The following refrain appears five times in the book of Isaiah:
For all this his anger is not turned away,
but his hand is stretched out still.
It appears again four times in chapters 9 and 10, as he prophesies that the children of Israel will suffer horrific afflictions but will stubbornly refuse to repent (2 Nephi 19:12, 17, 21, 2 Nephi 20:4, Isaiah 9:12, 17, 21, Isaiah 10:4).
As I’ve written before, the stretched out hand is commonly described as a hand of justice, but Nephi and Jacob interpret it as a hand of mercy, ready to rescue us as soon as we are prepared to open our hearts and receive the deliverance.
In our individual lives, how often do we follow this same pattern, perpetuating unwise habits even as we suffer the consequences of those habits repeatedly? But our loving Heavenly Father stands with outstretched hand, ready to help us when we are ready to receive His help.
One of my daughters pointed out to me yesterday that this unhappy situation is resolved just a couple of chapters later. After describing the restoration of the gospel, the gathering of Israel, and the Second Coming of the Savior, Isaiah shares a psalm which represents the joy and the relief that God’s people will feel at that time. The psalm begins with an affirmation that God is no longer angry:
God’s anger is not animosity or hostility. He doesn’t stop loving us when we make wrong choices. But when we do things that hurt ourselves and others, He feels pain. God’s anger is His displeasure or His indignation (2 Nephi 1:22, 2 Nephi 20:25). God always wants what is best for us. He cannot condone sin (Alma 45:16), but He and His angels rejoice when we repent (Luke 15:10).
Today, I will be grateful for God’s long-suffering in my life. I will be grateful that His displeasure when I make wrong choices can be turned away as I intentionally repent and receive His saving power.