April 14, 2017

Wrath Diverted

When we lived in Alaska, a neighbor decided to read the Bible from cover to cover. She was entirely terrified by most of it, particularly passages like this one:

“Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? ‘It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’
“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. For he said, ‘Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.’ And he became their Savior. 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. But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.
“Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble. Like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name.” (Isaiah 63:1–14)

As I read it, my emotions went up and down. The image of the Lord’s wrath and the blood of those who rebel against Him flipped my stomach, but the description of his salvation encouraged me. Then their return to rebellion reminded me of myself and my own inconsistencies, so my heart became heavy. But God remembered saving His people and how He led them out of bondage, cheering me as a reminder that He led me also out of my bondage to sin. He remembers me also.

The point of this passage is that God never gives up. The key verse says it more succinctly:

“He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.” (Isaiah 42:4)

This brings my thinking to today’s world with its violence and bloodshed, a far different chaos than the wrath of God described by Isaiah 63. The news is filled with the wrath and rebellion of humanity, of individuals and groups taking lives to gain notoriety and power. Many areas of the world are approaching anarchy and millions of people are crying out for justice. 

The devotional reading reminds me that the Lord will not fail. He has fulfilled every promise and prophecy of the Old Testament. Jesus perfectly obeyed every Law of God, and then went to the cross for our failure to do so, our sin. When He cried, ‘It is finished’, the justice of God’s law was satisfied.
Jesus will not fail to bring into glory every soul given to Him by the Father. He will present us faultless before the presence of His glory. He will not fail to reign until all his enemies are put under his feet. He will not fail to establish a perfect rule of righteousness upon this earth.

Jesus, my emotions are still mixed on this Good Friday; sorrow that for our sin You had to die, but joy for the fact that the salvation You gave to the world will not fail. Those who receive it will enter glory and spend eternity with You. Those who refuse You will experience justice. All over the world the news headlines will drastically change. While that makes me both happy and sad, I am overjoyed that Your plan will be completed because You never fail.

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