THE LOVE AND FORGIVENESS OF GOD
God never turns away from men. Look at Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. “Oh, how can I give you up?” And again on the cross He is still forgiving them even though they are trying to kill Him. But they could not kill God. No. He gave up His own life for them. “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” John 2:19; 10:17,18.
After the resurrection did Jesus write Annas and Caiaphas and all the Jews off His love list? No, He didn’t. Neither did He appear before them in the privacy of their homes to accuse and condemn them for their murderous deed. He respected their choice and continued to treat them with the same dignity and courtesy that He had always showed them, for He loved them still. Christ never changes. He is the fullness of the Godhead, “For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily….” Colossians 2:9. Therefore, we can confidently declare, with theological accuracy, that God the Father never changes either. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6; Psalms 89:34.
Now, since we know that Jesus is God and that He never changes, and since Jesus is the fullest revelation of what God is really like (He that hath seen me hath seen the Father, He said in John 14:9), we know that God does not kill people. But He, in most cases, is forced to allow death to occur because He cannot interfere with man’s free choice. For proof I offer this text: “Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy one of Israel.” This is from the Hebrew word “tavah.” According to Strong’s Concordance 8428, this is the only place the word “limit” is used in the entire Old Testament, which is amazing. It means “to grieve:-limit (by confusion).” God’s willingness to forgive in the Old Testament is just as great as it is in the New Testament. But unless we come to Him He cannot forgive us. We will deal with the concept of “Free Choice” later on in this book in regard to God’s “Ultimate Plan of the Ages” for man and angels.
SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN = 490
Now, beloved, let us notice the parallel between the Christ of the Old Testament and the Christ of the New Testament. “Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Til seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22.
Is the God of the Old Testament like that? Yes, He is, for the God of the Old Testament is the same Jesus Christ who was speaking to Peter. Notice how He operated in the Old Testament. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins … and to anoint the most holy.” Daniel 9:24.
This is a very familiar prophecy to those who believe in the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14:6-12. Jesus Christ of the Old Testament was continually saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I looked up the meaning of the original Greek in my “Novum Testamentun Graece” by Nestle, and discovered that the Greek reads, “O DE JESOUS ELEGEN, PATER, APHES AUTOIS OU GAR OIDASIN TI POIOUSIN.”
The tense of the verb “elegen,” which is from the root word, “lego,” meaning,”to say,” and the verb here is in the third person singular, imperfect active, and should be translated as an act that Christ “was doing,” and therefore should be rendered something like, “Jesus was saying,” or “Jesus kept on saying,” or “Jesus was continually saying, FATHER, KEEP ON FORGIVING THEM; FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO (are doing).” That, to my mind, is very powerful. He kept on forgiving them, for they kept on hurting Him. Phillips translated Luke 23:34, “But Jesus himself was saying, ‘Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’”
But Israel of old crucified their Messiah over and over again by their “unbelief.” Hebrews 3:19. They killed the prophets and broke down God’s altars over and over again. Yet, He kept on forgiving them all through the centuries. The infinite love of God is something we have not understood in the Old Testament, but it is there. Our eyes have been blinded. Even Elijah gave up on them. He couldn’t see any sense in putting up with their rebellion any more and testified against Israel. In Romans 11:1-4, Paul spoke of the incident. Elijah was criticizing Israel, and the Jesus of the Old Testament was standing up for them. This was the occasion when the Lord told Elijah that He had “reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.” We will deal with this in more depth in Chapter 18.
THE BLOOD OF JESUS
Now let us look at a very interesting passage from Isaiah which will give us tremendous insight into the Christ of the Old Testament. “Who is this who comes from Edom (Edom is Esau, and Esau in Hebrew means “red.” Isa 63:1. Compare Obadiah 1:18) “from the city of Bozrah, with his magnificent garments of crimson?” Who is this in kingly robes, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, the Lord, announcing your salvation; I, the Lord, the one who is mighty to save. “Why are your clothes so red, as from treading out the grapes?” Isaiah 63:1,2. Living Bible.
Christ sweat blood in Gethsemane, Luke 22:44 (also see Hebrews 12:4) and was horribly bloodied from Pilate’s soldiers and the scourging. “I have trodden the wine press alone. No one was there to help me. In my wrath (Psalms 5:10; 78:49 explains His wrath) I have trodden my enemies like grapes.” Isaiah 63:3 Living Bible.
What actually destroyed the Jewish nation? Was it not God’s goodness which they despised? And His righteousness and holiness which they rejected? This was the Rock which finally crushed them in their own conscience and mind. Luke 20:18; Matthew 21:41. “In my fury I trampled my foes. It is their blood you see upon my clothes.” Isaiah 63:3. Here Jesus takes the blame for the death of the wicked. He pictures Himself as responsible for their destruction. In essence He is saying, “I have killed you with my love. I loved you so much, and it made you so angry, you have bloodied yourselves and each other to try to hurt Me more. I am so sorry; I loved you so much. It is all my fault that you feel so guilty you are killing yourselves.”
Now the prophet continues. “For the time has come for me to avenge (justify or vindicate) my people, to redeem them from the hands of the oppressors. I looked but no one came to help them; I was amazed and appalled. So I executed vengeance (carried out his decision to save His people by dying for them) alone; unaided, I meted out judgment (decision to die for them). “I crushed the heathen nations in my anger (let them go their way) and made them stagger and fall to the ground.” Isaiah 63:4-6 Living Bible.
Compare this text with Psalms 9:3: “When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.” See also John 18:6, when the mob fell backward to the ground at the time they are about to arrest Christ in the garden. This was no doubt because of the glory of the angel which had ministered to Him during His agony when He even sweat blood. Luke 22:43, 44.
This is what Isaiah was predicting that Christ would do. He would tread the winepress alone making grape juice (doctrines or truth) for mankind. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, pictures Himself as causing the death of those who reject Him. They “drink” the truth and it kills them. They stagger and fall. The blood He shed for them was rejected, and the blood of guilt killed them.
“For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.” Obadiah 15,16.
To those who love the Lord, He is a savor of life unto life, but to those who reject Jesus, to them He is a savor of death unto death. See 2 Corinthians 2:15,16. The same truth that gives life to the righteous, brings death to the wicked. They die like King Saul (1 Chron. 10:4, 5, 13, 14) and Judas Iscariot (Matt. 27:5) or like Hophni and Phinehas. 1 Samuel 4:10, 11.
GOD’S LOVING KINDNESS
“I will tell you of the loving-kindness of God. I will praise him for all he has done; I will rejoice in his great goodness to Israel, which he has granted in accordance with his mercy and love. He said, ‘they are my very own; surely they will not be false again.’ And he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and he personally saved them. In his love and pity he redeemed them and lifted them up and carried them through all the years.” Isaiah 63:7-9 Living Bible.
In view of this loving endearment, picture in your mind the tender Savior carrying a little lamb such as we find portrayed in Clyde Provonsha’s painting, “The Rejoicing Shepherd” and in many other such pastoral scenes portraying the kindness of our Blessed Redeemer.
But the next verse jolts and shocks us with a different image. It is a picture of an angry God who is fighting and killing His people. Listen: “But, they rebelled against him and grieved his Holy Spirit. That is why he became their enemy and personally fought against them.” Isaiah 63:10 Living Bible.
This text need not be a problem if we keep in mind the principle we are working from and remember the true character of God, which is evident throughout the great body of Scripture.
God is here again, saying, “Because I let your foreign enemies, disease, famine, weather aberrations, such as earthquakes, drought, and pestilence destroy you, I have personally permitted these things to come upon you. I control all things, for I am God. Worship me only, for I alone have the power to bless you or to curse you (by permitting evil to come when you chose to go your own way).”
HOW GOD USES ADVERSITY
Next we see how the Jesus of the Old Testament brings good out of evil and makes all things “work together for good,” Romans 8:28, which is a New Testament concept; but if God never changes, this concept was true in the Old Testament too.
In Isaiah 63:11-14, the prophet shows how adversity turns Israel back to God. They cry out to Him for deliverance from the oppressor (Satan). In our manner of speaking today it is as if they were saying: “O Lord, look down from heaven and see us from your holy glorious home; where is the love for us you used to show, your power, your mercy and your compassion? Where are they now? Surely you are still our Father! Even if Abraham and Jacob would disown us, still you would be our Father, our Redeemer from ages past. O Lord, why have you hardened our hearts and made us sin and turn against you?”
So, true to form, Israel again blames God for all their own failures. But Jesus willingly takes the blame as He did in Pharaoh’s day when He said He would “harden” Pharaoh’s heart. The prophet continues on in this dialogue between the Divine Shepherd and His wandering sheep. The people are speaking now.
“Return and help us, for we who belong to you need you so. How briefly we possessed Jerusalem! And now our enemies have destroyed her. O God, why do you treat us as though we weren’t your people, as though we were a heathen nation that never called you Lord.” Isaiah 63:17-19. LB.
These verses show us how God brings us back to Himself, to His waiting arms of love, by permitting disaster to overtake us, but never greater than we can stand (See 1 Corinthians 10:13).
He always remains our Sovereign and Omnipotent King and Savior by assuming the role of oppressor and destroyer, (Isaiah 14:14; Psalms 35:5,6) and thereby taking the blame, so Satan will not receive any credit and thus have no grounds whatsoever to claim worship. All through these calamities, Satan brings upon us, Christ controls the situation so as to always direct our attention to Him for deliverance. He keeps our affections (our hearts and minds) focused upon Himself by saying, “I am doing this, my child, so look to Me for deliverance. I only am God. I only am able to deliver you and save you. Worship me and all will turn out right in the end.” *
Satan is thus defeated in getting any attention or credit. Our whole attention is centered upon Christ. This was how He revealed Himself to ancient Israel. “I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7.
This was how God operated in the Old Testament. This was all they had to go on. But, today we have the New Testament record of what God is really like, and we have no excuse for not understanding the true character of God. In the face of Jesus Christ we see the eternal truth about God, which was obscured for 4,000 years. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Hebrews 2:3.
*This is a classic example of how the Hebrew writers always placed the blame on God for both good and evil. Acts 10:38 tells us Jesus did only good and Psalm 5:4 declares that evil does not dwell with God. 3 John 11 tells us that “he who does evil has not seen God.” James 1:13 says that God cannot even be tempted by evil and Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” Luke 11:4. God does not cause or bring evil but He does control it and uses it by turning bad or evil things into good in the long run. For example, He uses the evil Satan and men do to each other or themselves to teach them lessons and discipline them. We all can learn from our mistakes.
Paul says, “All things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28.