“Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him.” Isaiah 57:17–18
How does God make a stubborn heart contrite? The stubborn heart is not changed by judgment. It is changed by mercy.
Notice, God is provoked by “the iniquity of… unjust gain.” He is angry. He strikes in punishment. He hides his face. What was the effect of all this? God’s people “went on backsliding.”
God’s judgment makes the sinful heart harder. It makes the sinner hate God more! That’s why at the end of the Bible when God’s judgments are poured out, you don’t find repentance, but resistance (see Rev. 6:15–16). Judgment cannot make a sinful heart contrite before God. The sinner would rather die than repent.
So how does God change a stubborn heart? He says: “I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry… I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him” (57:16, 18).
It is as if God is saying, “I poured out my judgments on these people. But it made no difference. They did not turn to me. They just kept pursuing the same willful ways. But I want to heal them. Therefore, I will stop punishing them, and I will show them mercy.”
That is what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. God’s law condemns, but his love redeems.
Where have you seen judgment against sin make a stubborn heart become even more resistant?