Today is a cloudy, damp, rainy day. I was alone at Matins this morning. I prefer when some members show up and I am blessed to have a couple members who join me for Matins most mornings. However, this morning I was alone in the church praying Matins as I listened to the rain fall on the roof of the church. It was lovely in a way. I did my best to chant (no one was there!). And then I sat down to read the Old Testament reading for today from the Treasury of Daily Prayer - Judges 2:6-23. I was struck by God's patience and grace.Over and over Israel turns from God to idols. Over and over Israel forgets God. Over and over they treat God like garbage. And yet God continues to reach out to them. I even marvelled at how God grew angry for their sin and stubbornness. After a while you would think God would just give up on them - turn His back on them and not give them another thought. I mean, after a while, wouldn't you just give up and stop caring? Not God. He keeps reaching out to Israel. He still cares enough for them to have His anger kindled when they wander.
Perhaps it may seem strange to see grace in God's anger over Israel's unfaithfulness. However, as I was reading the text this morning it just kept striking me - why would God care anymore after all the times Israel wandered from Him. I mean, how much can He take? Why would He keep coming back to Israel only to have them thumb their noses at Him time and time again? The fact that He did not completely abandon them and still cared enough to get angry with them is a sign that He still cared and loved them. Despite their unfaithfulness He was faithful. They were His people - the apple of His eye and amazingly no matter what they did this remained true. His anger was kindled by their sin - but wouldn't indifference be much worse? Wouldn't simply no longer caring enough to grow angry be worse? God's indifference would be terrible. Perhaps that is what Hell is? Perhaps that is what Jesus suffered on the cross when He cried out "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?"
The grace of God is greater than we can fathom. His grace seems wasteful to us at times. I suppose that is why I was marvelling this morning. If it were me I would have left the Israelites to suffer on their own and eventually would have grown cold to them - not even caring enough to get angry.
The way we see God acting toward Israel is the way He acts toward us today in Jesus Christ. My constant wandering in my life as saint and sinner is the same way the Israelites wandered to idols. We need to be constantly called back through repentance. Luther was right of course - the life of the Christian is one of repentance. As a poor miserable sinner it gives me great comfort to see how God did not forsake His people throughout the Old Testament. I can trust that for the sake of Jesus He will not forsake me either!