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We are inspired and empowered to live today by our vision of God’s future. We pray to the Father as Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And we allow this prayer to shape our lives wherever we are: in our offices and stores, in our studios and conference rooms, in our churches and cities, in our homes and schools.
I want to spend another day reflecting with you on Isaiah 34. This chapter can be troubling because it seems to celebrate God’s vengeance. God seems to relish the thought of judging the nations. How is this picture of God consistent with the God revealed to us in Jesus, a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness? What in the world are we to take away from Isaiah 34?
When we read a chapter like Isaiah 34, we can easily feel confused, even distressed. God’s judgment on all nations, and Edom in particular, seems to come with such zeal and violence. How should we understand God’s vengeance? Does it give us the freedom to be vengeful people in our own lives?
One of the great challenges and delights of the Christian life is learning to truly know God and to relate to him in the fullness of his multifaceted character. We live to please the judge, though free in the gift of his justification. We seek to obey his law, but only in his strength and in response to his forgiveness. We offer our whole selves to the King of Kings, yet remembering that he gave himself for us first.
Though we ought not to be afraid of God so that we avoid him, we must not minimize his majesty. Nor may we diminish his holiness. Biblical fear of the Lord brings us to our knees in worship, so that God might lift our faces and embrace us with his love. True fear of the Lord helps us never forget that our Friend is also the King of Kings, that the One who died for our sins is also the Judge of our sins.
Throughout the opening chapters of Isaiah, we are repeatedly confronted with God’s judgment. Not only the chosen people, but also the pagan nations are condemned for their wickedness. Yet, every now and then, a glimmer of hope shines through the darkness. Isaiah 32:1-2 is such a ray of light.
In times of suffering, it can seem as if God is completely absent. We wonder if God has forgotten about us completely. The good news is that he continues to be with us, even when we cannot perceive him. In time, he will make himself known with new clarity and intimacy. He will teach us, and we will be in a place to learn with open minds and hearts.
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