The Willing Heart of God, the Unwilling Heart of Man

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), October 26

fullsizeoutput_faa“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Mt. 23:37).

Many, after reading the Old Testament, conclude that God is distant, aloof, and more than a little scary. He is not. The problem lies not with God—He is willing—but with man: “but you were not willing.”

The Bible often uses word pictures to describe God’s love and care for His people. Today’s reading begins with such a picture of the longing heart of God for His people—a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings. A mother hen, sensing danger, clucks fussily and spreads her wings to alert her chicks to hide themselves beneath her wings.

Three truths about God’s heart for His people emerge from this analogy:

  • God’s desire for His people is continual – “How often.” Beginning in the Garden of Eden, God sought those who ran away and hid from Him; every generation since has a few, a remnant, who respond to His love. Even today His eyes are roving throughout the earth looking for those whose hearts are loyal toward Him (2 Chron. 16:9).
  • The desire of God for His people is deep – “I have longed.” Jerusalem herself stands today as mute testimony to God’s abiding desire for her residents. God seems almost stubborn in His unwillingness to give up having the intimacy for which He so longs with mankind.
  • The desire of God for His people is redemptive – “To gather you.” As a mother hen offers the safety and warmth of her bosom, so the Lord’s heart expresses itself in the cross of Jesus Christ. God’s love can never remain stagnant but moves purposely and redemptively toward mankind.

This astonishing picture—the king weeping over an errant city, longing to restore it to Himself—perfectly displays the heart of the Father toward His own children and their hardness toward Him. Chicks respond willingly to the mother hen’s warning, while those created in the image of God rebel against His good heart toward them.

To know the heart of God in intimacy (not just head knowledge) is to know His heart for people and to run, unafraid and boldly, into His outstretched arms. Goodness attracts trust.

Question from today’s chronological Bible reading (Mk. 12:28-44; Mt. 22:1-12, 34-46; 23:1-39; Lk. 20:41-47; 21:1-4):
Consider the stories in today’s reading regarding the scribes and Pharisees, and describe how the practices of the scribes and the Pharisees violate Jesus’ command to “love God” and “love your neighbor”.