The kidnapper in Cleveland and the bomber brothers in Boston raise an important question: Could they ever be forgiven by God? How about you? We have been hammering away at the meaning of Isaiah 57:15, about how the Creator of the Universe, Almighty God, Who lives beyond the dimensions of time and space, said He would live in the soul of the lowly and contrite. If you are just joining us, go to the page listed in the menu above where the posts are listed in order. But how about it: if the surviving bomber or the kidnapper truly became contrite and lowly, would either of them qualify? Read what God said next in Isaiah:
I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me— the breath of man that I have created. I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him. (Isaiah 57:16-18)
God says He sees. He knows. But He is also ready to forgive. To forgive but, even better, to restore and heal, to guide and comfort. Who? The lowly and contrite, the person who wakes up to the reality of Who God truly is, and by contrast, how sinful and unable to stop screwing up we humans are. Ever watch those shows on cable where they restore old antiques? Amazing! Ever cut yourself badly and eventually see that it has been healed? Imagine having the wounds of your soul healed. Ever try to fix your computer and make it worse? And yearn for someone who really knows to come and guide you – and restore comfort to your tangled emotions? Read through that chunk of Isaiah again and consider those promises.
BUT, BUT, BUT!!! If the bomber and the kidnapper get off, it just wouldn’t be right – right?
Yes, insofar as justice is concerned. And justice matters to God (remember: He is perfect!). So which matters more to God – justice or forgiveness? That question sets up a riddle about the character of God. Here’s how God presented the riddle to Moses:
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished… (Exodus 34:6-7a)
God is forgiving of wickedness, rebellion and sin but insists that the guilty be punished. Hmmm… How can that be? I will forgive you, but first I have to kill you? That riddle is solved, later in the Bible. God gave a big hint to Isaiah. He gave the Solution, 700 years after that. Chew on that, and stay tuned…