The “Tough” Love of God

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013) – August 2

imagesSometimes love isn’t tender and sweet; sometimes love is tough.

Sometimes God’s love is tough. People may not like to think of God’s tough love, but it is what it is. God speaks to the king’s family in Judah: “You are Gilead to me, the head of Lebanon; yet l surely will make you a wilderness, cities which are not inhabited. I will prepare destroyers against you, everyone with his weapons; they shall cut down your choice cedar beams and cast them into the fire” (Jer. 22:6-7). Certainly sounds like tough love!

Moses understood God’s tough love. The same love that brought God’s children out of Egypt put them “in the corner” of the wilderness for forty years because of their unbelief and rebellion.

David understood the tough love of God, “With the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd” (2 Sam. 22:27; Ps. 18:26). The same love that anointed David as king confronted David’s adultery and the murder of one of his mighty men.

God has sought to woo Israel back to Himself for hundreds of years, yet they have “forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God, and worshiped other gods and served them” (Jer. 22:9). Finally, He raises up the Assyrians to remove them from the land. Tough love.

Judah has done little better as a nation. They have experienced moments of revival under the reigns of Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, but most of their 345 years as a nation have been characterized by idolatry.
Jeremiah understands the tough love of God. The love that gave Israel the land of Canaan removes them from the land because of their unbelief, rebellion, and idolatry. That same love raises up the Egyptians to dethrone Jehoahaz.

The tough love of God sends Habakkuk to prophesy of imminent captivity: “I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs” (Hab. 1:6). Habakkuk declares, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (1:13a), and questions God’s use of the treacherous and wicked to execute judgement, “Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?” (1:13) Habakkuk’s prayer shows his understanding of God’s tough love; he prays, “In wrath remember mercy” (3:2). Israel deserves God’s “tough love’, but Habakkuk asks the Lord to temper His wrath with mercy.

God’s tough love raises up pagan kings to punish covenant people, but His love redeems a remnant and punishes the punishers. God shows tough love because His holiness demands it, His discipline requires it, and His children often need it. No matter how tough His love, it is still love—love that one day will finally bring His people home.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Habakkuk; Zephaniah 1:1-2:7):
List the complaints that Habakkuk raises in chapter 1.
What does Habakkuk reveal about God’s character?
What does God communicate about proud people in His response to Habakkuk’s complaints?
What does God’s answer to Habakkuk teach him about God? How does he respond to God’s announcement of imminent judgment?