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Discover a Different Side of God's Love

September 01, 2020

by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

The tiny book of Zephaniah shares the same theme as one of the best-known books of the Bible, the Gospel of John. John is called the apostle of love, but Zephaniah is the prophet of love.

John 3:16 is an amazing verse about God’s love, but have you ever read Zephaniah 3:17?

The Lord your God in your midst, the mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah’s prophecy is a little different from the Gospel of John. This verse is a small island sheltered on a storm-tossed sea. Most of the book feels like a fury poured out. For example, chapter 3 opens with “woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city!” Where’s the love there?

Zephaniah’s prophecy predicts worldwide devastation. Revelation confirms and places the time of this judgment as the Great Tribulation Period. The earth will be absolutely devastated by the judgments in a time right before God ushers in the millennial kingdom and renews the earth.

So, how can love be the theme in a book with so much judgment? Let me prove it by telling you a mystery—the mystery of God’s dark side of love. Picture the scene:

Late at night in a typical suburban home, a child lays restless in her bed. From the hall, her bedroom door opens just an inch so the light falls on the little girl’s face. She begins to cry as a man with an intense look quietly approaches her bed. Her mother rushes into the room, putting herself between the man and the child, and the trembling girl throws her arms about her.

The man, now whispering into his phone, alerts another person waiting for his call.  Now in a hurry, the man re-enters the room, tears the child from her mother’s arms, and rushes out with her to a waiting car. As the child sobs, he drives madly down street after street until he finally pulls up before a large, foreboding building. Partially dark, only one room upstairs is ablaze with light.

He covers the child with a blanket and hurriedly takes her inside. Up to the lighted room, he rushes the crying child to an inner room, handing her off to a second man. The child, now eerily limp and quiet, is taken on a stretcher to where a group wait inside a room. A final look through the door spies a gleaming, sharp knife, slicing into the abdomen of that little child while she lay as if she were dead.

What a nightmare! These monsters must be stopped!

But take a fresh look with another perspective. This isn’t a criminal act—this is a tender, sincere act of love.

You see, the little girl woke in the night with severe abdominal pain. Her father rushed into the room, and when he saw his precious daughter suffering, he called the family doctor who told him to get his little girl to the hospital as quickly as possible. Then the dad handed her over to the team of doctors who performed emergency surgery. Through it all, every move and every act of that father was of tender love, anxious care, and a wise decision.

This is the dark side of love—but love, nevertheless.

The father loved the child just as much on that dark night when he took her to the hospital and delivered her to the surgeon’s knife as he did the next day when he brought flowers and balloons to her recovery room. It was deep affection when he delivered her into the hands of the surgeon just as it was the next week when he brought her home and delivered her back into her mother’s arms.

My friend, love places the eternal security and permanent welfare of the loved one above any temporary comfort or present pleasure down here upon this earth. Love seeks the best interests of the beloved.

Today the love of God is exaggerated out of all proportion to His other attributes. God’s love is also presented as a weakness rather than a strength. The way modern thinking portrays the love of God is like the doting of grandparents rather than the vital and vigorous concern of a parent for the best interests of the child.

The dark side of God’s love means the Great Physician puts His child on the operating table. He will use the surgeon’s knife when He sees a tumor of transgression, a deadly virus sapping our spiritual lives, or the cancerous growth of sin. He doesn’t hesitate to deal with us severely. We must learn this fact early: God loves us just as much when He is subjecting us to surgery as when He overwhelms us with gifts.

When God sees it is best for you to go down through the valley of suffering, that it will be for your eternal welfare, He will not hesitate to let you into that valley.

Learn more in Dr. McGee’s digital booklet,  “The Dark Side of God's Love.” Download it here.


My Turn

From J. Vernon McGee:

“I hear preachers talk about the golden streets of heaven. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think the golden streets of heaven are going to be the most impressive thing there. I hear people talk about the gates of pearl and, friend, although they will be beautiful, they will not be the thrilling thing. I hear people say God is going to wipe away all tears—that is wonderful, but that won’t be the most wonderful thing of all, either.

“Rather, I think you and I are going to look back on the brief life we lived down here and “our light affliction, which [was] but for a moment” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Then we will go to God and thank Him for every burden, every trial He gave us down here. We are going to thank Him even for sickness—not for healing, but for sickness. We will thank Him for every problem, every disappointment, every faithless friend, every heartache, every false accusation that ever has been made against us. I think we will go to Him and say, “O God, I thank You for putting me on the operating table and cutting out that which was hindering me.”

What is your prayer today?