Morning Musing: Isaiah 30:18-21

“Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the Lord is a just God. All who wait patiently for him are happy. For people will live on Zion in Jerusalem. You will never weep again; he will show favor to you at the sound of your outcry; as soon as he hears, he will answer you. The Lord will give you meager bread and water during oppression, but your Teacher will not hide any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: ‘This is the way. Walk in it.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

The most common characterization of God people have from the prophets is that He is angry. He is filled with wrath and is waiting up in heaven to catch us in some wrongdoing so He can smite us. He’s like a kid with a magnifying glass on a sunny day perched over an ant hill. The first time we show our head out of the pile, He’s going to smoke it off with a blast of lightning. And, there are some passages scattered throughout the prophets that would seem to justify such an image. But what you perhaps don’t realize is those are the exceptions, not the rule. The rule throughout the prophets is something very different and entirely more New Testament-y in their flavor than you might expect. This morning as we finish up our short look at Isaiah 30, I want to set before a passage that is much more in line with the major picture of God we get from the prophets. Let’s talk about it.

Yesterday morning we took a look at the beginning of Isaiah 30. There, God was calling out the people of Israel for putting their trust in things other than Him. We used that call to talk about our own temptations to look to things and people other than God when life gets hard for us.

Well, from that point, God goes on to jump all over the people for doing this. Interestingly, this is something they hadn’t even done yet. He is basically saying, “This is something you are going to do in spite of my telling you not to do it, and when you do it, this is what the consequences are going to be.” It’s a pretty angry chapter.

Yet as with much of God’s anger expressed in the prophets, we need to make sure we are hearing it properly. This anger, like all of God’s anger, is not some white hot burning wrath. This is no uncontrollable rage. What we see here is the frustration of a father who is passionate in his love for his children, but justly upset at their stubborn refusal to give up doing things that are going to hurt them and the people around them. What’s more, he has told them not to do these things, explained why, and warned them of the consequences of doing them. And they’re doing them anyway. If you are a parent, you can perhaps understand pretty well this kind of anger. At the heart of this anger, though, is not hatred or a desire to punish, but a brokenheartedness at the incorrigibleness of your children. You want what you know is best for them, but they resolutely refuse to do it.

The verses just before where we pick up here describe how God is going to allow the people to experience the hardships of their bad decisions. Like all rebellious children, they are confident in their path. They believe they will be just fine. In fact, they’ll be more than fine. They are going to thrive in this new life they have chosen for themselves. They are running from God, but they will soon find themselves running from the very things to which they have turned in His stead. They will find themselves exposed and isolated. Enemy forces are going to marshal against them and they will run in fear because their help has left the scene.

Coming out of all of this, the very next verse (and the one we started with) begins with a thunderous “therefore.” Now, without reading the rest of the verse, what might you have expected to follow the “therefore” here? Undoubtedly a word of further judgment. Because you have stubbornly refused to follow me and have put your trust in these other things that will fail you, therefore I am going to wipe you off the face of the earth. I am going to utterly abandon you to your sin. You will be consumed and destroyed. And then, when you come crawling back looking for help, I am going to kick you back down into the pit and watch you squirm some more. That kind of thing is certainly what many folks would expect God to say next.

Yet what do we actually find here? “Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy.” Surprised? You shouldn’t be. This is the God we serve. The people were denying and rejecting His authority over their lives. They were turning every direction except Him and in spite of His calling them away from the path they were taking and back to the path of righteousness. They knew what they were doing was wrong and were doing it anyway. Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy. He is rising up to show you compassion.

Friends, God isn’t ever trying to pay you back. He puts all of His effort and energy into bringing you back. He had every right to be furious with them and yet the only thing He wants is to hold them close and continue once again the relationship He made them to be in with Him. That same God finally got tired of waiting to show mercy and showed it when we were still sinners by sending His Son to die in our place and rise again to open the doors to eternal life for all those willing to enter them through Him. The God we know Him to be now is the same God He was then. It’s the same God He will always be.

When we run from God and take paths of sinfulness that we know aren’t going to end well, but are more committed to getting what we want than doing what is right, God is naturally upset by that. But His deeper desire is to forgive us; to satisfy His justice so that His love can flow unimpeded. There will be times when we have sinned and have to bear the consequences of that sin, but even in those times, He is not going to leave us. We will see Him when we look for Him. And when we start to turn away from the path of righteousness, He will gently call us back in the right direction.

Whatever it is you have going on in your life right now, know well that God isn’t going to abandon you in it. He’s not looking for an opportunity to blow you to pieces and ruin your life. He’s trying to draw you back into a relationship with Him. He always operates with restoration in His sights. If you will only listen and follow, He’ll receive you like the beloved child that you are. I hope that you’ll do it.

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