He restores my soul . . . (Psalm 23:3)
One of last week’s discussion questions in the online class I am taking asked how to counsel someone who struggles with a persistent sin. The responses revealed two things: one, everyone in the class knows what that struggle is like, and two, they also know that without the grace of God there can be no victory over sin.
Today’s devotional readings point to the same topic. In the Bible, the sad reality of Israel’s history is difficulty with consistent obedience. These three passages tell the tale and point to the power of God to restore those who are helpless and hopeless . . .
Jeremiah 30:12–22 begins with, “For thus says the Lord: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous. There is none to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant.”
God tells them that they are incurable, but then He says, “I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal . . . . And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
Isaiah 35:1–10 also speaks to their sad condition with hope. . . . The desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly . . . . Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy . . . . And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray . . . . The redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Ezekiel 36:24–38 offers further encouragement to Israel and to God’s people today. These promises reveal the kind of God we serve and are available concerning anyone’s struggle against sin. He says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules . . . You shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses . . . . Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act . . . . Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord . . . . I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it . . . . Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
No matter what enemy may be against us, all God’s people battle sin, the enemy within. I’m encouraged as I read these verses. My battles with sin will never stop until my breath stops, but my Shepherd fights with me and for me. He does this for all His people that our witness to others demonstrates His grace, but also because we are His sheep. For this, I rejoice and am grateful.