Boxing gloves hung from the meat rack in the back of the butcher shop. They were there in case anyone wanted to stop by the shop and square off with the butcher for a round or two. My wife Sandi’s grandfather was the butcher, and he is remembered as a man who was always ready to throw down. Sometimes he fought for fun, but his sons will tell you that he was a very strict father whose temper could flair for any reason (or no reason at all). One day, his oldest son skipped an afterschool saxophone lesson. He was walking home when a friend told him that his father had found out about the missed class. Rather than face his father’s unpredictable response, he walked to a U.S. Marine recruiting station and enlisted in World War II.
Many of us can identify with having an unpredictable father given to outbursts of temper. We find our choices are often informed by the risk of being “found out” and punished severely. Sometimes we even experience fear and guilt while thinking about choices made in the past and how an unpredictable father might someday respond. The Bible, however, offers us a very different father. In Malachi 3:6 God says, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Question four of the Westminster Shorter Catechism describes God this way. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. This divine attribute is called the immutability of God and it is one of the most comforting things we can ever know about our heavenly father.
Rather than a god that is intemperate, the God of the Bible is absolutely reliable. He always does what he says he will do. That makes him trustworthy. His promises are dependable. That makes all the difference to us. Why? We know from scripture that God is Holy. We also know that we are not holy but sinful. Scripture is clear that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) but one of the greatest promises of God is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Rather than pour out his wrath on our sinful behavior, God bore our sin in his body on the cross. This magnificent salvation not only saves us from eternal separation from God, but it also inspires us to live for Christ today. He is the only one who is willing and able to take the punishment we deserve. When we see Jesus standing in our place of punishment, it also inspires us to live a life worthy of the salvation we have received. What a promise. What a savior.