When God is good cop—and bad cop—all at once.
I have said what I will do, and I will do it. —Isaiah 46:11
The soul who coined the phrase “good cop/bad cop” should pocket a million for that one, though he or she probably didn’t. Another phrase with a lot of imagery is “in the doghouse.” That girl or guy should have made some money off of that one, too, because its truth, like the “good cop/bad cop” line, carries. It’s so relatable. What parent hasn’t identified with both good cop and bad cop roles, and person, parent or not, has screwed up something Big Time and finds themselves in trouble—I mean—in the doghouse.
Here in Isaiah 46, the people of God are in the doghouse again. Oh, they’re not unique on this. In fact, they are a culture, like we are a culture, who know of God (one) and God’s gracious bounty (two); in fact, they’ve seen God’s goodness as have we; yet (three) they still choose to ignore Him.
If you have a sense of humor, you can almost picture God counting to three—giving His people those last opportunities to straighten up, but here they do not. In Isaiah 46, God comes in with his fed-up parent routine. “Listen to me, you children of mine, because I do know what I’m doing.” (Seriously now, how many parents have said this in desperation?)
I’ve experienced an articulate atheist recently. I briefly speak of Scott in the last vlog I posted to Facebook a couple of days ago. I mention Scott here because I imagine he’d have a field day (another phrase, only this one doesn’t carry as much as the first two mentioned here) with the notion that God, as a parent, resorts to shameful, disparaging tactics to align misbehaved children. I can hear him ask, “How can this all loving, all knowing God do this?”
I can also hear myself answer. The focus in Isaiah 46 isn’t supposed to be on God, the good cop/bad cop presented in Isaiah 46; the focus should be on us—the bratty kids who know better yet still choose disastrous options that hurt ourselves and others.
That God is both good cop and bad cop gives us what we need—a relatable, identifiable, emotional God, one we can understand. Is that enough, Scott? The answer is yes, it is.
It is enough because the onus is not on God in this chapter as much as it is on us. We can understand yet again that, even though we endlessly fall short of the glory of God, we have an endless God of equal parts love and compassion who is always there to pick up the pieces, no matter how frustrated God, as parent, seems to be in this metaphor.
Yes, the language here is metaphorical, not literal. Then again, there’s a directness to this, too. God has said what God will do. And God will do what God says.
Understand God. In turn, understand human nature through yourself. Then you’ve got something. Maybe you can make a million on that.
Or maybe not. But whether you’re paid or not, you’ve still gained a sense of Creator and creation. That, in itself, is one good thing.
PRAYER: Father, You keep picking us up when we fall. We fail to see we are often times the reason we fall (like who even talks about sinful nature these days?), but when You waggle in Your bad cop language here in Isaiah 46, we know You sent Your Son—and we’re honestly, totally pretty cool with that, even on the days we don’t show it. Amen.
Disclaimer: I didn’t see The Lego Movie (from which this cover picture is based), though through “research” I did Google Liam Neeson portraying Good Cop/Bad Cop in the film. My apologies for any possible inappropriateness; I saw only one scene, but a Lego movie should be okay, yes?