As I was sitting beside a village duckpond not far from Malvern the other day, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine and the fresh green of the new leaves, I was struck afresh by the tenderness of God toward us.
This meditation emerged during that time, and is accompanied by two exquisite pieces of music for oboe, that seem to breathe with the soft and clear life-giving ruach of the Lord. The first, played by Amy Roberts and Christiane von Albrecht, is by the Italian Baroque missionary musician, Domenico Zipoli, who found his life’s calling ministering in South America.
The second is by one of my all-time favourite composers, Jean Baptiste Loeillet, from Flanders, and played by Thomas Herzog and Christiane.
May this reflection help prepare you to receive His tender touch once more.
Lord Jesus, we kneel before You in awe and wonder. You are holy and yet You invite us to come to You: not furtively or hesitantly, but with boldness to Your throne of grace. (Heb. 4:15-16) You, who were ever seated at the right hand of Your Father, were willing to become a man who was tempted in every way, just as we are. You are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and yet You understand our weakness and feel our pain.
You could have programmed humankind to robotic obedience, but You chose relationship, and desired to make us family. You could have asked Your Father to give you nerves of steel and a will of iron, but how would that have helped You to relate to us, or us to You? You chose to be formed in a virgin’s womb, and to come in a body that bled, with a heart that wept. You took our infirmities and carried our weaknesses, and declared that whoever has seen You has seen the Father. (Matt. 8:17; Jn. 14:9). You are the perfect likeness of the Father. How tender both You and the Father are!
Jesus, no Jewish rabbi had ever dared or even thought to call God Father; but knowing Yourself to be His cherished Son, You had no hesitation in calling Him Abba – a hundred times and more in John’s gospel alone. God the Almighty, but Father of unfathomable tenderness. Father – Dad – You are good to all, and Your tender mercies are everywhere, spreading Your expanding tenderness over all you have created. Ps. 145.9
You do not become less than You truly are by stooping down to attend so tenderly to our smallest concerns. You render even the smallest things significant, charged with the flame and energy of Heaven.
You prophesied through Zechariah of Your tender mercy, by which the morning light would dawn upon us from on high through the coming first of John the Baptist and then of Your own Son. (Lk. 1:78) Praise You for those – like Job – who persevered through thick and thin and refused to allow anything to ultimately cast them down, or to make them doubt that You are compassionate and merciful. (Jas. 5:11) You crown us with Your love and tender mercy! (Ps. 103:4)
Jesus, you grew up in Your Father’s sight like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
You had no special beauty or majesty of appearance to attract people to You,
(Is. 53:2) and we know that many were actually put off because of Paul’s physical appearance.
Yet what was in him was pure gold in spirit for those who had ears to hear.
Therefore help us not to allow ourselves to be dismayed by our weaknesses, or by any lack of social standing or physical allure,
but rather make room for Your Spirit in our hearts.
There are times when You speak with incisive clarity – and then You require my fullest obedience, no matter how far-reaching the consequences, but at other times Your tenderness steals upon me with a Father’s empowering instruction and a mother’s soothing touch and healing kiss. You settle swirling emotions, and with great compassion find ways to use even things that that appear to have gone sadly and badly awry.
Oh the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun comes to us from heaven
and shines on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
guiding people’s feet into the path of peace!
You fill both Heaven and Earth – (Jer. 23:24) with the unseen presence of Your Holy Spirit, permeating the entire universe. Not only our words but even our thoughts come clearly before Your throne and You deal with us accordingly.
Father-like, You tend and spare us; well our feeble frame You know; in Your hands You gently bear us, rescue us from all our foes. Praise You! Praise You widely as Your mercy flows!