How easily we are tempted when our circumstances are difficult, when trials pile up one on top of another, to question the character of God, to think without saying it aloud that He is hard or unfeeling. Yes, we are very quick to accuse Him of neglect when things don’t go the way we want them to go. Often we may not be brazen enough to blame God directly, but we do so through a human surrogate, as God’s people railed against Moses for their difficulties, refusing to acknowledge that Moses had led them only where God had directed him to go.
The prophet Isaiah offered an inspired explanation for the difficulties Judah found herself in at one point in her history. “For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing” (30:15). God offered rest and quietness in return for Judah’s repentance and trust. She should have recognized what a very small price God demanded for the priceless blessings He extended to her.
What is the unceasing attitude of the Lord toward His own? Again, Isaiah assures us that “the Lord longs to be gracious to you” (30:18a). His earnest desire is to bless us. His wish is to bestow favor upon us in a fashion that we recognize as the expression of His infinite kindness and generosity. Earlier in the same prophecy, Isaiah explains that chastening and judgment God considers to be “His unusual task” and “His extraordinary work” (28:21). In other words, it is His steadfast desire and inclination to bless His own. It is only our sin and rebellion that prompt His chastening hand to fall on us.
Just as a good and faithful father will discipline his disobedient child—all the while wishing to shower him with kindness—so the Lord, though He would rather pour out grace upon grace on us, will use the rod of correction in order to turn us from the destructive path of sin. Christ’s lament as He experienced the rejection of His brethren and faced the cross expresses the heart of God and the prevailing desire of His nature: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” (Lk. 13:34). Can you hear the pathos in that little but powerful word,”O”? Do you sense the loving desire to bless the people in those earnest words, “How often I wanted to gather your children together”?
There is the heart of God. We never, never must plead for grace, bargain or barter for it. We don’t squirm in our seats, biting our nails and holding our breath, hoping against hope, that God would forgive us our sins, cleanse us, and restore us to fellowship. We must never question the magnificent, magnanimous grandeur of God’s grace toward us. It surpasses anything we can ask or think. To His covenant people who offered their tithe, He had promised to “open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows” (Mal. 3:10b). Though the church has no command to tithe, will God be less generous with those under grace than He was toward those under the law? No, for He always “longs to be gracious.” Believe it. In this dispensation, He longs to distribute a much greater blessing than the natural wealth promised to Old Testament saints—things that money can’t buy. Fellowship for the lonely. Rest for the weary. Contentment for the dissatisfied. Peace for the fearful. Comfort for the sorrowing. Confidence for the timid. Direction for the wandering. Understanding for the simple. Strength for the weak. Hope for the questioning. Assurance for the doubting. And if that list has left out your particular need, He longs to be gracious to you in that, as well.
We cannot appreciate or fathom just how kind, rich, and loving are God’s intentions toward us who know Him because they so far exceed our capacity to give or to understand. But may we grasp by faith some comprehension and thankfulness for the constant expression of His longing to be gracious to us, and may we with great humility and thankfulness drink deeply from the well of grace.
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