“‘For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,’
says the LORD your Redeemer.” -Is. 54.7-8
While this passage has to do with Israel’s eschatological judgment and restoration, and while the sweeping visions and themes presented in the latter chapters of Isaiah are awesome to consider, there was one point from these two verses that struck me upon reading them recently.
It has to do with the Personality of God Himself, especially as it is expressed in His Divine kindness.
We humans are so driven by outward appearance, so masked and subject to falsehood, that the idea of God’s kindness often seems trivial and unworthy of consideration. We are not accustomed to the kindness of the One on the throne, for most of us have mainly experienced from others a surface-level kindness, a political kind of compassion, an external display of niceness that is meant to maintain peace in an external way. Even in the Church there is a famine of true Godly love, and we mostly know the “smile and a handshake once a week” type of kindness, rather than the type which invades and touches the lives of the saints in the realm of real life, and is a selfless display of God’s own heart.
We wouldn’t vote for a frowning politician, and so they smile for our cameras. Nowadays their teeth have been whitened and treated to make our experience all the better. A man can go a long ways in the Western world if he has a winsome smile. But the chances are, for most of those smiling men, they know little or nothing of the type of kindness which comes from heaven, and the naivete of the masses is revealed in the fact that they love to go along with the show. Soon enough the popularity ratings will go down, and the puff of kindness from both sides will be revealed for the hollow thing that it was. We live in a “chew-you-up and spit-you-out society,” and human kindness only lasts while the one giving it is being pleased or benefited. Not so with the kindness of God.
The compassion of God, according to His own description, is “deep,” and His kindness is “everlasting.” He describes the day of His wrath and judgment at the end of the age as a “surge of anger,” and the hiding of His face as momentary. But He declares that “with everlasting kindness” He will have “compassion” on Israel and the nations.
What is striking my heart in this, is that judgment and wrath are necessary components of the God of Justice, but His everlasting character is that of kindness. Judgment and wrath would never have broken out in the earth had it not been for the sin of mankind and the fallenness of the devil and his angels. He would still be holy and just, but His wrath is a “surge” of anger that is meant to bring about a greater end; namely, an entire people within His creation, who know Him as He is, who walk as He walked, and who love as He loves.
However spiritual we may think ourselves, one of the chief evidences that we are being conformed into His image is that a selfless, heavenly kindness is being formed in our hearts, and expressed toward those whom the Lord has put in our lives. If we are crotchety and short with our families, or co-workers, or our neighbors, then something of our experience in God is woefully amiss. We need to ask the Lord for His own patience, tenderness, and kindness, lest we end up living by a list of Christian ideals, rather than loving Him with all of our hearts, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is not playacting with smiles and gestures as the politician does, it is receiving into our hearts the kindness of God Himself, and dispensing it by His own Spirit to those whom He has put in our lives.
As one modern psalmist has so simply and aptly written to the Lord:
I’ve never known another as kind in this life as You;
All the others cross the road and pass me by, but not You.
Oh, to be in Him, like Him, abiding with Him!