When we think of God’s nature or character, what comes to mind? We certainly think of His supernatural qualities (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent), since they are astonishing to us as mortal humans. Next we might think of His qualities in interacting with His creation, such as His love, compassion, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. These qualities are not quite so amazing to us, since He wants us to learn to take these on personally as we grow closer to Him. The most awesome aspect of these qualities is their absolute perfection within our Creator (e.g. unconditional love).
There is a tendency to think that emotions attributed to YHVH are only mentioned in scripture to help people relate better to Yehovah. In other words, some scriptural commentators teach that the apparently human emotions ascribed to YHVH in His Word are meant to be merely anthropomorphic, as we wouldn’t understand Yehovah’s words and actions if we didn’t bring His character down to a human emotional level.
However, if the scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit of YHVH, then they would not lie to us or mislead us by wrongly ascribing contrived human emotions to the Creator and Redeemer of the universe! As we have said in other postings, Yehovah Elohim is all about relationship, both within the triune Godhead and between Himself and all of His human children on earth. So, wouldn’t He want us to know His emotions as well as His will, His heart, His intellect and other aspects of His character? Nancy and I believe that YHVH has powerful and awesome emotions which He exhibits all through His Word. It is apparent from even a simple perusal of the passages where He shows strong feelings that He has good reason for His emotions, and understanding those emotions helps us to know Him better and draw closer to Him.
We know that we are made in Yehovah’s image (Gen 1:27), so it makes perfect sense that our emotions are reflective of His emotions. The only difference is that we are subject to sin whereas He is sinless. For example, He gets angry but does not sin, unlike us. Yehovah is pleased with us sometimes (1 Kings 3:10), but at other times He can be angry with us (Deut 1:37); He is truly grieved at times, with His heart full of pain (Ps 78:40), but at other times He is full of joy (Jer 33:9). We even see YHVH laughing (Ps 2:4) and also weeping as illustrated passionately by Yeshua in John 11:35 and Luke 19:41.
Here are a few other key examples illustrating Yehovah’s emotions in scripture: He was “moved by pity” (Judges 2:18), had “compassion on His children” (Ps 103:13), “rejoices over them [His people] with singing” (Zeph 3:17), shows great anger – Isa 54:8 “In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment..”, and even has regrets – “So the LORD was sorry He had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke His heart” (Gen 6:6). We also know that Yeshua was fully human and fully divine (Heb 2:17; 4:15), representing YHVH on this earth (Immanuel, literally “God with us”). Being fully human means that Yeshua has a mind, will, heart and emotions just like any created human, except that He is without sin. Yeshua also said that if we have seen Him we have seen the Father, so Yeshua’s emotions cannot be attributed merely to His being human.
Recognizing that YHVH has emotions helps us understand YHVH better, and there is comfort in knowing that He identifies with every one of the emotions we feel, because they originated from Him and He feels every one of them just as we do (Heb 2:17). When we search for evidences of Yehovah’s Kingdom being manifested here on earth as Yeshua prayed in Matthew 6:10, we need to look for YHVH-like qualities in people. We can certainly see people’s actions easily – but how do we see their heart motives underneath as YHVH sees them? One of the best ways is through the emotions they’re exhibiting. Are they God-like – kind, compassionate, patient, gracious, and caring more about others than themselves?
When I think of the best movies and books I’ve enjoyed over the years, I realize that they are the life stories of people who have struggled with various human issues and eventually overcome the sinful nature and frailties of character that we are all born into this fallen world with. So what touches us about these stories? Is it the great victories these people won, or the relationships that were healed, or the way they have (or God has) changed their lives for the better and overcome their sinful natures? It is all of these, but what really touches us (from my experience anyway) are the powerful, passionate emotions shown by these people as they are going through these life-changing experiences and transformations in their character and their relationships.
Yehovah is a God filled with emotions, and one of the best ways to get in touch with His emotions is to spend time with Him. When we praise and worship Him in Spirit and truth (John 4:24) we draw close to Him and learn to empathize with His emotions and His heart. This may result in physical manifestations like weeping or feeling an electrical current flowing through our body, or in a deeper spiritual connection with the Creator of the universe, lining up our emotions with His emotions and feeling what He is feeling.
Our Western society does not value or respect human emotions, and many people (like myself) grew up in families where it is considered wrong or weak to show emotions. I find it so comforting to know that my capacity to feel and show emotions comes from our Abba Father, who is God that expresses Himself through His emotions. Since we know that YHVH is not weak in any way, then the emotions we feel can no longer be seen as a human weakness but rather as a strength that allows to connect with our Creator in a deeper way.