathism that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:14-21).  (pp. 58-59)
God is like a warrior roused to do battle for his beloved.  God is like a woman crying out in labor that now is the time of deliverance.  Praise God for his revelation of his heart of grace!