Our Compassionate Judge

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 24:1-6; Jeremiah 48; 49:1-33; 22:18-23

Do you feel like you could never earn God's love? Do you expect only judgment from his hand? With every bad thing that happens, does the voice of self-loathing tell you, "You deserve worse than that. God knows how rotten you really are. He must shake his head in disgust and disappointment at the thought of you"? Remember: God is rich in mercy and abounding in love. He has compassion for the afflicted. His unlimited grace is poured out "abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus," flowing freely to even the "worst of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:14-16).

No one was more undeserving than the enemies of Israel. If anyone should fear God's wrath, it was the nations who had so grievously afflicted his people. In reading the book of Jeremiah, we hear God's pronouncement of judgment on them as he describes how they will be broken and disgraced. They have ridiculed God's people; now they will be an object of ridicule. They have arrogantly defied the Lord; now their pride will be smashed to pieces. Their time of mourning has come. "Weep and wail.... you will fall and be shattered like fine pottery" (Jer. 25:34).

Yet, mixed within God's harsh words of judgment are tender words of compassion. He expresses empathy for these wretchedly wicked people, even though they have done absolutely nothing to deserve it. God takes no pleasure in destruction, but weeps over lives shattered by sin. Though he must break their hardened hearts "like a jar that no one wants" (48:38), God's own heart breaks with theirs. "Therefore I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out, I moan for the men of Kir Hareseth. I weep for you.... My heart laments for Moab like a flute" (48:31-32,36). Lest Moab's neighbors gloat over her demise, God encourages them to weep too. "Mourn for her, all who live around her, all who know her fame.... Wail and cry out" (48:17,20).

The song of God's lament for Moab will not resonate forever. The "year of her punishment" (48:44) will come to an end. Even before it starts, God plants a vision of restoration (48:47; 49:6). Though the nations will mourn substantial losses, those who survive will be able to rebuild.

God's wrath is the storm-front of his mercy. "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives...? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18). God seeks to shatter the hard shell of our unrepentant hearts so his love and mercy can flow into every dry corner of our lives, cleansing and healing our deepest wounds.

When we mourn, God mourns with us. Even when our tears are the result of his wrath against our own persistent rebellion, he shares in our pain. He wants to pick up the shattered pieces and put our lives back together, as only he can do. "Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds" (Hosea 6:1). "For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Ps. 30:5).