Please read Isaiah 42:10-13 and Revelation 19:11-21 in your favorite version of the Bible. As usual, I’ve used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.
God is our Father and our King; a full view of God and humanity celebrates masculinity and femininity.
God is our Father. As we learned last month on Mother’s Day that does not mean that His character is limited to masculine behaviors. Scripture occasionally describes God in terms that are maternal as well.
May we agree that “male” and “female” refer to scientific states that can be objectively established, while outside of biology, “masculine” and “feminine” are terms that reflect a more subjective reality? Can we acknowledge that the vast majority of us are a mix of character traits that can be described as “masculine” and “feminine”? God Himself is described in both ways, and we are, both genders, made in His Image.
This set of Mother’s and Father’s Day messages is an attempt to satisfy our curiosity about the nature and character of God. What we’ve learned is that in His nature, God is NEITHER male nor female; instead, He is a spiritual being. We’ve learned God’s personality is both fatherly and motherly.
In honor of the day, a little story is required. One summer evening during a severe thunderstorm a mother tucked her young son back into bed. She was about to turn off the light when the boy asked, a tremor in his voice, “Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?”
The mother smiled and said sweetly, “I can’t dear, I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.”
A dark, angry look crossed the little face and his lower lip began to protrude.
“The big sissy!”
Last month, on Mother’s day, we got in touch with the “feminine” side of God’s character. This month, for the sake of truth and equal time, we will look at two passages that clearly point to the “masculine” side of God.
- The LORD is a MIGHTY MAN (Isaiah 42:10-13).
Context: Sandwiched between a description of the Lord’s Servant (ch. 42) and Israel’s Savior (ch. 43), we find this passage of praise that affirms God’s nature has characteristics we could call “feminine” (v. 14) and “masculine” (v. 13).
The heading reads “Song of Praise to the Lord.” Verse nine states that the LORD is doing something NEW; this song may be the announcement promised in this verse.
Comments: The passage juxtaposes the paternal/masculine image of a warrior (v. 13) with the maternal/feminine image of a child-birthing mother in the very next verse (v. 14). The fact that these images are side by side says to me we needn’t obsess over God’s gender identity, but see them as two sides of the same coin.
The LORD is a victorious warrior. This martial imagery is quite a contrast to the gentleness of the SERVANT in verses two and three. THE LORD WILL MARCH OUT is the ancient expression for an army taking the field to fight. Let’s look at the particulars of Isaiah’s portrayal of the LORD in verse thirteen.
The LORD is a MIGHTY MAN; this phrase reminds us of the soldiers who served King David (2 Samuel 23). Their conquests and exploits are legendary.
The LORD is a zealous WARRIOR. The word translated here as ZEAL can also be translated as FURY. This is His wrath against the wicked and vengeance on those who persecute His people. God’s eagerness to rescue His people is also measured by the feminine imagery of verse fourteen.
The phrase the LORD will RAISE THE BATTLE CRY gives us an exciting, dramatic picture of God as a general, leading the battle. It is typical for soldiers to take the field with a shout. This is done to excite their own courage and intimidate their enemy. God is taking the field to lead His people into battle versus evil.
The LORD will TRIUMPH OVER HIS ENEMIES. The identity of HIS ENEMIES is not revealed here, but we can safely generalize it to include the nations persecuting His people and all idolators. (Verses ten to tweleve have a “four corners of the earth” kind of theme, so His ENEMIES are all over.) Elsewhere, God is depicted as victorious over the primeval chaos (Psalm 93), the Egyptians (Exodus 15), Babylon (Isaiah 47), death (Isaiah 25:8), and the devil (Revelation 20:7-10). These all give us information about the ENEMIES the divine WARRIOR has vanquished in battle.
This is masculine imagery, comparing God to a man of action, dynamism, and victorious over all opposition. This is the kind of stuff that nourishes a man’s soul!
- Jesus is the Conquering King (Revelation 19:11-21).
Context: Between a scene of heaven rejoicing over the victory of God (ch. 19) and Judgment Day, we are treated to a description of the King who is the object of worship and the warrior who defeated the enemies judged guilty and destroyed.
Comments: Jesus is the conquering King of Kings. The WHITE HORSE he rides is a symbol of victory. We will examine the particulars.
He is CALLED FAITHFUL AND TRUE in verse eleven. See 3:14, where the letter to the church in Laodicea is the words of the one who is FAITHFUL AND TRUE. Jesus can be counted on to do the right thing. Unlike earthly military commanders, He never abuses the might at His disposal.
It is promised that WITH JUSTICE HE JUDGES AND MAKES WAR (11). This reads a lot like Isaiah 11:3-4, the description of the BRANCH OF JESSE (Jesus).
HE WILL NOT JUDGE BY WHAT HE SEES WITH HIS EYES, OR DECIDE BY WHAT HE HEARS WITH HIS EARS; BUT WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS HE WILL JUDGE THE NEEDY, WITH JUSTICE HE WILL GIVE DECISIONS FOR THE POOR OF THE EARTH. In Revelation, the theme of a holy war at the end of time is introduced in chs. 13+14.
In verse twelve, it is written that HIS EYES ARE LIKE A BLAZING FIRE. This description has already been used in Revelation 1:14 for the figure of the SON OF MAN, and for the SON OF GOD in 2:18, addressor of the letter to the church in Thyatira.
ON HIS HEAD ARE MANY CROWNS (v. 12); obviously, CROWNS are a symbol of authority. It’s the number and origin of the CROWNS that’s interesting. Without specifying a number, one might guess the rider wears more CROWNS than the seven on the DRAGON’s head (12:3) and the ten on the BEAST’s head (13:1). These CROWNS may be the ones the 24 ELDERS laid down before Him (4:10-11) represent the worship offered the LAMB in Revelation 5.
The rider is wears a ROBE DIPPED IN BLOOD (v. 13). Some alternative ancient manuscripts of the Revelation use the word “sprinkled” here. That translation makes more sense in light of Isaiah 63:1-3, where the conqueror’s robe is STAINED WITH CRIMSON, the blood of the Edomites, enemies of Israel.
However, as this is a figure of Jesus, it is more likely His own blood that makes his ROBE crimson-colored.
IN HIS MOUTH, A SHARP SWORD (15) reads like a startling detail, but it’s not unique to John’s Revelation. Something similar is mentioned in Psalm 2:9 and Isaiah 11:4: HE WILL STRIKE THE EARTH WITH THE ROD OF HIS MOUTH; WITH THE BREATH OF HIS LIPS HE WILL SLAY THE WICKED. This description has already been used twice in the Revelation. In 1:16 it appears as part of the description of the One like the Son of Man. In 2:12+16, we read it in a warning to the church in Pergamum.
The SWORD symbolizes judgment and the MOUTH is the source of words. Together, this odd-sounding image is one of the powerful words of Jesus, judging sin and condemning sinners to God’s wrath.
The name of the rider is both a mystery and a revelation. Or, more likely, He has three different names. Verse twelve relates that HE HAS A NAME WRITTEN ON HIM THAT NO ONE BUT HE HIMSELF KNOWS. In verse thirteen we read HIS NAME IS THE WORD OF GOD, a name used for Jesus in John 1. In verse sixteen the location of his NAME (ON HIS THIGH) is revealed to be KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. This designation is used for God in Deuteronomy 10:17 and for Jesus in Philippians 2:9. In Matthew 11:27 Jesus said;
“ALL THINGS HAVE BEEN COMMITTED TO ME BY MY FATHER. NO ONE KNOWS THE SON EXCEPT THE FATHER, AND NO ONE KNOWS THE FATHER EXCEPT THE SON AND THOSE TO WHOM THE SON CHOOSES TO REVEAL HIM.”
His victory is described in verses 17-21. There are two important things to note.
One, His victory will be FINAL. In a grotesque image, the scavenging birds and beasts are invited to feast on the flesh of those fallen in battle (17-18, 21)
Two, His victory will be TOTAL. In vs. 19-20, the BEAST and FALSE PROPHET, two symbols of the spiritual evil that is behind worldly evil, are defeated and destroyed in THE FIERY LAKE OF BURNING SULFUR.
Even though militaristic images are used here, the ultimate triumph over spiritual evil and its human accomplices was not accomplished by military might, but by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is a spiritual victory.
God is our Father and our King; a full view of God and humanity celebrates masculinity and femininity.
What I’ve learned from this set of two messages is that if gender is not an issue where God is concerned, it shouldn’t be an issue where His people are concerned. Were we to investigate the issue further, we’d find that God’s ideal is that all His children experience a kind of wholeness that comes from having both maleness and femaleness in our character and thinking. In the plan of God, both genders exist so that each can supply what is typically lacking in the other. Starting with Adam and Eve, men and women are to complement one another. This is the genius of God’s plan where marriage and the Church are concerned; the people coming together to be one, and that one being more than the sum of their parts. That strikes me as a virtue worth working toward.
Speaking of work…
A father was conversing with his young daughter, showing off her knowledge of geography to proud grandparents.
He said, “Where does mommy live?”
“Minn-e-apolis” the little voice answered, carefully forming each syllable.
“Right! Where do grandpa and grandma live?
“Good job! And where does daddy live?”
Convicted, the father took the next day off and spent it with his little girl.
Apart from having truthful theology that recognizes God as our Father and King, what difference does all of this make? It is crucial in at least two ways:
- You can bow before Him now or later, but later is too late. Believe on Him today!
- Don’t just acknowledge His kingship, make Him YOUR King. Bow to Him today!
Make a personal commitment, not just a profession of faith.