Anyone who says that God is a big bully is picking and choosing what he reads in the Bible. Read the whole thing, cover to cover, over and over, to see the whole God. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, you’ll see violence and misery and pain and suffering, but look at what else you’’ll see!
In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the remotest part of the rivers of Egypt and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. They will all come and settle on the steep ravines, on the ledges of the cliffs, on all the thorn bushes and on all the watering places.
In that day the Lord will shave with a razor, hired from regions beyond the Euphrates (that is, with the king of Assyria), the head and the hair of the legs; and it will also remove the beard.
Now in that day a man may keep alive a heifer and a pair of sheep; 22 and because of the abundance of the milk produced he will eat curds, for everyone that is left within the land will eat curds and honey.
(Isaiah 8: 18-21)
God promised judgment on Israel for sin. Over and over He sent prophets, humbled kings, removed evil influences, but the people continued to sin. So here in this passage in Isaiah God says invaders will come and a large portion of the land will be ruined. In other verses he talks about burning, about thorns choking the land, but here he talks about the bees that will settle everywhere. Rudyard Kipling describes swarms of bees that live in cliffs in his Jungle Books. They are deadly, terrifying. Normally everyone keeps away from them.
But look at what the remnant of God’s people can do! There might be destruction, burning, judgment. There might be so many thorns that they can only keep a few head of livestock. But those bees, those terrifying stinging killers God sent as part of the judgment? The people can get honey from them.
That’s how God is. He punishes the sin, but He loves the sinner. He judges wickedness, but he shows mercy and comfort. He sends enemies, trouble, and pain to the disobedient, but his heart grieves over the desolation and anguish and He sends curds and honey in the midst of the thorns and the burning.
This is a parallel passage to Matthew 23, where Jesus speaks about the coming judgment. Both passages talk about the judgment and what the Messiah will do. Here it is again – the love and the judgment.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
God isn’t a bully. Man is a fool, fighting the outstretched hand of help, spitting in the face of the Messiah. But from the bees that drive in the enemy and cause desolation, he still gives us the honey.
image from morguefile by ronnieb