Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God’s Tough Love

Leslie Basham: You've heard of tough love, right? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says that's the kind of love God is willing to show you.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Listen, all those things that you hold precious, that you love, that you cherish, that you think are so beautiful and lovely, that attract you to this world and pull you away from God, God loves you enough that, if need be, He will swallow it all up, lay it all in ruins, and multiply mourning and lamentation in your life until you look up and say, "What have I done? Oh, God, be merciful to me."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Brokenness: The Heart God Revives, for Tuesday, August 7, 2018.

Nancy's picking back up in a series called "A Cry for Revival."

Nancy: We're looking at two chapters in the gospel of Isaiah (someone has called it the gospel of the Old Testament) this week, chapters 63 and 64. As I've been pondering these passages, reflecting on them, these chapters are really more up-to-date and relevant than whatever news you can turn on today. You want to see what's happening in the world? Read these two chapters, and it'll tell you God's perspective, the perspective from heaven about what's going on in this world.

Yesterday, we started with the first paragraph of Isaiah chapter 63, and it's a little bit of a downer when you first read it because it talks about the Lord's day of vengeance against His enemies. But we see the Messiah as the triumphant conqueror.

So let me read the first six verses because I want you to see how stark a difference there is between this paragraph that we looked at yesterday and the next paragraph, which we're going to look at today beginning in verse 7. So let me start in verse 1, Isaiah chapter 63.

Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save."

Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? [Answer:] "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth."

And so we see (if you missed yesterday's program, you'll want to go back and find out what this is all about), but to summarize, it's the final, ultimate judgment of God against His enemies, against all His enemies as He puts them in the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God, the Almighty. It's a very sobering message, and you can go to ReviveOurHearts.com to pull up that message from yesterday.

Now we get to verse 7, and there is a dramatic change of tone in the message—a whole new message. And now we see God dealing, not with His enemies, but with His own, chosen people, His children. And He's dealing with them, not in wrath or in anger, but with compassion and steadfast love.

Listen to what a huge difference there is when you get to verse 7.

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

If you didn't know better, would you think you were jumping down into the middle of a whole new chapter or passage? In the passage we looked at yesterday, those first six verses, we had the severity of God—wrath, anger, judgment.

Now we have the kindness of God immediately following the description of the wrath of the Lamb, the prophet remembers and exalts the mercy and the kindness of God particularly toward those who are suffering at the hands of God's enemies who are out to destroy them. And he says to them, "God is not unmindful of your affliction. He sees. He knows. He cares. He loves you. He is delivering you. He is redeeming you."

One of my very favorite quotes of all time is one from G. Campbell Morgan, who was a great Bible teacher, expositor in the twentieth century. He said,

The supreme need in every hour of difficulty and distress is for a fresh vision of God. Seeing Him, all else takes on proper perspective and proportion.

Let me say it again, because the English is a little bit old. "The supreme need in every hour of difficulty and distress is for a fresh vision of God. Seeing Him, all else takes on proper perspective and proportion."

So we've seen the wrath and the judgment of God against His enemies, that day of vengeance. But now we come to see His year of redemption, His goodness, His loving kindness toward those who repent and believe. And this vision of God helps us to calculate, to calibrate what's happening in our world today.

If we didn't have this great vision of God, both a God of wrath and a God of mercy, we would be totally, utterly, flummoxed by what's happening in our world. It's confusing. It looks on every hand like evil is winning.

There's this tidal wave of anti-God sentiment and thinking and activity, and we would just want to hunker down, like barricade ourselves in our little Christian fortresses and not come out if we didn't have this vision of God. We need in such a day as ours to see God.

Isaiah says this earlier, in chapter 6, "In the year that King Uzziah . . ." King Uzziah, who had reigned for I think fifty-two years over Judah, he was like Queen Elizabeth in our day. I mean, just a long, long time power and influence, and then he dies, and the whole world is in a commotion and hubbub of, "What's going on? Who will be next? What will happen?"

Isaiah says, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord . . . high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filling the temple" (6:1).

The glory of God is like no glory, no majesty that any earthly king or potentate could ever have. It doesn't really matter in the final analysis who is on earthly thrones. What matters is who is on the eternal, heavenly throne. "I saw the Lord." That's what we need to give our hearts hope and patience and endurance when the craziness of the world seems to be taking over.

So, Isaiah 63 and 64 is really the prayer of Jews in exile in Babylon. Now, the exile hasn't happened yet. It's actually 100 years down the road, but God gives Isaiah this prophetic vision to see something, a century away, that hasn't happened yet, and to give the people a prayer, words to pray, words to cry out, a perspective to help them get their bearings and deal with what's going to happen in a future generation.

I don't think it would do any injury to the text or the passage or the purposes of God in this passage to say it was written not only for those Jews in the exile, but it was written for us who are living in modern-day Babylon. We are in exile today. We are strangers and aliens and pilgrims in this earth, and we need a perspective of God that gives us hope and shows us what's really going on and what's going to happen and where all this is heading.

So as this was written, it's for people of God who are in distress, and the rest of this chapter and the next one, which we'll look at over the next few days, will express anguish and pleading with God to intervene, but it begins that prayer with praise—praise, worship, recounting the goodness, the love, the kindness of the Lord.

"I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord."

And I want to suggest that, no matter how desperate our times, no matter how earnest and fervent our prayers . . . In the break here, I just ran into a woman who says, "I'm still praying for my prodigal child." It's a hard, hard place. She's been praying for that child for years without seeing yet an outcome, an answer. In those hard places, whether it's the mega-picture of what's going on in the world or the micro-picture of what's going on in your heart, when you have that anguish, that pleading with God to intervene, the place to start is always in the place of praise.

"I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord."

No matter how great our troubles, no matter how many our troubles, no matter how intense our troubles, there is always even more for which to thank Him. Now, we may not find much for which to thank Him in our circumstances, but there's always much for which to thank Him in His unfailing character and love.

So the prophet says, "I will recount the steadfast love," the loving kindnesses of the Lord, the hesed of the Lord, His covenant-keeping love, the love of a God who is always faithful to His covenant, always faithful to His promises, always faithful to His people, always loves us no matter what we do, no matter what happens to us or what we do to others.

Regardless of what else may be going on, His love, His kindness, His mercy are steadfast. They're sure. This is one of the most important words in the Old Testament. It's core to the character and the heart of God—the hesed of God, the covenant-keeping, unfailing love of the Lord.

So recount it. Record it. Rehearse it. Remember it. Tell it to others. In the midst of your troubles, in the midst of your problems, in the midst of this crazy world, recount the steadfast love of the Lord.

"I will recount the praises of the Lord [he goes on] according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel."

God has been good. Now, remember, he's talking to Jews who were going to be, 100 years from then, in exile, under the thumb of the Babylonians. They were kind of like ISIS of their era. He's giving them a prayer to pray, and it starts with praise, and it talks about the steadfast love of God, the great goodness that the Lord has granted to the house of Israel.

"That he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love."

Listen, when you're buried in problems, this isn't what you tend to think about first, is it? But it's what we need to think about first. And it's like there aren't words enough. It's like he runs out of vocabulary. This is a long verse anyway, and it sounds repetitive, like he's just grasping for words. "The steadfast love of the Lord . . .  all that the Lord has granted us . . . the great goodness . . . His compassion . . . the abundance of His steadfast love."

And, wait. There's more! Go to the end of verse 8: "And he became their Savior."

Not just general love and compassion and goodness, but He has rescued His people from slavery, from Pharaoh in Egypt, from slavery to sin.

Verse 9: "In all their affliction he was afflicted."

Listen, when God's people suffer—as many of God's people are suffering in horrific ways around the world today—God is not a dispassionate, uncaring, uninvolved observer a million miles off in heaven. He's a tender, loving Father. And when His people suffer, He suffers with them. In all their affliction, He was afflicted. When you suffer, He suffers with you. He enters into your affliction. He takes it as His own.

Isaiah 53: "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, stricken for the transgression of my people" (v. 3).

He took your affliction. He took your sin. He took it on Himself—on His holy, sinless body, He takes our affliction.

And then he goes on to say, "In all their affliction, He was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them" (v. 9).

Talking about the great goodness of the Lord, the loving kindness of the Lord, the steadfast love of the Lord, the compassion of the Lord, "The angel of his presence saved them." Who's the angel of his presence? It's Jesus. The Angel of the Lord, seen in those pre-incarnate appearances throughout the Old Testament. The Angel of the Lord, Jesus, who saved His people out of Egypt by bringing judgment against the Egyptians who had enslaved them for 400 years. God sent the Angel of His presence to save them.

God sent His only Son into this world to save us from sin.

As my husband said a few weeks ago when we were talking about this passage, "Only God would send us Himself to save us from Himself."

I love that! We would be under the wrath of God, we were under the wrath of God, but He sent us Himself to save us from Himself.

"In his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old" (v. 9).

This is amazing love, expressions of God's goodness, His care, His concern, His salvation, His deliverance, His protection. This is how God has treated us, and it's good to be reminded of that. It's good to remember it. It's good to recount it.

"I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD."

Now, in light of all of this amazing grace of God, the kindness of the Lord, the goodness of the Lord, His pity, His salvation, His redemption. He lifted them up. He carried them all the days of old. How would you think God's very own children would have responded to His goodness? In light of all He had done for them?

Let me come back to verse 8, which I skipped a moment ago.

He said, "Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely."

"I've loved them. I've treated them with compassion. I have been good to them. Surely, they're My people. They're children who will not," some translations say, "who will not lie."

That Hebrew word for dealing falsely or lie is applied to something that fails to fulfill expectations, something that proves to be a huge disappointment. For example, a thirsty person, a person who is dying of thirst, gets to a brook and only to discover that it has dried up and there is no water. The brook has lied to them. The brook has dealt falsely with them.

Or a farmer who goes out to harvest fruit in an orchard that he has carefully tended and cared for, only to find out it's all withered up, it's all dried up and there is no fruit. It's dealt falsely with him.

Well, God is thinking: Surely My own children won't lie to Me. They won't fail to respond to the compassion and the love I have shown them. Right?

Well look at verse 10.

All this compassion, all this steadfast love, all His goodness, "But but they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit."

Wow. It's unthinkable in the context of what we've just read. He saved them. And in His love and in His pity, He redeemed them. He lifted them up. He carried them all the days of old. Here is a God who's been attentive and kind and compassionate and tender. But they rebelled—His own children! His own people—they grieved His Holy Spirit.

That word grieved means "to pain, to afflict." They afflicted the very one who had entered into their afflictions and borne them as His own. Their behavior grieved the Spirit of God.

We're told as New Testament believers, this can happen to us. "Don't grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30).

This is astonishing. I mean, when you stop and think about it, it's hard to wrap your head around it. It makes no sense. And let me say that rebellion against God never does make sense. God was kind, good, tender, responsive to His people. And how did they respond? By taking up arms against the one who loved them most—not just once, but over and over and over again!

Some of you have experienced the pain of prodigal children. You know what it is when your children are ungrateful, when they're unmindful of all that you have done for them. You've loved them. You've poured yourself out for them. You've loved them, not perfectly, but earnestly. You've sacrificed for them. You've stayed up. You've held them during the long, late nights. You tended them when they were sick. You cleaned up their messes.

And then they grow up and rebel. They reject your authority. They break off the relationship. And what does it do to your heart? It breaks it. It grieves you. It afflicts you.

If that's true of frail, fallen, failing human parents, how much more must our heavenly Father feel this. "They grieve his Holy Spirit."

And so what happens? Continuing in verse 10: "Therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them."

They had turned first against Him, against their Father, against their Savior. They had resisted Him. And so now He turns against them and resists them. Scripture says that "God resists the proud." God stiff-arms the proud. He keeps them at a distance. "He draws near to the humble." He pours grace upon the humble. But those who stiffen themselves up against Him, He stiff-arms them. He keeps them at a distance.

Now, it's not that God changes (now He loves us/now He hates us), but from our perspective, having wandered into that far country, into rebellion, He appears to be different, as He deals with us in different ways. But all of it is an expression of His hesed, His covenant-keeping love, because when He resists us, when He sets Himself against us, when He fights against us as His children, it's not that final judgment. It's redemptive. It's discipline. It's chastening for the purpose of restoring us to a place of intimacy and right relationship with Him. He wants to bring us back into fellowship with Himself.

As when you discipline your children, it's not because you hate them. It's is an expression of your love because you want those children to be right with God and to be wise and godly and not to be foolish and not to make choices that are going to destroy their lives. Right? So you set out boundaries. You set up parameters, and you say, "No, you can't go out tonight. No, you can't have the keys to the car."

Now, you're going to do it imperfectly, but we have a Father who does this perfectly. He knows how to express His covenant-keeping love to us in every situation and circumstance.

So God fights against His people when they rebel against Him. And He had told them that this is what He would do if they refused to follow Him.

Leviticus 26: "If by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins."

It's the love of God that does this, bringing back His wayward children.

Lamentations 2, verse 5: "The Lord has become like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel; he has swallowed up all its palaces; he has laid in ruins its strongholds, and he has multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation."

A reference to the exile.

Listen, all those things that you hold precious, that you love, that you cherish, that you think are so beautiful and lovely, that attract you to this world and pull you away from God, God loves you enough that, if need be, He will swallow it all up, lay it all in ruins, and multiply mourning and lamentation in your life until you look up and say, "What have I done? Oh, God, be merciful to me. I want to come back."

God will lay things that you cherish in ruins if need be, not because He hates you, not because He's mean, but because of His hesed, His covenant-keeping love. He wants you back.

So what does this passage say to us today? Recount the steadfast love of the Lord toward you, His great goodness, His compassion. Think about how He saved you, His love and His pity, and how He has redeemed you, and carried you.

And as we think about that, surely you would think we would be grateful. We would adore Him. We would respond to Him. We would submit to Him. "But . . . they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit."

Could that be said of us? Could it be said of you? Could it be said of me?

If so, we will find ourselves at odds with God because "God resists the proud." But remember when He does, He's wanting to win and woo your heart back. He wants to restore. So keep recounting the steadfast love of the Lord, the pity of God, the mercy of God, the grace of God. Don't take it for granted. Thank Him for it. And then let the goodness of God bring you to repentance.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will be right back to pray with us.

She’s been showing us the gospel in the book of Isaiah. In these few chapters, we see a God who is faithful to His promises and always loves His children, no matter what we do. It’s truths like this one that remind us of our position in Christ and the freedom that comes from knowing Him.

Maybe you could use a break from your routine to spend some time focusing on ways the truth sets you free? You can do that by participating in True Woman ’18 LIVE in just a few weeks. The entire conference is based on the themes of Nancy’s updated and expanded book, Lies Women Believe: And the Truth That Sets Them Free. You’ll experience God’s truth through powerful, biblical messages from speakers such as Nancy, Mary Kassian, Jackie Hill Perry, and others. Keith and Kristyn Getty will be bringing us gospel-centered music alongside meaningful dramas presented by Acts of Renewal.

There's no charge to watch the entire conference. And this year the livestrea, will be hosted. That means you’ll have the opportunity to watch behind-the-scenes interviews with speakers and attendees in-between sessions. I hope you’ll set aside September 27–29 for some focused time of truth-seeking. To sign up for the livestream or to find more information, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

When you hear of tragedies like mass shootings and terrorist attacks, do you ever wonder, Where is God? Nancy will address that important question tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. Now she's back to pray.

Nancy: Oh Lord, how we bless You for Your steadfast, amazing love. Thank You for Your covenant-keeping love, that You don't forsake us. You won't leave us. You won't ultimately judge us. But You will touch things that are more precious to us than You so that we can come to the point where we love nothing and no one more than You, where there are no more idols in our hearts.

We esteem You. We exalt You. We separate You. We set You apart as God in our hearts, and we return to that place of intimate fellowship and communion with our heavenly Father.

So do that work in our hearts this day, and in the hearts of Your people, we pray, for Jesus' sake, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is proclaiming the covenant-keeping love of God. It is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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