The Lord’s Mercy on Israel
14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
15 And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
This comes to the next question: How does God speak?
This question actually breaks into two question: First, how does God in the sense of mode: What manner of speaking does God use? Does God speak from mountain? Does God send a prophet? Does God send an angel? The second question concerns justice: How does God overcome the injustice of Israel? How can God do this thing and redeem this bride?
How Does God Overcome Justice?
To take the last question first, we need to consider the problem. God is our judge and the offended party. Justice must be done by both and for both.
If I am slighted by you, I can certainly overlook the wrong. We all do this every day; someone is brusque: someone bumps you carelessly, someone cuts you off on the freeway, someone answers discourteously. There are a thousand minor insults we all suffer and all overlook.
Now let us consider more serious wrongs: some does you a serious wrong: someone steals from you, causes you physical injury; someone slanders you and ruins your reputation, runs off your friends and takes your job. When someone causes a substantial injury, a substantial reconciliation must take place. A simple, “Sorry!” won’t restore what has been lost.
But let us consider something even more substantial. You have suffered a true and terrible criminal wrong. Someone has murdered or raped. The culprit has been apprehended. Trial has been conducted, and the culprit has confessed. The wrong is real, the wrongdoer has been caught, and the judge is called to execute the sentence.
Think of the evil which would result if the judge simply ignored the fault. It would be morally wrong, it would be truly evil if the judge refused to bring justice to bear.
We all rightly know the outrage we feel when we see a true monster go free. Justice demands justice. It is not mere emotion: it is an objective need that justice right what is wrong. If the judge refuses to do justice, the judge himself has become unjust. A judge who lets a murderer go free, is a judge who taken part in the murder; the judge has joined himself to the murderer.
Israel’s wrongs were astounding: the wrongs went back centuries. The Israelites had become no better than the Canaanites whom the Lord had driven from the land. They were as depraved, vicious, perverse as those whom God removed. God could not be God, God could not be just, could not uphold his own word if God were to simply ignore Israel’s evil.
And this is perhaps the element which is hardest for us to understand – and yet it is the element which displays the greatest evil – Israel rejected the worship of the true God. Israel knowingly and purposefully refused to believe, trust, thank the one who had created and sustained them, the one who fed and protected them. As Paul says in Romans 1
Romans 1:21 (ESV)
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
They were not thankful.
What is God to do? This is not a mere matter of God overlooking their wrong: they have obliterated their duties, their affection, their relationship with God. They have trampled upon the Law and ignored justice. God would himself be unjust God to simply forgo justice in the name of mercy. That would be no mercy, but would rather be another round of injustice.
How is God to settle the score of Israel’s injustice and so speak tenderly to her?
How Does God in Fact Speak?
God does in fact speak from a mountain (but not a flaming mountain). God does send angels. God does send prophets. God does speak tenderly. God does speak to Israel in the wilderness. God does speak.
But where and how?
First, God speaks:
John 1:1–14 (ESV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God did send angels:
Luke 2:8–21 (ESV)
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
God spoke from a mountain:
Matthew 5:1–2 (ESV)
5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
But not a flaming mountain:
Hebrews 12:18–24 (ESV)
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
God did send prophets:
Matthew 11:8–10 (ESV)
8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,
“ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
Matthew 21:11 (ESV)
11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
God did speak to Israel in the wilderness:
Mark 1:1–4 (ESV)
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’ ”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
God did speak tenderly:
Matthew 23:37–39 (ESV)
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
And he is speaking now:
Hebrews 12:25 (ESV)
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.