The people of Israel in the Old Testament don’t know about Jesus.
They don’t know God as a Father who would give His son for them. They don’t have that wide a window into his heart.
What they know is the God of fire. They know His law, His temple, and the smell of sacrifice blood. They know He has chosen them and made them what they are: a strong tree planted deeply in the land He took from other nations to give to them – the Promised Land.
In many ways the Land is their Heaven: proof of God’s favour and His ultimate reward.
So when Assyria crashes over them and brutally uproots the northern tribes of Israel; it leaves Judah, in the south, broken and dazed. What can it mean?
Only that God has abandoned them.
Now nothing is certain but fear. Is God still with them? Is He still for them? Are they safe?
Into this God speaks:
I am sending Assyria against a godless nation (Israel), against a people with whom I am angry. (v 6).
Oh. God is mad at them. That’s why this is happening.
Doesn’t that make it worse?
When bad things happen to me, if I think I’m being punished, it magnifies the awfulness. If I’m being punished I can’t be comforted or helped, because the very God who gives comfort and help is angry at me. It’s worse than being alone.
Too often when I’m in trouble I try to figure out whether it’s my fault because I think that will determine how much help I can expect from God.
But that kind of thinking is dead wrong.
Listen to what He says to Judah here:
O my people in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they oppress you with rod and club… (v. 24)
Why not? The Assyrians are brutal, and God is mad. Why shouldn’t they be afraid?
In a little while my anger against you will end, and then my anger will rise up to destroy them. (v. 25)
And that’s not all. In the next chapter, He gives them sparkling promises of a bright, bright future.
He still wants to bless them.
His anger isn’t like ours. It doesn’t linger. What He really wants is to be able to bless us, and everything He does is to that end. If our sin gets in the way, He will sometimes take drastic measures to show it to us so that we can deal with it. We feel those measures as punishment, but I think they are invitations.
He invites us to admit our wrong; to stop pretending, even to ourselves, that we have nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. He invites us to uncover our festering sin and let Him wash us in His healing forgiveness.
Yes, trouble comes and sometimes it’s our fault.
So we need God’s grace, just like always.
And just like always, it’s here.