“See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
As we study the book of Isaiah in church this summer, my eyes have been opened wide to the powerful, amazing, and just God that I serve. It is my heart, however, that has been blown away by His LOVE.
Isaiah, in a nutshell, is a book of judgment and of hope-- judgment of the Israelites for refusing to be the kind of people God created them to be, and hope for the same from their rejected, but still compassionate, Father. Isaiah prophesies in detail what exile and captivity will be like for Judah, but he does not leave them hopeless. God, speaking through Isaiah, also speaks here about their promised salvation—both from the Assyrians and, ultimately, from Satan. I think God figures that if they can see what is to come, they will be able to persevere through the awful stuff that is staring them in the face --kind of like when I run a race and I get really tired, but I keep on going because I know the finish line is right around the corner.
Anyway, as Jeff preached last night, this compassionate side of God became very real in my mind. God starts out Isaiah 40 by saying,
“Comfort, comfort my people…speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”
Remember that God is talking to the Israelites here—the ones running fast away from Him into the arms of other suitors; the ones fashioning gold, silver, even wood, into idolatrous gods; the ones forgetting the Father who taught them how to walk. God continues to love his chosen ones and want comfort for them when they have chosen to separate themselves from Him. Amazing!
Not only does God comfort his people, He continually fights for them. Jeff explained the verse at the top of this post in this way: With one arm, because He is supremely powerful, He fights off the enemy and destroys those who hurt His children, but at the same time, with the other arm, He gathers His lambs and carries them close to His heart. One arm fighting, one arm gathering—simultaneously serving justice and showing mercy—simultaneously judging and loving. What a picture of my God!
It makes me cry to think of Him like this—carrying me next to His heart. Like the kicking and screaming Israelites, I stiffen and shriek and try to run, yet He leans down to gather me to His heart. He fights off my enemies because He loves me—not because I deserve it. He treats me with gentleness because I am His child. He loves me because He can do no other.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12: 1-2