Isaiah 30:18. Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are those who wait for him.
Have you ever noticed how often art shows God the Father sitting down? It’s no wonder, since scripture so often mentions God on his throne. Besides, deep thinking, observing, making hard choices - are all often done while still and seated, and this matches with our ideas of what God does. Maybe because we’re always more focused on what we lack or on what could be better, we sense deep down that God is passive, that he sits back to watch and judge. Scripture, however, also speaks of God in action, especially this verse from Isaiah.
If we stick with the mental image of God as a judge, we see someone rising from the seat of authority to show us compassion. This is the opposite of what we expect because when a judge enters a courtroom, we stand up to show our respect and honor. But can you imagine a courtroom judge rising to get you a kleenex or a pen? Now imagine God rising from his throne to intervene for you, because showing compassion means meeting a need, and meeting a need means serving.
Jesus, in his new-wine-in-a-new-wine-skin way, follows the pattern of his father. Jesus rises to calm the storm in response to the panicked cries of his disciples (Mark 4:35–41). He rises at just the right time to show compassion toward Mary and Martha, trekking back to Bethany to bring Lazarus to life (John 11:4-7). Later, we see Jesus rising from dinner to wash his disciples' feet (John 13:4-5). And then there is the greatest show of compassion of all, Jesus allowing himself to be lifted up - raised - on a cross. So that we have a way out of ourselves and our sin. Jesus comes to our defense by not coming to his own. He rises on a cross to take away the sins of the world. But that’s not the end. Isaiah says that God longs to be gracious. He craves being generous and merciful and over the top for us. In his great compassion for humanity, God illustrates for us that death isn’t the boss of us and Jesus, then, rises from death.
While our world’s events this Easter season are unusual, we can’t lose sight of the unusual events of that first Easter. Those first events could only have been orchestrated by God. A God who longs to be gracious to us, who rises to show us compassion. He is active, not passive. Be on the lookout for God’s compassion today and in the days ahead.