Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him (Psalm 103:13).
Often when I share the Gospel with people in our day, the question arises concerning the character of God. In the popular mind there seems to be the idea that a God of love cannot be a God of justice. The two qualities are mutually exclusive.But the popular idea is wrong.
Perhaps that is why our Creator placed us in families – to offer us a perfect example of the balance of these two attributes. As a father, there were times when I wrapped my kids in my arms and loved them. If You could be a fly on the wall observing us, you would conclude, “There’s a dad who loves his kids” (and you would have been correct). But it wasn’t unknown, when I released them from my hug, for my mischievous son to irritate his sister or brother or do some other forbidden action. My next move might have been to discipline that son firmly (depending upon the severity of the offense). As the observant “fly on the wall,” you might conclude, “There’s a dad that has a wrath against sin” (again, you would have observed correctly).
Does a father stop loving when he disciplines? Does he set aside his standards when he loves? NEVER! A parent knows that he can love his child infinitely and unconditionally and still express his anger over sin. Indeed, as I used to tell my kids, “I love you too much to allow you to think you can get away with [whatever attitude or offense he committed] when you get older. Because I love you I want you to know that this attitude will result in pain for you.”
But I also have observed over the years that there is a difference between the love (compassion) of a father and that of a mother. Though my characterization is not absolute, Mom is often there to soothe the hurts and to comfort a child; Dad is often the one to tell a child to endure a hardship for the reward that will follow. Hence, he disciplines and the child “runs to Mama.”
According to David’s Psalm (quoted above) God’s compassion for men is more properly characterized as a father’s compassion. He has standards and expectations and He knows that those standards require obedience and discipline. He doesn’t just ooze with good intentions and sentimentality.
As a man Dad recognizes that he has a task to do that gives him fulfillment and gladness, and he knows that his greatest joy is found when he is able to provide for those he loves through that purposeful work. It is this sense of purpose and fulfillment that he desires for his child – male or female – so that his discipline reflects that desire.
The God of the Bible is like that. There is a larger purpose behind His discipline and the whole correctional process. That discipline – wrath, if it must be so severe – is really a function of His love.