The effect of righteousness will be peace… (Isaiah 29-33)
November 23, 2010
There’s a lot of hope in Isaiah 29-33. Some wonderful lines read:
18 On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a scroll,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
19 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. (29:18-19)
Then again there’s a bit of doom:
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel:
Because you reject this word,
and put your trust in oppression and deceit,
and rely on them;
13 therefore this iniquity shall become for you
like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse,
whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant;
14 its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel
that is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a sherd is found
for taking fire from the hearth,
or dipping water out of the cistern. (30:12-14)
But then just after that there’s more hope:
18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him. (30:18)
And so it goes on… I don’t know about you, but I’m getting mixed messages here. Or am I?
Isaiah makes it clear in these chapters that God wants relationship with His people but he also wants justice and peace in the world. The relationship is almost contingent on the adherence of his people to that vision of justice. In this part of Isaiah there is a lot of criticism for those Israelites who are putting their trust and hope in the Egyptian regime, rather than depending on and serving God (30:1-7; 31:1-9). There are also many passages that describe a day when righteousness will govern and peace will rule:
16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
17 The effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever. (32:16-17)
So is the destruction threatened in order to make way for this new way of being? That doesn’t seem right to me; destroying to build. We use the phrase “God gives and God takes away a lot” (probably comes from a paraphrase of Job 1:21), but would be really apply it on this scale? A God who destroys nations?
I don’t have an answer for this one. I don’t know if I believe in a God who punishes. I don’t know if I believe in the model of the cross that says that punishment was taken out on Jesus so we don’t get it, either. And that is just one model, if you haven’t heard others then ask around because Christian thought is rich and varied.
I guess I do believe in a God who can’t stand injustice, though, and I do believe in a God that continually offers hope of a final justice. I do believe in a model of the cross that says Jesus made that possible too. He is my righteousness, and all that. But mostly reading Isaiah 29-33 all in one go is a bit too much for my mortal mind to get hold of. So I’ll leave it for you to ponder… How does our God move for justice? If He does move that way at all? What would righteousness look like in this world?