Contrary to the impression of many, our God is gentle. His gentleness is very much evident when we are going through difficulties. He would come with his gentle voice and caring arms just as when Israel was languishing in exile. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:1-2). These two verses portray not only the kindness and sternness of God, but his gentleness and tender mercies. God demonstrated unusual kindness to Israel as he delivered them from their enemies many times in the past. However, their stubbornness and hardness of heart reached the point where God had to be stern and send them into exile.
In the midst of Israel’s suffering in exile, God once more showed his kindness and faithfulness. He sent messengers to comfort them as they waited and looked forward to their forthcoming deliverance. The instruction given to the messengers was for them to exercise utmost gentleness and care as they comforted Israel. Even in their speech, they had to speak tenderly. This kind of tenderness was demonstrated by Jesus when he tried to reach out to the Jews. He said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37). The gentleness of a mother hen towards her chicks is something that should be imitated. She is very much aware of the weakness and helplessness of her young and would gently gather them, to shield and protect them from the predators.
In many ways, Jesus has been pictured as one who is very gentle and caring. Indeed, he is gentle and caring. In fact, he himself said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). Yes, the Lord is gentle to everyone who is in need and would humbly approach him for his help. He will do everything to bring relief and deliverance. However, to those who do wrong and choose to harden their hearts, he will come with his strong hands just as he did to the money changers and those selling doves in the temple. He overturned their tables and drove them out of the temple, saying, “It is written ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers” (Matt. 21:13). Jesus will never let sin and wrong-doings remain unchecked. He is stern to those who are hardened in heart but gentle to those who are in need and humble in heart.
When describing the gentleness of God in dealing with Israel, the Psalmist said, “But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness. He guided them safely, so they were unafraid; but the sea engulfed their enemies” (Psalm 78:52-53). Here the Lord is portrayed like a shepherd that leads his flock, gently taking care of them. He will take his time and not rush them, knowing that they are weak. He will lead them to green pastures and quiet waters, as described in Psalm 23. Because of his presence, the flock will be confident that no harm shall befall them.
As believers, we too are expected to be gentle. The apostle Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Phil. 4:4-5). We need to be gentle to everyone but more so with those who are going through difficult times, like Israel. We speak gently to them, giving them words of comfort rather than harsh words that are laced with criticism and condemnation. The reason they are now suffering is because of their sins and we now have to gently help them get back on their feet. We know that God is compassionate and he will not let them suffer forever. In his Psalm, David said, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The better way to gently encourage someone who is hurting and suffering is to bring him to a point of rejoicing. Yes, rejoicing in songs and dances that are glorifying to the Lord will bring deliverance. Praise the Lord!