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Isaiah 63:10-14 - Homilies By W. Clarkson

How God feels and why he acts.

The revolt or disobedience of Israel is said to have "vexed [grieved] his Holy Spirit." We learn from this and from a similar expression in Ephesians 4:30

I. THE GRIEF TO WHICH GOD IS SUBJECT . Men have argued thus. God is a blessed or happy Being; he is infinite in all his attributes; therefore he is infinitely, perfectly happy; therefore there is no possibility of sorrow in his Divine nature. But such reasoning is very precarious and unreliable. We can argue little from infinity of which we know nothing, and we must not think of weighing any inference thus obtained against plain statements of Scripture. We are there assured that God is capable of grief, and we must believe that he is, our logical conclusions notwithstanding. And, looking from another point of view, we might well conclude that he is and must be so. For is he not a Divine Father? And has he not undutiful, rebellious children? How, then, could he fail to be grieved at heart? The fact of God's fatherhood is the most certain of all truths established by Divine revelation; no ground is more solid than that. Our human fatherhood is indicative of the Divine; it is the reflection of it; it is immeasurably less than it; its best, its tenderest, its most holy and generous feelings, are hints and shadows of corresponding feelings in the heart of the heavenly Father. If, then, in our thought, we purify, magnify, multiply that parental grief which father feels when his children go astray, we understand something of the grief of God.

1 . Our Divine Father has expended on us boundless thought, affection, treasure, training, patience—a "multitude of loving-kindnesses." He has "given himself for us" in one supreme act of self-sacrificing love.

2 . He looks for filial response from us, for eager attention to his voice when he speaks; for the acceptance of his pardoning love, for daily remembrance of him and communion with him; for cheerful obedience to his holy will.

3 . He too often finds stubborn and protracted inattention, persistent refusal of his overtures of mercy, forgetfulness and neglect, a painful disregard of his will in our relations with one another—disobedience.

4 . Then his heart is grieved. He who should be satisfied with us ( Isaiah 53:11 ) is disappointed in us; looking for fruit, he finds none; his Holy Spirit is vexed, is grieved, in a way and in a degree beyond our human understanding, with a grief which is Divine.

II. THE ACTION WHICH HE TAKES . "Therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them." God's attitude towards his people, consequent on their guilt, seemed that of an enemy. He was as one who strove with them; he sent them discomfiture, calamity, exile. God may seem to be our enemy, to contend with us. He may send us:

1 . Unhappiness of heart, a sense of the insufficiency and uselessness of our life, dreariness and despondency of spirit.

2 . Failure of our temporal plans and schemes, and sense of miserable defeat.

3 . Bereavement.

4 . A wounded heart through the inconstancy or the unfaithfulness of a friend; or some other blow which bends and threatens to break our spirit. God is against us, we feel.

III. THE END HE HAS IN VIEW . However we read Ephesians 4:11 , it is clear that the purpose of God in thus striving with his people was restorative. He meant to give them rest, thus filling their hearts with joy and "making to himself a glorious Name." This is the meaning of all his adverse action toward us. He seeks our restoration to himself and to his service. There are with us, as with Israel, two strong securities.

1 . His past loving-kindnesses. He who had bound his people to his heart as the God of Israel had done ( Ephesians 4:11-14 ) could not and would not desert them in their distress.

2 . The honour of his holy Name. God is establishing a kingdom of peace and righteousness, and he wants us as his loyal citizens. This is the meaning of all we are enduring. It is a summons from God to return to ourselves, to enter on our true heritage, to have fellowship with him.—C.

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