It Seems to Me - God's Strange Work PDF  ICON_SEP Print ICON_SEP  E-mail
Written by Pastor Steve Ellison   

God granted an extremely rare privilege to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7, “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” (NASU) God’s first inclination is always toward mercy (not giving us punishment deserved) and grace (giving us blessing that is undeserved).  However, as this passage indicates, punishment will eventually come to the guilty (unless reconciliation is sought through Jesus). Lamentations 3:22-23 and 33 shed more light, “The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; For He does not afflict willingly Or grieve the sons of men.” (NASU)  The NASU footnotes “willingly” this way: “literally ‘from His heart’”.  Clearly God’s character and nature include both grace and judgment as well as holy love and righteous wrath.  Just as clearly, God’s first inclination (His heart’s desire) is toward love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

In spite of God’s inclination to mercy, make no mistake about the matter, God will at some point, exercise righteous judgment and punishment. Isaiah 28:21-22 speaks of God’s judgment and not just any judgment but judgment on His people, “For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be stirred up as in the valley of Gibeon, To do His task, His unusual task, And to work His work, His extraordinary work. 22 And now do not carry on as scoffers, Or your fetters will be made stronger; For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts Of decisive destruction on all the earth.” (NASU)  The references to Perazim and Gibeon refer to God exercising judgment on the Philistines through His servant David.  God uses those two examples to illustrate for us that He will do the same against His people, be it the nation of Judah or His Church.  Verse 21 says virtually the same thing in four slightly different ways concerning God’s judgment on His people, “To do His task, His unusual task, And to work His work, His extraordinary work.”  The KJV calls it His “strange work”.  The NKJV calls it His “awesome work” and His “unusual act”. The Complete Jewish Bible and the ESV add His “alien” task.  The Holman Christian Standard Bible adds His “disturbing task”.  You get the idea.  Passing judgment and carrying out punishment is not the inclination of God’s heart.  I cannot go so far as to say that it is against His nature but certainly judgment is not that which pleases Him.  Mercy and grace are part of His nature but so are holiness, justice, and wrath.

I find even another instance of God preferring mercy over judgment in verse 22.  It appears that God is holding back some of the just judgment from His people.  God gives His people an additional warning.  It appears that if God’s people respond to the beginnings of judgment properly that the punishment will be lighter.  However, if they respond with scoffing and mocking their punishment will increase.  Verse 22 concludes with Isaiah declaring that God has revealed to him that the conclusion of God’s strange work would be “decisive destruction on all the earth”.  Dear soul, God’s inclination and preference, the work of His heart, is mercy and grace.  But rejection of Him will, when all attempts at reconciliation are exhausted, result in God finally engaging in His strange work of decisive destruction.  Seek Him while He may be found.