So [the LORD] poured on [Israel] the heat of his anger
and the might of battle;
it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand;
it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart.
This verse terrifies me. Not because of the Lord’s manifest anger and judgment against his rebellious people. But because they still didn’t get it. The people were stubborn, rebellious (v.24), so the Lord poured—doused, drenched—them with the heat of anger. “It” refers back to the Lord’s “anger”, which set Israel on fire, burning him. And, still, Israel didn’t understand, or take it to heart. That terrifies me, because I am often like them. How could they not feel the anger which would lead them to the cool water of the Lord’s mercy in repentance? Why would they not repent? Why do I not repent when the Lord’s flames singe my soul and my body? Where is the Lord setting me on fire but I am not getting it? The implications of this are horrifying—that I might be missing it, that the Lord’s kindness and merciful anger, instead of moving me to repent, are actually moving me to further hardening.
So where is my hope? At the foot of the Cross, where Jesus absorbed the consuming flame of God’s wrath. For me. He bore that fire, he was burned by that flame, and so I may be un-singed. There is my hope, because my own heart is, on its own, only hardened by the heat. The Gospel, however, speaks a better word—Jesus bore the flame of wrath and his Spirit keeps my heart sensitive to the sparks of discipline. Sometimes I despise my sensitive conscience, but may I not mistake liberty for rebellion.