Thus says your Lord, The Lord and your God, Who pleads the cause of His people: “See, I have taken out of your hand the cup of trembling, the dregs of the cup of My fury; you shall no longer drink it. But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you, Isaiah 51: 22-23
I love the Old Testament. Far too many churches these days ignore the richness of the Old Testament and only focus on the New. Or they only concentrate on those stories that are really cool, or those stories that show God in a favorable light, like the parting of the Red Sea, Joshua and the fall of Jericho, Daniel in the Lion's Den, etc.. I've heard many people say that the God of the Old Testament seems like a real gruff meany compared to Jesus in the New. But we are told God never changes, so how can that be?
The Bible is one of those books that you can't just take a verse out here and a verse out there and hope to understand it. (Or the God who wrote it) That's why so many Christians who only hear one sermon a week and who never crack their Bible, never really learn to know God. Yes, some of the Old Testament is very hard to swallow. Stories where God opens up the earth and swallows up thousands of people, or where He wipes out thousands with a plague or where He orders an entire family killed for the father's sins. These stories tend to scare us into picturing God as a bully in the sky and if don't behave, He'll zap us. Nothing could be further from the truth!
I've read the entire Old Testament probably close to 20 or so times now. And you know what I hear in it's pages, through it's stories? I hear the groaning and pleading of the broken heart of a Father who loves His wayward children so much, He would do anything to save them. Time and time again, God extends His hand of love and blessing to His children, and time and time again, they reject Him and go their own way. It would be like you as a parent telling your kids to stay away from drugs or driving while drinking because you know they will get hurt, but they snub their noses at you and don't listen and run off and do drugs and end up sick and miserable. So, you do what any parent would do, you punish, you restrict, you try everything to get their attention and get them back on the right track.
When the Israelites would rebel against God, He would wait years.. hundreds of years sometimes, trying to plead with them to come back to Him. His patience and love are astounding!! Then finally, He had to punish them. There was no other way to get their attention, so He would allow some other nation to come conquer them and take them captive. But like any punishment, it wouldn't last forever. God ALWAYS redeems His people. Verse after verse and chapter after chapter in the Old Testament show God's comfort and mercy and His promises to save and restore His people.
So, why do I tell you this? Because God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He deals with us the same way. When we rebel against Him, He punishes us. But it is only for a time. When that season is over, if we have learned, He restores us. Let me get personal here. I spent 35 years rebelling against God. The consequences I suffered for that are still on going. I face my own captivity every single day. I suffer from it every single day. And I deserve it and much worse. But in my quiet time with God lately, I heard Him distinctly say that the time of my captivity is coming to a close. Then the next day I came across the verse listed above, which only confirmed what I'd already heard. Maybe you are still suffering the consequences of your rebellion. Maybe you've resigned yourself to it (A bad marriage, wayward kids, health problems, money problems) Maybe you think you deserve it and more. But you love God. You've learned your lesson and you're growing closer to Him.
God is saying to you. There is an end to your captivity. Just like with the Israelites, He will not leave you in Babylon forever.
For you shall go out from the spiritual exile caused by sin and evil into the homeland with
joy and be led forth by your Leader, the Lord Himself, and His word
with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you
into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12