Mercy is when God forgives us, rescues us
from the messes we’ve made, and lovingly restores us.
In the past eight blog posts and continuing, I’m writing a series about God’s mercy. Although I’d been a Christian for over 30 years, when turmoil came into my life I failed to obey God because I lacked trust in him. The consequences of my disobedience brought suffering, but then God reached out to me with his mercy and astounded me and healed me with his love.
As I learned to trust the Lord better and let him have control of my life, peace replaced much of the inner turmoil. I continued to read in Isaiah and noticed that King Ahaz of Judah needed this kind of peace, too. He and his people shook like leaves because they’d heard the Northern Kingdom had joined with Syria to fight against Judah. God sent Isaiah to encourage the King; he told King Ahaz to quit worrying. Their enemies’ plan would not succeed.
Isaiah could tell Ahaz didn’t believe him. He quotes the Lord as saying, “If you want me to protect you, you must learn to believe what I say,” (Isa. 7:9, LB). This incident introduced Isaiah’s dominant theme of trust in a God of mercy.
Isaiah’s faith, based on God’s power, wisdom, and holiness, enables him to proclaim the message that God can be trusted. He tells Ahaz to ask God for a sign that he would defeat his enemies, but Ahaz refuses. He’d rather trust Assyria than trust the transcendent God!
God apparently had intended this special privilege (of a sign) to instill faith in Ahaz. Many other times in the Bible, God says “ask.” Many, like Ahaz, reject God’s gracious offer to ask. This shows a lack of trust in God. Yet God, in his grace and mercy, gave a sign to Ahaz’ kingdom anyway: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel,” (Isa. 7:14).
Immanuel means God is with us. This may not have comforted Ahaz since he didn’t believe in God. It might have been quite scary for him to know God is with us. On the other hand, those who do believe in God, trusting and obeying him, have the security and joy of knowing he is with us.
As Isaiah predicted, God’s own Son was born as a human from a virgin and lived among humans. The Old Testament shows God is a person who desires personal relationships. He walked with Adam and Eve and Enoch. He called Abraham his friend, David a man after his own heart. God was with Isaac, Joseph, and Gideon. King Asa also responded with trust in God and obedience to him. Therefore, many from the northern kingdom of Israel came over to Judah when they saw that the LORD his God was with King Asa. (II Chron.15:9b). God loves to “be with us.”
Present news in America often causes fear and anxiety. Hopefully, we can learn from the messages of Scripture. As long as the king and people of Judah walked with God in trust and obedience, God protected them and gave them peace. Will he do the same for us?
Notice what the following verses say: “They sought God eagerly and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side,” (2 Chron.15:15b).
“And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deut. 10:12).
“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Eccl.12:13).
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” (Matt.10:28).
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4).
If we “fear” the Lord, (revere him and trust in him), we need fear nothing else. The only time to be afraid is when we go outside of God’s will. Isaiah chapters 7–12 are unified around this theme of trusting in God instead of in alliances with human nations. Oswalt says, “This God, the Holy One of Israel, is great enough and wise enough and transcendent enough that he can be trusted. If Israel can only get that vision of Yahweh, there will be hope for them,” (136).
And if we can only get that vision of Yahweh, of Almighty God, there will be hope for us.
To Be Continued July 31st.
Here is a worship video about God being with me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDdHG7YCxic
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