The terrifying gentleness of God, or the gentle terror of God

By Elizabeth Prata

I love the poetry of the Psalms (and the Bible, really ;)

In Psalm 18, David is praising the Lord for being the Rock.

6In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

7Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

13The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.

It's a sweeping and vivid rendering of God's might. You can feel the earth trembling and the smoke from His nostrils curling and the fire He's breathing out. God's protection of His children is no less real for this being poetic. No, it is majestic.

Then David writes in v 35-

You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.

Do you love the terrifying vision of God aroused in His wrath, yet his gentleness of love for David as God raises David up?

The Psalms. They're in the middle of your Bible.


Further Reading

The Treasury of David is Spurgeon's commentary on the Psalms. It is  masterwork. Learn more about it here and also to access the commentary.

Phil Johnson has preached on many of the Psalms. Access the sermons here.


  1. Wouldn't it be great if, just once, God answered our prayers for deliverance this way? :)

    I don't have a very good memory, but one thing I read years ago has stuck with me so vividly because it expressed a rather difficult thing I had been thinking for years but had not been able to articulate. "Jesus Christ is heartbreakingly tender and unbearably stern." I had always been aware, and puzzled, about the unbearably stern part, but this quote made me more aware of the heartbreakingly tender part, and I love that about the Lord Jesus - He is THE perfect balance of every quality there is. Sternness is called for sometimes, and tenderness at others, just like good and loving earthly parents provide for their children.


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