Transcendent Springs of Tenderness
Meditation on Deuteronomy 10:17-19
God’s tenderness towards the lowly is rooted in his transcendent self-sufficiency. This means that those who love to make much of God’s greatness (which we all should, Psalm 40:16; 70:4) ought to delight in tenderness to the lowly. God exalts his transcendent self-sufficiency by loving the orphan and widow and alien.
Here’s the text where I am finding these ideas (Deuteronomy 10:17-19):
The LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bride. 18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19 So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
What I mean by God’s transcendent self-sufficiency is expressed in these words: "God is over all other gods.” He is “Lord over all other lords.” He is “great.” He is “mighty.” He is “awesome.” Then Moses says, on the basis of this greatness, God “does not show partiality” and he “does not take a bribe.” The point of this is to stress his transcendent self-sufficiency. God does not take a bribe because he has no motive to take a bribe: he already owns all the money in the universe and he has control over the briber. He is above bribes the way the sun is above candles, or the way beauty is above mirrors.
Moses also says God shows no partiality. That is, he doesn’t try to curry anyone’s favor through special treatment. Showing partiality is like reverse bribery. Except the bribe is not with money but with favored treatment. God is above that, because he has no need to do it. If he wants to get something done, he is not cornered into coercive strategies. He can just do it. Showing partiality is what you do when you can’t cope with the consequences of justice. But God is not only able to cope, he is the source of all coping. He depends on no one outside himself. He is transcendently self-sufficient.
Now here comes the most precious part. On the basis of God’s transcendent self-sufficiency, Moses says, “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows his love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” Since God cannot be bribed by the rich, and has no deficiency to remedy through favoritism, therefore, he works for those who can’t afford bribes and have nothing to attract his partiality—the orphan, the widow, and the refugee. This is why I said above, God’s tenderness toward the lowly is rooted in his transcendent self-sufficiency.
Then comes the application in verse 19: “So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” We have been the beneficiaries of the overflow of God’s transcendent fullness. And there is every reason to believe that we will continue to be, if we do not try to bribe him with our works, or show off to win his partiality. If we will recognize our widow-like, orphan-like, refugee-like condition of helplessness, and rely on free grace from a self-sufficient Savior, then we will be loved forever. And being loved like this, we will have power and pleasure in loving like we are loved.
This is what lies behind James 1:27: “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress….” May God make us a tender people to the glory of God’s transcendent self-sufficiency.
In his mighty grip,