Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
“Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.” Psalm 18:35
It will be generally agreed that David was one of the great men of the race. In his trust and courage and leadership and genius, he stands among the heroes of humanity. Now David had had a strange and varied life. He had been hunted like a partridge on the hills. He had suffered disloyalty at home and sorrowed in the death of Absalom. But now, as he looked back upon it all, what stood out in transcendent clearness was the unfailing gentleness of God–not the infliction of any heavenly punishment, though sometimes punishment had been severe; not the divine apportioning of sorrow, though he had drunk of very bitter sorrow. What shone out like a star in heaven, irradiating the darkness of his night, was the amazing gentleness of God. David could say with a full heart, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.”
With a like sincerity can we not say it also? When we survey our course and recollect our mercies and recall the divine handling of our childishness, the confession of David is our own.
The Wonder of God’s Gentleness
We feel the wonder of the gentleness of God when we remember it is conjoined with power. When infinite power lies at the back of it, gentleness is always very moving. There is a gentleness which springs from weakness. Cowardice lies hidden at its roots. It comes from the disinclination to offend and from the desire to be in good standing with everybody. But the marvel of the gentleness of God is that it is not the signature of an interior weakness, but rests upon the bosom of Omnipotence. In a woman we all look for gentleness; it is one of the lustrous diadems of womanhood. In a professional military man, we scarcely expect it; it is not the denizen of tented fields. And the Lord is “a mighty man of war,” subduing, irresistible, Almighty, and yet He comes to Israel as the dew. The elder spoke to John of the lion of the tribe of Judah. But when John looked to see the lion, lo! in the midst of the throne there was a lamb. Power was tenderness–the lion was the lamb—Omnipotence would not break the bruised reed. It is the wonder of the gentleness of God.
Again, the gentleness of God is strangely moving when we remember it is conjoined with purity. There is a kind of gentleness, common among men, which springs from an easy, tolerant, good nature. To be gentle with sin is quite an easy matter if sin is a light thing in our eyes. It is easy to pardon a child who tells a lie if lying is in our regard, but venial. And when we are tempted to think of God like that, as if heaven were rich intolerant good nature, then is the time to consider the cross. Whatever else we learn at Calvary, we learn there God’s estimate of sin. In that dark hour of agony, the judgment of heaven upon sin is promulgated. And when that steeps into our being, so that we measure things by the measurements of Calvary, we are awed by the gentleness of God.
Then to all this must be added the fact of our human provocation. For, like the children of Israel in the wilderness, we are continually provoking God. Every mother knows how hard it is to be always gentle with a provoking child–how likely she is to lose her temper with it and how she longs to shake it or to slap it. But no child is ever so provoking to the tender heart of a good mother as you and I must always be God. When we sin, when we fail to trust Him, when we grow bitter, when we become despondent, how ceaselessly provoking that must be to the infinitely loving heart in heaven. Yet David could say, as you and I can say, looking back over the winding trail of years, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” Nothing is more provoking to a parent than when a child refuses to take medicine, screaming and fighting against it desperately, though the cup is entirely for its good. The question is, How do you take your medicine? Do you grow faithless, hard, rebellious, broken-hearted? How provoking must that be to our Father? Yes, think of God’s power and on His purity, and add to that our human provocation, if you want to feel the glory of His gentleness.
God’s Gentleness Implies Our Illness
It always seems to me that tenderness and gentleness imply that we are sick. In our Father’s sight, we are all ailing children. We have all noticed how when one is sick everyone around grows strangely gentle. There is an exquisite gentleness, as many of us know, in the touch of a true nurse. Even rough, rude men grow very gentle, as is seen so often in the war when they are handling a wounded comrade. When he was well they tormented him; they played their jokes on him and coined his nickname; but when wounded, stricken, bleeding, shattered, they showed themselves as gentle as a woman. And I often think that the gentleness of God, could we track it to its mysterious deeps, is akin to that of a soldier and of a nurse. We are a sin-sick race. We all have leprosy. We are full of “wounds and bruises and putrifying sores.” They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. Love in magnificence may suit the angels. But in the world’s great battlefield and hospital, Love binds on the cross and walks in gentleness. “Thy gentleness hath made me great.”