As spring settles in, I am struck by the image of lightning in the Bible. We're nearing the end of Deuteronomy, as Moses is giving his final words to Israel before his death, and he says something quite interesting about who God is. He says,
The Lord came from Sinai and appeared to them...and came with ten thousand holy ones, with lightning from his right hand for them. (Deut. 33:2)
A footnote in the CSB indicates that the word here translated lightning is meant to indicate the "fiery law," and we know well the imagery of God's right hand, where his power and glory sit. And it would be easy for us perhaps to think that this is yet another show of God's strength, that it was meant to invoke fear in the Israelites - fear leading to obedience. Here's God, showing off again, reminding His people of His power and authority over their lives with the lightning cracking through the clouds, shaking the earth with its thunder.
But look at what Moses says directly next:
Indeed he loves the people.
Uhm...love? Two seconds ago, we were terrified. Scared. Startled by the sheer power of a God who throws lightning through the dark skies. Meekly submissive to His "fiery law," a law so heavy a burden that no one could properly bear it. A law with so many rules, so many things we have to do to obtain righteousness - obtain, not achieve, for who could ever achieve such a thing? We simply earn it through our obedience and by God's great mercy.
And now, love? This lightning is love?
It's so hard for us to understand, to comprehend, to wrap our minds around the idea that God's power is love. We're so used to power being used for so much less, being wielded as a weapon in our world. We're used to leaders and those in authority who misuse their power for their own gain, who flaunt it just because they can, who take every opportunity to remind us that they are over us, that they are the ones with authority, that they make the rules and heaven help them, they enforce them. We're so used to power being used to keep us down.
Yet here we are with a God whose power is love, who uses His power for our gain, who never flaunts it but always offers it with a reminder of who He is - not the God that we fear, but the God that we love because He first loved us. He doesn't use His power to keep us down; He uses His power to light us up, even in the darkest places. It's a storm of grace, of mercy, and of tender care, meant to remind us who God really is.
He is our Lord, our Lover, our Light and our Redeemer. Our Lightning.