“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near” says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” – Isaiah 57:18-19
I have a friend who is a doctor, and he is a good one too. In fact, if he lived anywhere near Baton Rouge he would be my doctor. Several years ago, he was in medical school while I was in seminary, and we visited often. He told me about the many different “rotations” that he had to go through as a medical student, which is a process the med schools use to expand each students’ knowledge of the many different areas and concentrations of medicine. My friend had just finished his emergency medicine rotation, and he was sharing with me some of the more “interesting” stories of the ER patients. Some of them were just awful and tragic, while others were humorous. (For the record, ER doctors see a wide variety of people and hear many “tales” of how those patients ended up in the emergency room.)
My friend, being the pragmatist that he’s always been, said to me “You know that when you become a doctor, you take the Hippocratic Oath to do everything within your ability to help a patient in need, regardless of how they came to need that care. But to be honest with you Oren, sometimes I don’t “want” to help them. They did something really stupid (jumping off the roof) or careless (drunk driving) or ignorant (frying a frozen turkey) and their suffering is their own fault. I will help them, but sometimes it’s really hard.” I think we can all relate to that sentiment in some ways, can’t we?
Just to remind you all how God does have a sense of humor, my friend wanted to be a family doctor, but is now head of an entire Emergency room staff. But to the point of his comment to me about not wanting to help people who have done so much to cause themselves harm, I think we can all understand that feeling. It falls under the “get what you deserve” kind of thinking, where people should have to suffer the consequences of their actions. We have all at times seen “that news story”, when a murderer on a rampage is shot and wounded by law enforcement and emergency doctors are expected to do everything in their power to keep him alive. We say to ourselves “This shouldn’t be! He should have to die for all of his murderous ways. He deserves death, he deserves punishment, and he deserves to suffer for his foolishness and carelessness.” I know I’ve thought that way many times before, as have most of us. But. . .
When it comes to our own lives and our redemption as broken people, we must recognize one very important reality: We are the foolish, careless, reckless madman in our relationship to God. Our “ways” have been outright rebellious, and any punishment is well deserved. As Isaiah writes in 57:18, the Lord has seen the ways of the rebellious man, and yet he will heal him. The people of God (Israel) had become idolatrous and disobedient, yet God promised to lead and restore comfort to those who have suffered shame, guilt, and overwhelming burden of sin. God has seen your ways and my ways, all the way down to the depths of our hearts, and he says “come to me and I will heal you! Trust me and I will give you peace. I will not turn you away because of your past mistakes and sinful actions. Look to me and be forgiven and healed.” God mercifully promises to change our words from hate to love and from disdain to glorious praises (Psalm 40:3). God promises and gives abundant and fulfilling peace in Christ Jesus (John 14:27, 16:33). God heals the brokenness of our hearts, and of our world (Isaiah 53:5). Hallelujah! Almighty God has seen our wicked ways and yet is gracious, patient, and merciful and does not ignore us in our state of death and suffering (1 Timothy 1:15-16)! He intends to heal us and make us whole. As one songwriter puts it ‘Lord you know the hearts of man and yet you let him live.” Why does God treat us with such grace when we deserve none of it?
God’s intent to graciously redeem his people is for the purpose of making us true worshipers (John 4:23-24). Our worship of God flows from hearts that have been mended by his grace, and lives that have been healed by his mercy, and souls that have been satisfied by his love, and minds that have understood true peace. Whoever you are, far or near, God extends comfort and peace through Jesus Christ to you, just as you are. The cross on which Jesus hung is the revelation of love and mercy from God to us, as Jesus endured the shame and punishment of our sins so that we might live in freedom and peace.
In a few short weeks, our FBC family, along with countless other Christian churches will commemorate and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is a glorious and beautiful revelation of God’s plan to bring peace to his people. As we journey toward the cross this Easter season, I challenge you to take time to consider your own ways, which have been neglectful and prideful and self-serving, and look to Jesus to restore your soul. Your salvation is secured forever in Christ, and your joy is an everlasting one (John 16:22). Will you join with Christian believers near and far this Easter season as we joyfully celebrate the death of Christ that gives us healing and His resurrected life that gives us peace?