A Call to the Nations

Isaiah 34:1-17

We understand much about world and circumstances in terms of contrasts; often one defined as absence of the other – light/dark; hot/cold; noise/silence; black/white. Then those things at opposite ends of a spectrum – beauty/ugliness; fast/slow; judgment/blessing; chapter 34/chapter 35. Chapter 34 presents a God who is angry, chapter 35 a God who comes to deliver, same God. Recoil from idea that God is angry, want him to be loving God. Which means we want God to love everyone and everything, except maybe the REALLY BAD things. But God can’t love what is contrary to his nature.

Q4: What is God?

A4: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

Whatever questions God’s wisdom, challenges his power, insults his holiness, is contrary to his goodness, or departs from his truth, will not always be overlooked and is subject to his justice. When individual cannot shift blame for sin to another, instead does two things: minimizes greatness of sin and mutes God’s response to it. Even Christians are guilty of being careless in our theology:

“Come As You Are” by Pocket Full of Rocks

“He’s not mad at you / He’s not disappointed / His grace is greater still, / than all of your wrong choices / He is full of mercy and he is ever kind / Hear his invitation, His arms are open wide”

Is true God is gracious and full of mercy and kind; he said so to Moses, among others, (Ex. 34:6-7). Lord Jesus does invite those who recognize their need to come to him for rest. But in same breath he told Moses of forgiveness and grace and mercy, also said “He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” HCSB

As Isaiah calls the nations without exception to listen up, pay attention to his message, 5x personal name, YHWH, in our text. The name by which identified himself to Moses at burning bush (Ex. 3:14) and later on the mountain – self-existent covenant-making and keeping God. Each use here is significant: 4 reasons to listen, 1 reason to take warning seriously. Repeats announcement of judgment first given in chapter 24. That announcement sandwiched between a call to come and hear, a challenge to come and read.

A. The LORD is enraged (2)

“For the LORD is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host;”

God’s anger is righteous anger – right to be enraged and furious against nations and armies when he is confronted by sin and evil. Yes, Edom is poster child here. Descendents of Esau, picture some of later generation to get idea of extent of their evil. Herod the Great – murdered wife and children, tried to kill Lord Jesus; Herod Antipas – married brother’s wife his niece, murdered John the Baptist; Herod Agrippa – paraded himself as a god, accepted worship, eaten by worms and died.

But all nations, all armies are in view. Whether leader or army or citizen, by thoughts and actions attempted to dethrone God. Arrogantly received worship belonging to God alone. Justified sinful behavior in violation of God’s laws. Believed could make it through this life and next on their own, God would just have to deal. God indeed declares he will deal; has a plan, it’s as certain as if were over with. Rebellious nations will be utterly destroyed, will be slaughtered as they become direct objects of God’s indignation and fury.

Not an OT thing: OT/NT God of wrath/God of love contrast. Paul, (Rom. 1:18) clearly says God’s wrath is ongoing, presently revealed; why? godlessness and unrighteousness persist. 2000 years ago, a display of God’s wrath against sin on Calvary: when one who knew no sin became sin for us his brothers and sisters, the Father punished his Son in our place.

Even then, God’s wrath is not fully satisfied; Isaiah speaks of host of heaven being dissolved, heavens being rolled up like a scroll (4). Revelation further describes a time when shortly before Lord Jesus returns will be fearsome display of wrath and justice here on earth. Will be followed by an eternity of punishment reserved for those who grind their teeth in frustrated angry rebellion against holy God. The better we understand and know God and his holiness, more his patience with his enemies should amaze us not his wrath.

B. The LORD has a sword (5-6a) and a sacrifice (6b)

“my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens” “The LORD has a sword; it is sated [filled to satisfaction] with blood;” For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom.

Furious indignation results only in self-destruction when individual lacks power to carry out consequences. Many residents in “gated communities” like South Windham and Warren and Sing Sing and San Quentin who are furiously indignant because of where they are. But lack power for retribution. The Lord wouldn’t be much of a God if he lacked power to carry out his decrees. Isaiah assures his world audience that the Lord does indeed possess that power and he’s not afraid to use it.

God has a sword and it will drink its fill. Rather a gruesome picture for our refined sensibilities – sword overflowing with blood and fat, land soaked with blood, destruction of life on all sides as far as eye can see. Will far surpass even Solomon’s sacrifice of 22,000 oxen, 120,000 sheep (2 Chron. 7:5) at dedication of temple. Armies of the world don’t stand a chance against Supreme Warrior, God himself as he wages war against them, overcoming in victorious battle that shakes very cosmos itself (4).

How unfair, you say. How long, cry those who gave their lives for sake of Gospel? How long before you judge and avenge our blood? (Rev. 6:9-10) The answer? “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” (Rev. 19:1-2) The Lamb, the Lion of Judah takes to the battle field to display his glory in justice and the salvation of his people from their enemies.

C. The LORD has a day of vengeance (8)

For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

Even though God might have reason and power to wage war, threat is not credible if there’s no line in the sand or line keeps moving; three-year-old can figure that out (give example). Unlike many parents God has drawn line, picked day when he will repay Edom and rest of nations for hostility against Zion, the church. Doesn’t tell Edom or rest of us when exactly that day will be, but is coming. Paul not really providing new information when told philosophers God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed”. (Acts 17:31)

Day of vengeance will be final one; God’s enemies can expect no way of escape when day comes, can expect no end to their consequences. Edom not only poster child for all rebellious nations, also land described in terms later used for hell (9-10). Place of constant eternal fire; no hope of pardon or relief. They truly will have no excuse – God had overlooked their sinful rebellion for generations, given warning after warning, opportunity after opportunity for repentance; all were rejected. So God rightly banishes them to place where they will have no rest day or night from his just punishment.

D. The LORD has a book (16)

Seek and read from the book of the LORD: Not one of these shall be missing;

Four reasons to listen to and heed warning; one reason to believe: check the record. Over recorded history God has made many great and precious promises. He has not failed to keep one of them. How do we know? From reading the Bible – promises recorded, follow-up given also. 14x in Matthew’s Gospel, 9x in John’s: “that Scripture might be fulfilled”. “Scripture is God’s witness to his own faithfulness.” Expositor’s Commentary

Just as surely as God has kept promises, kept covenant in past, will continue to do so in future; he is immutable (unchangeable) after all. Remember WSC Q4! God is fully committed to guarding his own character and his children from harm. That commitment requires dealing with enemies in way that glorifies God and his justice and his holiness as well as love and mercy.

God’s promises, commitment to his people are recorded in Scripture. All sorts of different people read Bible, respond to what they read there differently. Some say, “yeah, yeah, whatever; you can believe that if you want, it’s really not my kind of thing”. Some say, “what kind of God is that? bloodthirsty, demanding, cruel. My God wouldn’t do that sort of thing.” Some say, “yeah, kinda interesting reading as far as religious stuff goes. But God’s word to us, something I should believe and obey, nah; I don’t think so.”

They’re all like the folks who followed Jesus for a little while, until he said some things they couldn’t swallow. So they left off following him. Except for Simon Peter and the others; Jesus asked them, so, you gonna leave too? Peter’s response: “Who else can we go to? You have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68) For those of us like Peter who know and love Lord Jesus, God’s word provides comfort and encouragement. Fulfillment of promises recorded strengthen confidence in God and our future.

Our job? To take those words of eternal life to the nations, challenge them to check out God’s promises – both of blessing and of cursing. Blessing for those who hear the gospel call and respond in faith: repenting of sin, believing on the Lord Jesus for salvation, seeking to follow in obedience. Cursing on those who hear truth and reject it, who do not believe they need to repent and trust in someone else for their future. Thank the Lord for his gracious kindness to us, giving us eyes and ears to see and hear truth, a heart to respond in faith. Pray he will grant the same to family, friends and neighbors with whom we speak.

 

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