“He is not a tame lion,” C.S. Lewis wrote when describing the lion Aslan is his book “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. His implication was that while Aslan is a good lion, it does not mean one need not be afraid of him or deal with him as one would deal with an equal. No matter how good of a lion he is, he is still a wild lion. When it comes to the God of the Bible, the same is very true. God is absolutely a good God – but that does not imply that He is a soft or tame God that can be trained to our command. No, the Lion of Judah is not a tame lion at all.
The thought that the God I serve is not a tame God strikes fear into my heart. This fear is not the kind where I cringe because I am afraid of an unpredictable, volatile God that could strike at any moment for no apparent reason. No, the fear this strikes in my heart is a reverential awe that is caused by the realization that this God is beyond my understanding, greater in power than I can fathom, and beyond my ability to control. To illustrate these thoughts, just take a look at this verse in Proverbs 16:4:
4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.
When I heard this verse, it stopped me in my tracks. Is Solomon seriously declaring that God creates the wicked specifically for the day of trouble? How can a good and loving God that seeks to bless and prosper create wicked people for the day of trouble? This line of thought sheds a light on God that is very different from the picture we usually see painted of Him. So lest we think this verse is an isolated mistake in the Scriptures that can be ignored or reinterpreted, be reminded of Isaiah 45:7:
7 I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things.
My intuitive response to this verse is “WHAT?!?” God creates calamity? Surely I am reading this wrong, certainly Isaiah doesn’t quite mean this when he says that God creates darkness. No matter which way I look at these verses, however, I cannot escape the echo in my mind that God is not a tame lion. I’d like to put God in a box labeled ‘love’ or ‘grace’, make myself believe that he is a nice God that always blesses and always prospers, forgives readily and never does anything calamitous. But as much as I want to do that, the Biblical reality suggests that that kind of God is not the God of the Bible. We ascribe natural disasters, calamities, and things we would describe as ‘evil’ to chance, nature, or anything that would keep us from having to face reality – God is not a tame lion. These verses challenge that approach and demand a change of perspective when it comes to some of the ‘stuff’ that happens in people’s lives.
This truth is difficult for me to process, comprehend, and accept. I confess that I do not and probably cannot understand how God can create both well-being and calamity, how He can create the wicked for the day of trouble. The theological tension this creates, however, does not mean I need to find a way to explain it or make sense of it. God is God and I am not – He is sovereign, He is all-powerful, He knows infinitely more than I do, and so there must come a point where I stop trying to figure things out and simply trust Him.
He is not a tame lion. Knowing this makes me approach him reverently and carefully. At the same time, that wild lion has a love in his eyes that is wilder, deeper, and more free than any other love I know. And the love and acceptance I read in those eyes whenever I approach him makes it more than worth the risk. Still, I know that I am approaching a God whose wisdom and understanding is greater than mine. Though I won’t always understand, I can always trust. He may not be tame, but He is good.