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John Oswalt writes in his commentary on Isaiah, “When Gentile readers look at the Old Testament and see a God of wrath, the Old Testament writers say to us in astonishment, ‘Oh no, it’s not surprising that God should have gotten angry with us.
“‘What is surprising is that he ever cared about us at all, and that he then continued to love us and care for us when we senselessly rejected him.'”
Oswalt’s words capture the meaning of Isaiah’s message.
I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord,
the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us,
and the great favor to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love. (Isaiah 63.7)
From beginning to the end, God is gracious. Circumstances may change, but God’s steadfast love and grace never changes.
The Message of the Book
The message of the Book of Isaiah can be seen as God’s attempt to get his people to fully rely on God’s steadfast love on their behalf. Chapter after chapter, the battle for the hearts of the people has centered around trusting God or relying on human self-sufficiency.
God’s people don’t know him through philosophy or theological arguments. They experience God’s praiseworthy acts and know his love in action, not simply in theory.
Rudy Ross reminds us in our YouTube videos on the Bob Spradling channel about how the Exodus was central to Hebrew faith. Each year at Passover, the Exodus was memorialized and taught to new generations.
The people of God knew he loved them, because they had experienced his mercy, favor, and praiseworthy acts in the Exodus from Egypt.
Followers of Jesus know that he was crucified during the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. When we observe Communion or the Lord’s Supper, we recall God’s steadfast love.
Whether it is today or in Isaiah’s time, the question for God’s people is whether we will fully depend on God’s active love or not. This is truly the most important question that we will answer in our lifetime.
The most important decision that we will make is to fully live in a relationship with this God of immeasurable love.
Oswalt is Right
Oswalt is right when he writes, “What is surprising is that God ever cared about us at all, and that he then continued to love us and care for us when we senselessly rejected him.”
God’s optimism about his people caused him to speak of their faithfulness. Isaiah’s message makes it quite clear that in spite of great experiences of love, God’s people are quick to forget his goodness.
For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely”;
and he became their savior
in all their distress.
It was no messenger or angel
but his presence that saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63.8-9)
God’s love saved Israel from the hand of the Egyptian army. Their deliverance was an act of God, just like our salvation is an act of God.
One of the books in my library captures God’s love for humans. It is entitled, “The Crucified God.”
God didn’t send an angel or a messenger to die for us on the cross. God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, suffered and died to rescue us from the dominion of sin and death.
The tragic story of humans is that we quickly forget God’s steadfast love.
But they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he became their enemy;
he himself fought against them. (Isaiah 63.10)
When we rebel against God, we don’t catch him napping. He is not a over-indulgent grandfather who allows his children to run rough shod over him.
He knows that we are unfaithful, but he continues to relate to us with steadfast love. I believe he deals with us in love to draw us into a life-changing friendship relationship.
Even though he loves us, he will fight against us for our sake and that of those who have to live or work with us.
Just as God’s love has a purpose, so does his wrath. The father of the Prodigal Son hated what happened to his son, but he didn’t prevent his demise.
When the Prodigal hit rock bottom and returned home, the father rejoiced at his return. In a similar way, God allows us to suffer and hit rock bottom with the intention of our returning to him.
He is willing to fight against us to protect those whom we may harm, even though his ultimate goal is that we live with him in love.
I want to emphasize the most important question of this article once again. Will we accept God’s steadfast love and life in a faithful relationship with him? If so, he will help us live the best lives possible.
About This Blog
I have interviewed Rudy Ross on this passage in Isaiah. Rudy has spent years studying Isaiah and has valuable insights for us all. The videos are on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
I am indebted to John Oswalt and his scholarship on the Book of Isaiah. His writings have enriched my life and his thoughts have found their way into nearly every one of my blog articles.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.