Love and Grace in the Prophets

Here are the verses where the words love and grace in their various forms appear in the biblical prophets.

They are about God’s love for you, which is consistent. They are not about your love for him, which is inconsistent.

Let’s begin in Isaiah and end in Malachi.

Isaiah

10 Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the Lord. (Is. 26:10)

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! 19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. (Is. 30:18-19)

2 O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. (Is. 33:2)

King Hezekiah recovered from an illness that God promised he would heal. The king was grateful.

16 Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live. 17 Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back. (Is. 38:16-17)

Since Persia conquered other nations yet was kind to Israel, God let Persia prosper. God will watch over his people even if he has to use another nation. God loves his people.

4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. (Is. 43:4)

12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. 13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together. 14 “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The Lord loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans. 15 I, even I, have spoken and called him; I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way. (Is. 48:12-15, ESV)

8 This is what the Lord says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ (Is. 49:8-9, ratsōn)

The Lord calls to Israel like a wife who has been widowed or thrown aside.

7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. 10 For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Is. 54:7-8, 10, ESV)

Out of his love the Lord will make an everlasting covenant, which was ultimately fulfilled in Christ (Luke 22:20)

3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. (Is. 55:3)

10 “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion. (Is. 60:10, ratsōn)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Is. 61:1-2, ratsōn)

The Lord loves justice, and from that love he makes an everlasting covenant with his people, ultimately fulfilled in Christ (Luke 22:20)

8 “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. (Is. 61:8)

Isaiah retells the steadfast love of the Lord

7 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 8 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior. 9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (Is. 63:7-9, ESV)

Jeremiah and Lamentations

23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jer. 9:23-24, ESV)

5 “For thus says the Lord: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord. (Jer. 16:5)

1 “At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people.” 2 This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the desert; I will come to give rest to Israel.” (Jer. 31:1-2)

The Lord tells his people how long he has loved them.

3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jer. 31:3)

Jeremiah in prayer proclaims the Lord’s love, but he goes on to say the Lord will punish his rebellious people. However, in the New Covenant, once Christ is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21), we do not suffer from God’s judgment. So we can take the promise in this verse and apply it to us.

17 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. 18 You show love to thousands” (Jer. 32:17-18)

Jeremiah says the Lord restores his people who were once barren and deserted.

10 Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither men nor animals, there will be heard once more 11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying, “Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord. (Jer. 33:10-11)

Jeremiah reminds us that we may deserve to be consumed by the Lord’s judgment, yet he loves us, so he does not judge us.

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22-23)

The Old Covenant was conditional: if … then. . If (condition) you obey, I will bless. If (condition) you keep disobeying, I will reject you. In the New Covenant, which is unconditional, he will never cause us grief (judgment), so we can draw from the promise in this old verse.

31 For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. (Lam.3:31-32).

Ezekiel

8 Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine. (Ezek. 16:8)

Daniel

27 Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” (Dan. 4:27)

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. (Dan. 6:10-11)

Daniel expresses in prayer the conditions of the Old Covenant revealed at Mt. Sinai during the time of Moses. In the New Covenant, even when we sin and do wrong, he still extends his love to us. In fact, even in the Old Covenant he still loved his people, the remnant.

4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5 we have sinned and done wrong.” (Dan. 9:4-5)

Hosea

The Lord says to Hosea that he will love Judah even during times of distress.

7 Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the Lord their God.” (Hos. 1:7)

In the last days, the Lord will betroth his people.

19 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. 20 I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. (Hos. 2:19-20)

Heb. 1:2 says we are in the last days when Christ came.

Hosea says:

23 I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ ” (Hos. 2:23)

Rom. 9:25-26 and 1 Peter 2:10 applies these verses to the Gentiles coming into the church. God loves people so much that he calls them who were once not his people into his One Family.

Hosea had a difficult calling. He was to marry a prostitute, and she became unfaithful, just like Israel became unfaithful and chased other gods. Yet still the Lord loved his people.

1 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.” (Hos. 3:1)

15 “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious. (Hos. 9:15)

Even in the middle of judgment on ancient Israel God tells them:

12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. (Hos. 10:12)

God pictures himself as a father who raised a young son (Israel), feeding and teaching him to walk, even though Israel chased after other gods.

1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. (Hos. 11:1, 4)

4 He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there— 5 the Lord God Almighty, the Lord is his name of renown! (Hos. 12:4-5)

Repentance brings blessings. The Lord says of his son Israel:

4 “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.” (Hos. 14:4)

Joel

Joel foresees locusts and droughts devastating Judah, but the Lord calls them to repentance and promises restoration (Joel 2:18-32). In the meantime he tells them the Lord abounds in love:

13 Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:13)

Jonah

Jonah’s prayer

7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. (Jonah 2:7-8)

Jonah was called to preach good news to Nineveh, Assyria, Israel’s enemy. Nineveh repented, but Jonah was unhappy. He would rather God destroy Israel’s enemy.

2 He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (Jon. 4:2)

Micah

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. 20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. (Mic. 7:18-20, ESV)

Zephaniah

The Lord prophesies good things for his people after judgment:

17 The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17)

6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” (Zech. 4:6-7)

10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zech. 12:10)

Malachi

Malachi tells Jacob (Israel) that the Lord loved him. He goes on to say that he did not choose Israel’s brother Esau. The contrast is good news for us since Gentiles are now admitted into God’s One Family (Rom. 9:6-18; 22-29)

1 An oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord.  (Mal. 1:1-2)

9 “Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty. (Mal. 1:9)

11 Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. (Mal. 2:11)

Conclusion

It could be said that we’re taking these verses out of context, and they don’t belong to us.

On the contrary, Paul said all the promises of God are yes: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ” (2 Cor. 1:20)

Or it could be said that if we take the Old Testament promises, we must take the Old Testament judgment.

But that’s not true, either. The judgments of God in the Old Covenant fall within the curse for disobedience, in Deut. 28:15-68. Christ has taken all those old judgments on the cross, as our atonement and propitiation of divine and just wrath. He became a curse to redeem us from the curse: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).

Yes, I believe in judgment, but it does not determine our standing in Christ and our entry into heaven by the grace of God after we die; instead, we shall be judged on the basis of our works, and not to send us to hell, but to give us rewards in heaven.

In any case, let’s not end on objections. Let’s just take these verses as revealing God’s heart for us. He loves and favors us, because it’s in his nature to do so.

Related:

Love and grace in the Torah and histories;

Love and grace in Job, Psalms, and Proverbs;

For other “Love and Grace” verses, click on the category “Love and Grace” on the right-hand side.

 

 

 

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