“One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain and as a banner on a hill. Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:17-18).
During Isaiah’s ministry to Judah, God’s people had forsaken the Lord. Their hearts were far from God. God described His people’s condition: “Therefore the Lord said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden" (Isaiah 29:13-14).
Through Isaiah, God was trying to reach them to encourage them to come back to Him. Even as they were being threatened by another nation, Assyria, they still refused to heed God’s message to them. Of them the Lord said, “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us’" (Isaiah 30:9-11).
Under the Assyrian threat, God had lovingly encouraged them to return to Him and He would gladly deliver them: “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ But you would not” (Isaiah 30:15). But, instead of seeking God, they devised their own schemes for deliverance from Assyria by doing such things as foolishly turning to the Egyptians for help: “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the Lord, ‘Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation’” (Isaiah 30:1-3).
As the opening verses above indicate, God wanted to be gracious to His children, the nation of Israel, and show them mercy (Isaiah 30:18). But God also executes justice. So He could not be gracious and merciful to His children while they continued to act rebellious towards Him. Therefore, God would have to wait until the Assyrian persecution of them. Following this, God’s people finally would come to their senses and turn back to Him. Then the Lord could show them the mercy and grace He longed to give to them (Isaiah 30:19-22).
As I consider God’s patience with His people in having to wait for them to come to their senses so He could show them the grace and mercy He longed to give to them, I am awed as I consider God’s patience with me. Over the years of my life, like Israel, there have been times when I act in stubborn rebellion against God. When I do so, I prevent God from being able to show me the grace and mercy He longs to give me because of my rebellious actions towards Him and His Will for me. I praise God for His patience to “wait” for me to come to my senses. Today, when I stray from God’s Will, I will strive to practice repentance towards God and not try His patience by persisting in rebellion!
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).