17. A GRACIOUS ALTERNATIVE
"How precious also are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"
Or let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me. Isaiah 27:5
God had just spoken of the certain destruction that would overtake obstinate and incorrigible sinners. These He describes under the similitude of "briers and thorns set against him in battle." "I will go through them," says He, "I will burn them up together." He guards us, by a preliminary statement, against entertaining the supposition that He has any delight in the exercise of such stern retribution—"Fury is not in me." There is with Him, whose nature and whose name is Love, no vindictive passion, no capricious wrath, no wayward impulses of anger analogous to those in man. His thoughts, in this respect too, are not our thoughts. His hatred at sin is a principle. It is the deliberate recoil of His own infinitely Holy nature from iniquity—that iniquity which His Justice and Righteousness require Him to punish. Let us beware of a harsh and repulsive theology that would assimilate God to the avenging deities of the heathen. He is "slow to smite." He "delights in mercy." "Judgment is His strange work." "He visits iniquity unto the third and fourth generation of those who hate him. He shows mercy unto thousands (of generations) of those who love him."
At the same time, neither must we forget that He is 'glorious in holiness.' To that very revelation which He made to Moses of His name and memorial as "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and in truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin," He appends the solemn averment, "and that will by no means clear the guilty."
Oh, most solemn, most terrible 'thought' to those who are still as "thorns and briers against Him in battle"—who are still enemies by nature and wicked works. They cannot escape His wrath. They cannot elude His righteous retribution. If they continue in sin, they can know only in their bitter experience "what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God." "He will burn them up together." He is to all such "a consuming fire."
But our motto-verse contains a wondrous alternative of mercy. At the very moment when sinners are rushing with blind madness against the thick bosses of Jehovah's buckler—He whom they have made their enemy has a 'thought' in His heart of loving reconciliation. Listen to the gracious proposal—"Or, let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me."
Who is "the Strength of God?" Let Scripture answer—"Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the Son of man whom You made strong for Yourself." Christ is "the Power of God"—"the Arbitrator between us, who has laid His hand upon us both." He, also, is "our peace." "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." Peace, "not as the world gives," was His parting, special legacy. It is a sure and well-grounded peace, purchased by His atoning blood, and secured and perpetuated by His continual intercession. Hence the gracious Proposer of reconciliation adds the assurance—"And he SHALL make peace with Me." It is a glorious certainty. Take hold of that arm, and salvation is sure. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." A present peace, a sure peace, a permanent peace, peace now, and peace forever. "None is able to pluck you out of His hand."
"Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord." "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You that lead Joseph like a flock. Stir up Your STRENGTH, and come and save us!"
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11