Remember these things, Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant; Israel, you will never be forgotten by me. I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like a mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Rejoice, heavens, for the Lord has acted; shout, depths of the earth. Break out into singing, mountains, forest, and every tree in it. For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and glorifies himself through Israel. This is what the Lord, your Redeemer who formed you from the womb, says: I am the Lord, who made everything; who stretched out the heavens by myself; who alone spread out the earth. . .
If you were to poll Christians regarding their understanding of the Old Testament, you’d undoubtedly receive some mixed results. While the Old Testament is treasured by many, it’s no secret that a number of Christians have a hard time reconciling it to the New Testament. This is often because at first glance, the God of the Old Testament seems to contradict the Jesus of the New—the former seemingly portraying God as all wrath and judgment, while the latter portrays Christ as the One who has the grace of God bestowed on Him for those who seek Him.
However, a careful examination of the Old Testament gives us the opportunity to find treasures like this passage in Isaiah that illuminate the grace of God to a wayward Israel. By this point in history, Israel’s unfaithfulness was more common than not, and the fact they hadn’t been obliterated should signal to us that this God of the Old Testament may be a lot more compassionate than we give Him credit for.
The confusion about God’s judgments in the Old Testament may well be the result of our tendency to take that assumption about God and project it on Him now when we find ourselves entangled in sin. We forget that the work of Christ allows us to approach the living God without being consumed by Him. So instead of approaching Him, we attempt to handle our sin on our own (spoiler alert: this never works in our favor). Ezekiel 33:11 says that God does not take delight in the death of the wicked; rather, He desires that they “turn from their ways and live. Turn!” Our sin does separate us from God, but our sin is the very thing Christ has died for so that we may be reconciled to this God and LIVE.
You may not be fashioning idols with your hands in the way Israel so often did, but you may catch yourself fashioning your life with your own attempts to bring glory to yourself instead of to the One who created you. God called Israel back to Himself repeatedly. He reminded them who they were and whose they were. And He does that for you, too. He redeemed, and He continues to redeem, so that you may live.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Do you instinctively think of God as approachable and personal, or as distant and condemning?
- Do you find yourself stuck in a pattern of sin that is keeping you from coming before the Lord? How does your answer to the first question impact this decision?