Tough Love – Isaiah 54

“For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
Says the Lord, your Redeemer.
 Isaiah 54:7-8 NKJV

The people of Judah were headed down the wrong track, away from the worship of God and towards the worship of idols.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already turned away from the Lord and to their own ways, and after many warnings from the prophets Elijah and Elisha, were left wide open to a successful invasion by the Assyrians. 

The Southern Kingdom, Judah, was then left alone to preserve the regal line of David and God’s Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  But despite God sending several prophets to warn and strengthen them, including the great prophet Isaiah, most of these kings chose not to follow God and instead often led their people away from Him.

God had made many promises to His people.  For instance, He said that King David would never fail to have a man on the throne, even throughout eternity.  Yet David’s descendants ruling over Judah only rarely chose to do the right thing or to seek the Lord.  Most worshiped the false gods who were in the land before they came, before God had brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt into this good land flowing with milk and honey.

Despite Isaiah’s ministry to several of Judah’s kings, most would not listen, and the Lord was only about 100 years away from turning His back on Judah.  A strong empire was rising in the east, Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon – it would surpass and overpower even the great Assyrian Empire of Isaiah’s day.  God would use this new empire to chastise Judah for a season, defeating them and carrying them into exile to a land full of the idols that they craved.  For seventy years, the people of Israel remained captive in Babylon, until God once again called them back into His land.  After the tough love of God’s moment of wrath, they would never seek after idols again.  God could then resume His plan of extending salvation and everlasting kindness, not just to Judah, but to the entire world.

Jesus Christ, the centerpiece of this plan, went through His own dark moment of chastisement.  He had surrendered Himself to death on the cross and bore all the judgement and wrath from the Father that we deserved for our sin, taking the punishment in our place.

45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”  Matthew 27:45-46,50-54 NKJV

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple that separated a holy God from unholy people was torn in two.  For a mere moment, God had poured out His wrath on the innocent Lamb of God in our place, removing all of our sin and unholiness.  The accounting for all of our disobedient thoughts, words and actions has been settled through Christ, once and for all, if we will receive it.  Now all believers have direct access to the Lord without going through the ritual representation of a High Priest.  In fact, fifty days hence at Pentecost, God would begin to reside in the hearts of women and men directly through the Holy Spirit.  The new, cleansed temple of God is now in people’s hearts worldwide, and not restricted to any building.  May you join with us to help make up that temple today!

Reflection

Lord Jesus, we call upon Your name.  Draw us close to You and use us to build up Your holy temple worldwide. May we bear much holy fruit, be it our first day with You or our fiftieth year.  Help us to turn away from idols and sin and to enjoy unbroken fellowship, serenity, and peace in Your presence, this day and always.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

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