For I will not contend forever,
nor will I always be angry;
for the spirit would grow faint before me,
and the breath of life that I made.
Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
creating the fruit of the lips.
Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD,
“and I will heal him.
(Isaiah 57:16-19 ESV)
This verse shocks me. I am amazed by the grace of the Lord that flows throughout this passage. The math doesn’t make sense. The logic doesn’t fit. The story seems too good to be true.
A good King chooses a bedraggled and off-putting woman to be his bride. To every passerby she seems like a horrible choice for a bride—much less the bride of a King. Yet he promises that he will make her beautiful. His love will change her and make her the desire of the nations.
The bride becomes beautiful. The King’s bride is now the envy of the nations. The King promised beauty and he delivered.
The bride becomes arrogant. She begins thinking the beauty is her own. Sadly she rebels. Her rebellion is not small. She goes all out in her defiance of the King. She will not be ruled. And so she uses her beauty to become a harlot. Her beauty is spent not on her husband, the King, but upon her empty lovers.
The husband responds. He takes back his gifts. He disciplines her. In anger he hides his face. His hope is that when she tastes the bitter fruit of her rebellion that she will come back and once again be his. Not
She responds to his discipline with even more rebellion and even more pride. She engages in more harlotry. The King knows his bride more than anyone else and therefore he is fully aware of the depths of her rebellion and wickedness. The beautiful bride has exchanged her beauty for the slavery of an imaginary freedom. The first six acts end with a cliffhanger. “I have seen her ways…”
As the onlookers take a bathroom break, refill their drinks, and get some more popcorn the questions abound. Will the king find a new love? Perhaps one more deserving of being married to a good king? Will this rejection change the King, himself? Will she finally come to her senses?
When you expect the King to pursue another, more faithful lover, the depths of His unrelenting love is shown. He declares that He will not give up on His bride. He had promised that He would love her and make her beautiful inside and out. No amount of her rebellion will change his plan. He knew that when he picked her up. Her rebellion has not caught him by surprise. And so he says, “I have seen [her] ways, but I will heal [her]”.
The King will heal her by humbling her. He is a powerful King, after all. More powerful than any other King. This King can move hearts and this is precisely what He does with His wayward bride. Ultimately it will take his death and a change of her heart to heal her. And this He does, gladly: “for the joy set before Him he endured the Cross”. The wayward wife will be humbled and her heart will be changed.
The King and His Bride dance forever.
As I think through Isaiah 57 I am astonished at the Lord’s unrelenting love. I know that at times I have responded to the Lord’s discipline with more arrogance and with more rebellion. Yet because of His love and mercy He will not allow me to stay in my prideful rebellion. He graciously humbles me so that He can powerfully dwell with me and “revive the heart of the contrite”.
As I think about the call that the Lord has placed on my life as a husband, daddy, pastor, and writer I am able to rest a little easier in the Lord’s unrelenting love. The Lord is powerful enough to provide healing (everything that is required to “dwell with Him”) and He is loving enough to see it through to completion. I am thankful that the Lord has set His unrelenting love upon my wife. And I am hopeful that the Lord is doing that same thing in the life of my children.
He is good.