Divine Vulnerability

               Source: jadonward

‘Throughout the Old Testament, God is not only passionately concerned for Israel but also frequently in pain at her rebellion and longing for reconciliation. God is a wounded husband who continually attempts to woo his people back into harmony with him. Isaiah 5 portrays God as a vineyard owner who had busied himself with the task of “planting” his people Israel – “the choicest vine” – on a fertile hill, digging all around it, removing its stones. Despite the legitimate expectation at Israel’s “worthless” yield: “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?” (5:4). Jeremiah similarly writes of God’s planting Israel as a “choice vine” and “faithful seed,” but Israel rejects God (Jer. 2:21). The same theme of God’s legitimate expectation of repentance and righteousness from Israel is found in Zephaniah 3:7: “I said, ‘Surely you will revere Me, accept instruction.’ So her dwelling will not be cut off according to all that I have appointed concerning her. But they were eager to corrupt all their deeds.”

The psalmist articulates something similar: “I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide and I will fill it. But My people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me” (81:10-11). Israel’s continual faithlessness exasperates God. In Amos 4:6-11, God tries to get the attention of his people by sending plagues, famine, drought, and the like. But despite each divine attempt, the same line is uttered: “Yet you have not returned to me.”

Likewise in Isaiah 66:4, God says, “I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight.” Again, in Ezekiel 18:23,31-32, God asks, “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked? . . . Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies. . . . Therefore, repent and live.” This theme of divine vulnerability [1] runs throughout the Old Testament where God is presented as a wounded lover who is reluctant to bring judgment.

Jealousy [2] implies vulnerability and the capacity to experience pain – not the pettiness of a power-hungry deity obsessed  with dominating people. Amazingly, the disappointed Husband of Israel only requires her repentance to restore the relationship. [3]

Primary source:

Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, Chapter 4: Monumental Rage and Kinglike Jealousy?, p. 37-38 (2011).

Secondary sources (including additional footnote):

[1] “Divine vulnerability” comes from James Crenshaw, Defending God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 82.

[2] note by crosstheology: You might not understand why the writer of this book starts to talk about jealousy. To understand this correctly, you have to read the whole chapter.

[3] Gordon McConville and Stephen N. Williams, Joshua (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), p. 134.

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