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A Closer Walk

Publication July 5, 2019

A CLOSER WALK

Greg Worthen

“For the sake of my name I delay my wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off,” Isaiah 48:9 NASB. The nation of Israel had been disobedient and stubborn. Again. The Lord, using the mouth of the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah, tells them that He has held back His wrath for His name's sake. Further, He tells them that He has restrained His wrath for the sake of His praise. The result of His restraint for the Israelites was mercy, or compassion, so that they had not been “cut off.” For reasons of His own, He has restrained His wrath.

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction,” Isaiah 48:10 NASB. While delaying His wrath against the Israelites, our Lord has also “refined” them. In the refining process metal is heated until it becomes a liquid (very hot!). Then it can be poured into a mold to be shaped into whatever object the refiner wishes it to be. We would do well to remember that even though we may have not been disobedient or stubborn, there still could be times when we are put through the refining process. But in this case with the Israelites, they were being refined because they had been disobedient and stubborn. Let's make a distinction between affliction and God's wrath. Affliction is equated with suffering, or trial, or tribulation, which ultimately helps us learn obedience. It can also help turn our focus and attention back toward our Lord. It can also lead us to rearrange our priorities. Wrath on the other hand is God's anger poured out on sinful or disobedient people or nations, fire and brimstone stuff; Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind, or the Israelites we are discussing.

“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another,” Isaiah 48:11 NASB. God informs the Israelites that when He does act, He is not acting because of them, but for His own sake. He will not allow His name to be profaned. And He will not allow His glory to be given to another.

We might lean toward thinking that as believers, when our God acts He acts on our behalf or for our benefit. And there are times when that really does seem to be the case. But in this passage he is instructing the Israelites, and us, that He sometimes acts for His own reasons. Reasons we might not understand at the time, and may not understand until heaven. It is clear from the passage that the Lord had delayed His wrath for them, implying it could be unleashed at a later time and on a different day. They had been disobedient. They had been stubborn. Put those two things together and that would seem to be a recipe for justice and punishment being poured out upon them.

But for the sake of His name, our God was restraining His wrath. He restrains His wrath from us as well. If He didn't, every time we sinned He would rain that fire and brimstone down on us. Wouldn't that be fun? No one would stand or walk close to us for fear of being engulfed also. And we wouldn't want to stand or walk close to anyone else, for the same reason.

Whether our Lord holds back His wrath for our sake or for His own reasons, He is granting us mercy and compassion which we don't deserve, rather than the justice and punishment that we do deserve. What do we call that? Oh yeah. Grace. Unmerited favor. God's grace. God's Riches At Christ's Expense. Grace.

 

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