The Herald Weekly Vol XVI : 49


“I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He hath bestowed on them according to His mercies, and according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses. For He said, Surely they are My people, children that will not lie: so He was their Saviour. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:7-9)

Isaiah lived at a time when God’s people were prospering materially but were not doing well spiritually. There was sin and corruption at all levels of society and a tendency to rely on other sources of help instead of relying fully on the Lord. As a result of this the Lord brought the Assyrians to destroy the northern kingdom. The southern kingdom of Judah was spared from destruction because King Hezekiah trusted in the Lord for help and deliverance came in time. The 185,000 Assyrian troops that surrounded Jerusalem were destroyed by an angel of God in one night.

Although this brought spiritual revival, it did not last long. Soon the Jews lapsed into their old sins again as the next two kings turned out to be very ungodly and idolatrous. It seemed that judgment was imminent – and this was to take the form of exile from their homeland in the Babylonian captivity. God had revealed this coming captivity to Isaiah, as well as the return that would take place after that. But as Isaiah thought about the devastating judgment that was coming on God’s people, he uttered this heartfelt prayer for them. He longed very much to see them delivered from their sins. And here we see how Isaiah translated his deep longings into prayer.

We can learn valuable lessons from this prayer. There are times when we feel down and discouraged because of trials that we are going through, trials that we may even have brought upon ourselves because of our own sins. What should we do? The best thing to do is to turn to God in prayer. But what assurance do we have that God will answer our prayer? How do we know that God will help us?

Recall His Goodness

The way that Isaiah began this prayer reveals a very useful thing to do – Look back at the past and recall everything that shows God’s goodness to you. Think of those particular moments in your life when God had been there for you and delivered you, and let the memory of them encourage you to seek God’s continued help for your present trials.

This was what Isaiah did on behalf of his people in our passage. In verse 7 he fondly recalls two things about God – His lovingkindness and His great goodness. The word ‘lovingkindness’ here speaks of God’s special love for them, a love that never fails because of the covenant relationship that He has with His people. It was this love that made Him fulfill every promise He had made to them. It was this love that preserved them as a nation from the time they left Egypt. It was this love that enabled them to possess the Promised Land. It was this love that blessed them under the reigns of King David and Solomon, transforming them into a great kingdom.

The other thing about God that Isaiah recalls is His great goodness. This refers to the favour that God had shown to the people of Israel, even though they did not deserve it. This is why Isaiah adds that this great goodness was according to God’s mercies to them. The history of Israel records many times when the people failed to keep God’s laws as they should – times when they went astray from God, times when they rebelled against God and vexed His Holy Spirit. And yet they were never forsaken or totally abandoned by God.

Consider how this applies to you. As you look back on your own history can you see evidences of both the lovingkindness of God in your life, as well as His great goodness toward you? Think of how the Lord provided for all your needs in the past. Think of all the marvellous blessings He bestowed upon you – the way that you were brought up, the opportunities you received. Aren’t these clear indications of God’s lovingkindness to you? Think of how God forgave your sins. Think of how He has never forsaken you even though you had not been as obedient to Him as you ought to be. Don’t these things testify to you of the undeserved goodness you have received from God?

The Impact of His Goodness

That’s not all. In the next two verses, Isaiah elaborates on God’s great goodness and the impact it had on Israel. According to verse 8, God adopted them as His people. He treated them like His own dear children – protecting them against all harm and danger. He became their Saviour – by rescuing them from the misery of slavery under the Egyptians and oppression under the various nations around them during the time of the judges.
Consider how God has done the same for you. Think of those times when you were very sick or when your life was in great danger. Think of how you prayed to the Lord for help in a moment of great despair or desperation, and the Lord came to your rescue by providing you with the timely deliverance or the help that you needed.

The Pictures of His Goodness

And that’s not all. Now we come to verse 9 – a verse which contains one of the most moving expressions of God’s love for His people. There are four beautiful pictures which show the extent to which God is willing to go for their sakes. The first picture is that of God’s pain for His people. He is afflicted when His people are afflicted. He identifies so much with us that He feels our pain. He can therefore sympathise fully with us and understand how we feel.
The second picture is that of God’s presence with His people. The term ‘angel of His presence’ may refer to the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night that accompanied the Israelites throughout their journey to the Promised Land. It signified that God was in the midst of His people. Some believe that this ‘angel of His presence’ is identical to the ‘Angel of the Lord’ which appeared to Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Gideon, and that it is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ on earth. Remember that one of the titles of Jesus is Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us.’ Jesus could therefore be the intended subject of the term ‘the angel of His presence’ in verse 9. He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

The third picture is that of God’s purchase of His people. The costly price of the redemption of Israel was shown in the Passover lamb. On the night of the last plague when all the firstborn in Egypt died, the firstborn of Israel were redeemed or purchased through the blood of the lamb. This points to Christ, our Passover lamb whose blood was shed on the cross to redeem us from sin and eternal death. This thought alone should give us the greatest assurance that God will answer our prayers.

As Romans 8:32 says, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” What a great love we have received from God!

The fourth picture that shows the extent of God’s love, is that of God’s patience with His people. At the end of verse 9 Israel is portrayed like a little child being carried in his father’s strong arms. Those of us who have children would know that as your child grows, it gets more difficult to carry him as your arms will become weary and tired after some time. But God never grows weary or tired of bearing and carrying His people. He is longsuffering toward them. Israel’s history testifies that He patiently carried them all the days of old – even when they had grown up into nationhood.

And God does the same thing for us. As our heavenly Father, He carries us all day long and never grows tired of carrying us. What a comforting thought this is whenever you feel down or discouraged. Think of how patient God has been with you throughout your life. He has not given up on you. Think of how long He has been enduring your inconsistencies and failures.

And so we have seen how great God’s goodness is manifested to His people not only in the time of Isaiah, but also to all of us today. And just as it encouraged Isaiah to pray, may it also encourage us to pray.

Rev Charles Seet
Article from Life B-P Church, Weekly 2 Dec 2018

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