Israel had suffered at the hands of all its enemies. They indeed brought their problems on themselves when they turned away from the God of their fathers. Even though God was angry with His own people, the evil of the nations around them aroused even deeper anger. He promises to turn His wrath away from Israel and spend it on the nations that cursed His people. He will once again have mercy on Israel. He will once again restore their glory and prosperity. Thus, the Lord, recognizing the plot of His own people, speaks comforting words again to them again and again, reassuring them that they are his chosen people. Zechariah 1:15-17 tells us, “And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for a while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster. Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’”

God had promised to bless those who bless Abraham’s descendants. He also promised to curse those that cursed Abraham’s descendants. Assyria and Babylon had conquered Israel and subjected them once again to slavery. When God brought Israel back to their own lands, the nations that were already there continued the persecution of Israel. As He witnessed this, God declared mercy on Israel and restoration of its former glory and prosperity. Their sins would be forgiven, and they would be restored to God’s favor once again. With God’s favor comes prosperity. The word is not used here of prosperity in the financial and material way but of joy and peace and comfort. God wants to bless repentant people with joy.

Repentance is followed by forgiveness with God. Forgiveness will change one’s future for the good. It is a reason for great celebration. Psalm 32, written by David after he confessed his sins, is all about the joy of forgiveness.  He opens his psalm of joy with “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Allen Ross, my Hebrew professor, writes about Psalm 32, “The distinctive message in this passage is the great joy and relief that comes from being forgiven, and this is presented in stark contrast to the spiritual depression and sorrow under divine discipline that comes from stubbornly refusing to confess sin. In view of the great sorrow for unconfessed sin, and the great joy of forgiveness, the psalmist appeals to the people to avoid the mistake he made and seek the LORD’s forgiveness. Thus, the second half of the psalm takes on a didactic tone—it is the urgent advice from one who learned the hard way.” Ross concludes his study on the Psalm with this comment: Having experienced divine chastening and then forgiveness for sin, the psalmist encourages others to seek the LORD who deals graciously with sinners because the bliss of forgiveness is life-changing.”[1]

[1] Ross, Allen P. 2011–2013. A Commentary on the Psalms 1–89: Commentary. Vol. 1. Kregel Exegetical Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic.