Anyone who has read very much of the Old Testament usually has a pretty negative view of the Israelites. "I can't believe they were so stupid!" is one thing you hear often. After all, these people witnessed the most amazing displays of God's power that the world has ever seen and then turned their backs on Him and made their own gods out of logs and lumps of gold. Such a thing blows our minds because we think that if we would have been there when, say, the Red Sea was parted, we would never again question God's presence or provision. The reality is, though, that we often do just that. We will stand in awe of God's perfect orchestration of His universe one day, as we become the beneficiaries of His blessing brought about by the coalescing of ten different seemingly random coincidences that all add up to provide exactly what we need, and then question whether all that was really His doing the next day. We will pray with our church family about the healing of a distant friend, watch that person get radically, miraculously healed to the stupification of all the doctors working on the case, and then get thrown into worry and despair when an ailment strikes someone closer to home. So in a lot of ways, we're stupid and sinful just like them.
God got so angry with them, though. As you read through the prophets, you find condemnation after condemnation - all coupled with some of the most hair-raising threats of judgment that you've ever heard. And when I as a New Covenant believer consider all the ways that my heart suffers from the same sins of faithlessness and forgetfulness as those Old Covenant people, sometimes I wonder about what God would say about His anger towards me.
But several years ago, I stumbled upon one of the most beautiful promises of the New Covenant in Isaiah 54. Verse 9 of that chapter says, "This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you." That statement is still almost unbelieveable to me as I type its words onto this page. He won't be angry or even rebuke us anymore? Other than just His bare statement that He won't do so, why is this possible now, when before He was so angry?
I found an answer to that question that I really like this morning. In Isaiah chapter 1, God is once again expressing His anger toward the sinfulness of His people. He asks them, "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats" (verse 11). He goes on to describe His displeasure with all of the rituals and offerings that He had commanded His people to bring for His worship and for the covering of their sin.
And here was my groundbreaking thought (to me!): God can't say that about the sacrifice of Christ! He can't say that He's had enough of His Son - that He no longer takes pleasure in the blood of His sacrifice! When - through faith - we are plunged into Christ, all of God's wrath is swallowed up by the suffering of His Son, and the obedience of Christ is always pleasing to His Father! Thus, when we stumble and doubt, the solution - Christ's sacrifice - never gets old! It is never offered by our High Priest with unholy motives. It is never presented in an unworthy manner. There is never any admixture of sin or imperfection in what has been offered as pleasing to the Father. We have been totally saved - even from His displeasure and rebuke!
The Old Covenant Law had but a shadow of the glorious substance that we now know (Hebrews 10:1). So, knowing that we are covered by the perfect offering of the better covenant, let's not allow guilt for past sins stunt our growth in Christ. Understand that if you are in Christ, you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, don't linger over disappointments and shame that have stained you in the past - Christ has fully satisfied God's expectations on your behalf. Rather, forget what lies behind and press on toward what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).