Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him.
Isaiah’s prophecies can feel like a litany of judgment; an extensive doom and gloom session about who is going to be punished and when and how. The book can be a bit tough to keep reading at times. In the midst of the judgments is a morsel like this morning’s verse; a reminder that God’s character has never once changed.
There are folks who think that the God of the OT (Old Testament) is all fire and brimstone and nuke-’em-from-orbit. While His judgments, taken without the full historical context as they generally are, can sounds harsh, He is always ready to postpone or rescind the judgment in favor of grace.
Isaiah writes the reminder that the LORD longs to be gracious to you and waits on high to have compassion on you. God is not a cosmic killjoy Who looks for ways to ruin every bit of fun I have, but a Judge Who wants nothing more than to be able to grant clemency. He is so eager to be gracious and compassionate that He is literally waiting and longing to do so.
Isaiah points out one other thing: The LORD is a God of justice. Juxtaposed with the waiting and longing to be gracious and compassionate, this might seem odd, but it carries within it a recognition of something that Isaiah gave voice to earlier in the book: the people deserve punishment. Isaiah said that he was undone because he had unclean lips and dwelt among a people of unclean lips. They deserved to be punished for that, if nothing else. For Isaiah, who recognized his situation, God sent one of the attendant angels to purge Isaiah’s lips with a coal from the altar. No pain is recorded, only the commission that follows. God aches to be gracious and compassionate, but there can be no grace until we recognize that we need grace; that we are inherently unlovable and innately flawed and sinful. There can be no compassion until we are struck by the magnitude of the wrong within us. Justice leads us to recognize just how wrong and sinful and unlovable we truly are. Once we have reached that point, compassion and grace can be poured out in ways that will buoy us up into them.
Do I truly recognize how sinful I am? Not the nation in which I live or the people around me, but me. Isaiah was a devout Jew, in his time. It is not only non-believers who are sinners or who have sin that distorts their lives. Do I understand how desperately I need God’s grace every day? God longs to give me that grace. He waits — much like the racer waits at the block, I imagine — to be compassionate. Today, this very moment, let me own my sinfulness apart from Him and loose the grace and compassion that His justice restrains. Let me unlock the floodgates that God wants to swing wide. Let my life be inundated with compassion and grace today. Let His longing to be gracious and compassionate be met with a reciprocal longing in me to receive His compassion and grace.