“Then my favour will shine on you like the morning sun, and your wounds will be quickly healed”.
Isa 58:8 GNB
For many religious people, including many Christian believers, their faith is a strange mixture of experiencing God’s favour and struggling to know where God is and what he is doing. It is not an uninterrupted consciousness of divine presence or love. It is, for these people, a frustrating tussle between “knowing God” and struggling to know him.
There were many such people in the Old Testament. Having lost the battle for Jerusalem years before, most of the Israelite exiles in Babylon felt deeply as if God had abandoned them. Coming back “home” signified that God was busy with them again and was willing to heal and bless them. But they must not think that they could manipulate him into doing their bidding by observing some empty religious ritual. They must abound in compassion, with or without the religious observances they had been using (it was “fasting”). Here was hope for the returnees and for those who had never been exiled. Here was God promising to show his love and his compassion. It would be strong, definite and beautiful.
We know from the teaching of the New Testament that we can’t get God’s favour by doing this or that. We can’t earn it. We have to accept that God’s love is extended to us all the time through Jesus Christ. We have to believe he loves us, even when we have sinned, and he forgives and blesses us. Salvation is by grace, not by works – even works of compassion. But having exercised faith in his grace we then are bound to radiate the love he shows us to other people.
Lord, thank you for your grace. Show me how to pass it on.