Day 104

What is God Like?

Wisdom Psalm 45:1–9
New Testament Luke 15:1–32
Old Testament Deuteronomy 19:1–20:20


A six-year-old girl was drawing a picture one day. Her teacher said, ‘What are you drawing?’ The little girl answered, ‘I am drawing a picture of God.’ The teacher was surprised and said, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like!’ The little girl carried on drawing and replied, ‘They will in a minute.’

One of the advantages of reading through the Bible in a year is that we get a rounded picture of the nature and character of God, and a greater understanding of what God is like.


Psalm 45:1–9

For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. A wedding song.

1 My heart is stirred by a noble theme
   as I recite my verses for the king;
   my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

2 You are the most excellent of men
   and your lips have been anointed with grace,
   since God has blessed you forever.

3 Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
   clothe yourself with splendour and majesty.
4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously
   in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
   let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.
5 Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;
   let the nations fall beneath your feet.
6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
   a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
   therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
   by anointing you with the oil of joy.
8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
   from palaces adorned with ivory
   the music of the strings makes you glad.
9 Daughters of kings are among your honoured women;
   at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.


King Jesus

The writer of Hebrews sees this psalm as a prophetic description of Jesus. He writes, ‘But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever…”’ (See Hebrews 1:8–9, quoting verses 6–7 of this psalm).

This is one of the clearest cases in the New Testament of Jesus being addressed as ‘God’ – as the legitimate object of worship. Jesus is the fulfilment of the expected ‘anointed King’, known as the Messiah. Jesus fulfils these prophecies.

Jesus said, ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). In other words, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.

He is ‘anointed with grace’ (Psalm 45:2). We see in these verses hints of the whole Trinity: God the Father (‘God, your God’, Psalm 45:7), Jesus the Son (‘Your throne, O God’, v.6a), and the Holy Spirit (‘the oil of joy’, v.7b, see also Isaiah 61:1,3).


Jesus, my King, ‘in your majesty ride forth victoriously on behalf of truth, humility, and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds’ (Psalm 45:4a).

New Testament

Luke 15:1–32

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”


Loving Father

God loves you passionately, wholeheartedly and unconditionally. However much you may have messed up in your life, whatever your regrets, it is never too late to turn to God. He will accept you and embrace you as a loving father embraces a lost child.

Jesus shocked and offended the religious leaders: ‘They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story’ (vv.2–3, MSG).

Jesus then tells three parables to show that God cares desperately about the lost. If you have ever lost anything of value, searched frantically and then found it, you will remember your joy when you found what was lost. Jesus says that that joy pales into insignificance compared to the joy of heaven.

The story of the lost sheep shows that ‘there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue’ (v.7, MSG). The story of the lost coin shows ‘the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God’ (v.10, MSG).

Then, in probably the greatest short story ever told, Jesus gives us another astonishing revelation of what God is like: a loving father.

The younger son requests his inheritance while the father is still alive and in good health. In traditional Middle Eastern culture this is equivalent to saying, ‘Father, I am eager for you to die!’ A traditional Middle Eastern father would drive him out of the house. It is an outrageous request, which a father is expected to refuse.

But, in an act of extraordinary love, the father breaks tradition and gives his son the freedom to sell his portion of the estate (which would have brought shame on the family before the entire community). The son ‘turned it into cash’ (v.13). Then he set off and left the town as quickly as possible.

So many people today, myself included, have experienced what the younger son found while away from his father. He was wasting his life (‘squandered his wealth in wild living’, v.13). ‘He began to hurt’ (v.14, MSG). He was enslaved (‘hired himself out’, v.15). He felt empty inside (‘he longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating’, v.16). He felt alone in this world (‘no one gave him anything’, v.16).

Turning to God is not an irrational act. It is the opposite – ‘he came to his senses’ (v.17). The son realised that he needed help. He decided to swallow his pride and go back to his father (v.18). He knew that he needed to go home. He was prepared to admit his sin. He planned to say to his father, ‘I have sinned… I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants’ (vv.18–19).

We need to take a step of faith: ‘So he got up and went to his father’ (v.20). He did not know what would happen. At the time of Jesus, a Jewish boy who lost the family inheritance to Gentiles could be punished by his village, and they would have nothing to do with the wayward son.

God’s love is extraordinary and goes beyond anything that you could ever expect or imagine. Rather than the disgrace we deserve, we receive forgiveness and love. While the boy was still a long way off, his father saw him. It appears that the father had been waiting and watching, and had never forgotten his son. ‘His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him’ (v.20, MSG). The word used implies that he kissed him over and over again. This is how God receives you.

As you begin your prepared speech of repentance, the father interrupts. He treats you as an honoured guest, giving you the best robe (v.22). He gives you a sign of confidence by putting the family ring on your finger (v.22, MSG). He puts sandals, reserved not for slaves but for sons, on your feet (v.22). He plans a lavish celebration party (vv.23–24).

We get a glimpse here of what God is like and how much he loves us. Again, we see the picture of the kingdom of heaven being like a party. This is the opposite of what many people think. They do not associate God with music and dancing, feasting and celebrating.

God’s love extends also to the older son, who goes into ‘an angry sulk’ (v.28, MSG) and is begrudging of his brother’s forgiveness and acceptance. You can imagine the father putting his arm around him and saying, ‘Son, you don't understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours – but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’ (vv.31–32, MSG).

The story (told to the religious leaders) ends on a cliff-hanger – how will the elder son respond to the father’s love?


Father, thank you that you love me so much and when I mess up, you don’t reject me. The moment I repent and come back to you, you accept me and say, ‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate’ (v.23).

Old Testament

Deuteronomy 19:1–20:20

Cities of Refuge

19 When the LORD your God has destroyed the nations whose land he is giving you, and when you have driven them out and settled in their towns and houses, 2 then set aside for yourselves three cities in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess. 3 Determine the distances involved and divide into three parts the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, so that a person who kills someone may flee for refuge to one of these cities.

4 This is the rule concerning anyone who kills a person and flees there for safety—anyone who kills a neighbour unintentionally, without malice aforethought. 5 For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbour to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbour and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life. 6 Otherwise, the avenger of blood might pursue him in a rage, overtake him if the distance is too great, and kill him even though he is not deserving of death, since he did it to his neighbour without malice aforethought. 7 This is why I command you to set aside for yourselves three cities.

8 If the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he promised on oath to your ancestors, and gives you the whole land he promised them, 9 because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the LORD your God and to walk always in obedience to him —then you are to set aside three more cities. 10 Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land, which the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance, and so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed.

11 But if out of hate someone lies in wait, assaults and kills a neighbour, and then flees to one of these cities, 12 the killer shall be sent for by the town elders, be brought back from the city, and be handed over to the avenger of blood to die. 13 Show no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you.

14 Do not move your neighbour’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess.


15 One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Going to War

20 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. ”

5 The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. 7 Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her. ” 8 Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” 9 When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they shall appoint commanders over it.

10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labour and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

16 However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.

19 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them? 20 However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.


Holy Judge

It is vital to read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus. We cannot simply apply the laws of the Old Testament to our society today. Nor can we take the concept of the ‘holy war’ (20:1–20) and turn it into a ‘crusade’.

What we see throughout the Bible is that God is a holy God and a God of justice. Some of the principles of the legal system of Ancient Israel were specific to the time. Others are more generally applicable.

Murder is clearly a more serious crime than manslaughter (19:1–13). Good evidence is required before anyone is convicted of a crime (v.15). Perjury is a very serious offence (vv.16–18). Retribution should be deserved and proportionate (v.21 – this was never taken literally, except in the case of the death penalty). A secondary purpose of imposing a just retribution is deterrence (v.20).

But not everything in Ancient Israel is applicable to us. In Jesus Christ a new way has been established. The wrath of God that broke out upon the offender in the community has been visited once and for all upon the righteous representative, the Son of Man.

We cannot accept Israel as a model for our study of the punishment of crime. As former Oxford Professor of Theology Professor Oliver O’Donovan writes, ‘not because it would be illiberal but because it would be unchristian to do so. “Israel”, in the strong sense in which it claimed to be God’s unique dwelling-place on earth, has been superseded in Christ.’

For example, when Jesus quoted from this passage he said, ‘You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” [Deuteronomy 19:21] But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek also’ (Matthew 5:38–39).


Lord, thank you that you are the God of love, justice and truth. Thank you that you reveal yourself to me as I study your word and spend time in your presence.

Pippa adds

Luke 15

Jesus tells three stories about a sheep, a coin and a son all being lost, and then the overwhelming joy of them being found. We lose things every day – usually keys, phones and glasses. I found my grandmother's ring, which I thought I had lost, and I felt like the women in the parable: overjoyed. I know, too, that once I was lost and now I’m found.



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Oliver O’Donovan, Measure for Measure: Justice in Punishment and the Sentence of Death, Grove Booklet on Ethics No. 19 (Bramcote Notts: Grove Books, 1977) p.8

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.

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