Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nontraditional Advent: Isaiah 13-16 - Punishment and Sorrow. And Compassion.

We ask God for deliverance.  Deliverance from evil.  Deliverance from suffering.  Deliverance from oppression.

And we wait.

When will God make things right?

The Lord Almighty has sworn: Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will be stand.  (Isaiah 14:24).

And what will God do? What are the plans "determined for the whole world" (14:26)?  God will destroy all oppose him.  And we ask, "Really, God?"  Isn't there a better way?  Must people die?  In our culture, this destruction seems unjust, undeserved.

Ultimately, I don't understand God's plans.  I understand He is holy.  I understand He punishes sin.  I understand that discipline doesn't always bring about repentance.  But I struggle with destruction.

Isaiah shows us that the destruction brings God no joy.  Indeed, God says, "My heart laments for Moab like a harp" (Isaiah 16:11; see also 15:5).  He urges the Israelites to also show compassion, saying, "Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you; be their shelter from the destroyer" (16:4).

God's goal is not destruction, but restoration.  His plan is for the aliens, the foreigners, the Gentiles to join with the Israelites, to "unite with the house of Jacob" (14:1).

His goal is to establish a throne of love, "in faithfulness a man will sit on it--one from the house of David, one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness" (16:5).  He promises that "the poorest of the poor will find pasture, and the needy will like down in safety" (15:30).

Right now, we see "through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13), but then we shall see "face to face."  We will know fully, even as we are fully known.  We won't struggle anymore.  We will rest in God's love.  We will hear his voice.

We're still waiting.  For the day when everything will be made right.  And I wonder how much longer?

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