The Lord of Grace, Mercy, and Justice

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.”

- Isaiah 30:18

Paul says in Galatians 5:22 that one fruit of the Spirit is patience. This is no surprise, for Scripture contains many exhortations to wait on the Lord (Ps. 27:14; Hab. 2:3; 1 Thess. 1:9–10). At the same time, however, we must admit that patience ranks among the most difficult fruits of the Spirit for us to cultivate. Our timing is rarely God’s timing, and we often think He has forgotten us when He does not act according to our schedule.

When the Lord seems slow to act, we rarely ask whether He is actually waiting for us to seek Him truly, dependent on His grace, before He moves in power. Yet as Isaiah 30:18 teaches, we should ask whether God’s apparent inaction is due to His waiting for us. The background to this verse is Isaiah’s warning to the people of his day not to trust in Egypt (vv. 1–7). As Assyria moved ever closer to Jerusalem, it became clear that many in Judah’s leadership lacked faith. Fearing that God would not keep His promises, these leaders took matters into their own hands, turning to the pharaoh and his army for assistance (2 Kings 18:1–21). But what Judah’s leaders did not realize was that in turning to Egypt, they were delaying the Lord’s intervention, not hurrying it.

Today’s passage illustrates the folly of not trusting in the Creator for deliverance but seeking earthly saviors instead. When God’s people do not lean wholly on Him, He often purposes to hold off on delivering them. The Lord will not save an impenitent people, so if He has chosen to save a certain group, He will not bring them into salvation until they acknowledge and forsake their sin, turning to Him for forgiveness. What seems to be God’s delay is actually His patience toward us, for He is not willing that any of His elect should perish (2 Peter 3:9). The Lord will wait to deliver His people for as long as it takes for them to realize their complete dependence on Him and their need to forsake all idols. He waits to be gracious, He waits to show mercy, until we reject self-reliance and believe that He alone can redeem us (Isa. 30:18a; Gal. 2:15–16).

When we “wait for Him”—when we persevere in faith, refusing to trust other wouldbe “saviors”—we can rightly expect great blessing. This is because “the LORD is a God of justice” and must therefore keep all His promises (Isa. 30:18). But our Creator will not rescue us as long as we do not forsake our sin, just as He did not rescue Hezekiah and Judah from Assyria until they returned to Him (2 Kings 18:13–19:37).

Coram Deo

God must give us new hearts if we are to repent (Eph. 2:8–10). But once these hearts are ours, we must turn to Him for salvation both from His wrath and our enemies. He will deliver us if we patiently trust in Him. John Calvin writes that those “who allow themselves to be hurried away by impatience, and do not repent of their crimes and their wickedness, are wretched and miserable, and will at length perish; for without hope in God there can be no salvation or happiness.”

Passages for Further Study

Micah 7:7
Zephaniah 3:8
Hebrews 9:27–28
Jude 1:21

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