Reading Psalm 106 last night, basically a grocery list of Israel’s sins against God. At every turn, we see Israel forgetting about the good stuff God’s done for them, sometimes just days after witnessing a miraculous act like the Red Sea crossing or God’s cloudy presence and fear-inducing voice descending on a mountain. The psalmist seems baffled by their contined disobedience and ignorance.
But that’s not all he’s baffled by. Check out verses 44-46:
Still, when God saw the trouble they were in
and heard their cries for help,
He remembered his Covenant with them,
and, immense with love, took them by the hand.
He poured out his mercy on them
while their captors looked on, amazed.
After 43 verses describing the abominable behavior of Israel, the speaker says, “Still.” Still. Even after all of this. Even after turning away for the hundredth time, God still hears their cries for help. He pours out His mercy, mercy that flows from a heart “immense with love.”
This kind of love is baffling to me, just like it was baffling to the psalmist and even to Israel’s captors, the nations of Assyria and Babylon and Persia. How, after being neglected over and over again, can God still offer mercy? Is it possible after that much poor treatment for God to still love His people? Evidently.
For me, that moment when God takes “them by the hand,” is almost too much. It makes me uncomfortable and embarrassed—for God. I want say, “Don’t you know, God? Don’t you see that she’s just going to do it again? Leave You? Mock You? Humiliate You?” It’s like watching a friend in a broken relationship, knowing that every time she forgives just enables another indiscretion.
But God does know, and He doesn’t care. No amount of forgetting or disobedience can get in the way of His love. Every time Israel calls out to God He saves them.
I don’t love like that. In fact, the wisdom of the world says love like that is blind and ignorant. But we know what God says about the world’s wisdom…
Sometimes I find myself in Israel’s shoes, asking once again for God to pull me out of the pit I’ve fallen into. Other times, I find myself in God’s shoes, wronged for the umpteenth time. When I’m Israel, I think unfailing love is a great idea. When I’m in God’s spot, not so much. But when I offer it, when I conquer all those feelings of justice and anger and resentment, I feel like I’ve done something big, something very right.
Loving when it’s hard to love makes me more like God, because of all the ways God differs from man, I wonder if this isn’t the biggest. Men like retribution, punishment, and justice. We want what we deserve, and we give what others deserve. But not God, and not me if I want to look like Him.