God is not waiting to chastise or punish me, but to guide me and delight in me.
Summary: Since God is wholly good and loves you, his basic response to you is not anger but enjoyment.
Your mental image of God determines how you understand Scripture.
How is Psalm 139 different from Santa Claus Is Coming to Town?
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
– Psalm 139
You better watch out, you better not cry.
You better not pout, I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good.
– Santa Claus Is Coming to Town)
Taken on face value, the lines about Santa Claus suggest dire consequences for undesirable behavior, while the lines about God do no such thing. Yet we often think of Santa as a jolly, good-natured fellow, willing and able to bestow good things upon those he favors. Do you think of God that way?
How you experience Psalm 139 depends largely on your ideas about God and your opinion of your own value and behavior. Do you believe God is wholly good? Do you believe God loves and enjoys you? Is your image of God a somewhat taciturn authority figure, serious and reserved, who provides the necessities of life but is stingy with the niceties? Is God more likely to giggle with you at a silly movie or look disapprovingly at your second slice of chocolate cake?
God is essentially joyful.
God is the most joyful person in the world. Creating new or beautiful things makes us proud and happy. Providing for others and giving to them from our abundance brings us joy. Think about God’s constant creativity and provision: how could God not be joyful? If God is love, God’s central emotion is not anger but joy.
This means that this joyful, loving God is not waiting to chastise or punish you, but to guide you and delight in you. God feels genuine affection for you. You know how children can make adults laugh just by the way they talk about the world? Adults delight in children (especially their own!) precisely because kids experience life so differently. God delights in God’s own children in just the same way.
Children feel free to crawl into Santa’s lap and tell him what they want. You should feel just as safe and free with God.
This post is part of the God Ideas Series.