A Heart for the Lost
The Lord commissioned the prophets of Israel to proclaim judgment and salvation. The prophets were not detached preachers. They felt of the weight of God’s heavy hand of judgment. They knew the pain of God’s discipline. They shared in the alienation of exile. Ezekiel reports a glorious vision of the Lord riding on a chariot throne. The Spirit lifted him up to see it (Ezek 1-3), but the Spirit also lifted him up and took him away to sit with the exiles at Tel-abib, by the Chebar canal: “I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me . . . I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.” (Ezek 3:14-15) Likewise, when a “stern vision” was told to Isaiah concerning the destruction of Babylon, he testifies, “Therefore my loins are filled with anguish; pangs have seized me, like the pangs of a woman in labor; I am bowed down so that I cannot hear; I am dismayed so that I cannot see” (Isaiah 21:3).
Why such anguish? Why not rejoice and celebrate God’s judgment of the wicked? It was the Spirit who caused this anguish. The prophets spoke in the Spirit and groaned in the Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord revealed the word of the Lord, so that they declared the word of the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord also gave them the heart of the Lord, so that they mourned for the lost: “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek 33:11). In Isaiah 15-16, God announces that he will bring judgment and destruction to Moab. As God announces his judgment, he also says, “My heart cries out for Moab” (Is 15:5) and he concludes the oracle of judgment: “Therefore my inner parts moan like a lyre for Moab” (Is 16:11).
I marvel at the Lord’s justice and compassion. The heart of the Lord is steadfast, his judgments are always just and true. The heart of the Lord is compassionate, he cries for the lost. The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever. May God’s Spirit grant us a heart after God, steadfast and compassionate. May God’s Spirit give us a heart for the lost, so that we mourn their destruction and cry out for their repentance and salvation.