Have you ever wrestled with the Word? Isaiah, prophet to kings, to four kings in fact, spanning more than six decades of intercession, counsel and speaking the heart of God over the nation of Israel, wrestled with an incredible amount of revelation and judgement that was imminent to the nations and still stayed steady to the goodness of God.
In chapters of 7-25, God roars over the nations with mighty words of judgment and consequence. If you are really listening, the word pictures of desolation, destruction and war should make you shudder.
God decrees desolation over the enemies of Israel. Then, Isaiah 22 speaks about Jerusalem’s plight:
He removed the protection of Judah.
You looked in that day to the armor of the House of the Forest;
You also saw the damage to the city of David,
That it was great;
And you gathered together the waters of the lower pool.
You numbered the houses of Jerusalem,
And the houses you broke down
To fortify the wall.
You also made a reservoir between the two walls
For the water of the old pool.
But you did not look to its Maker,
Nor did you have respect for Him who fashioned it long ago. 
As the Lord roars judgment over the nations, I admit feeling very nervous. I was in good company, because when Isaiah heard about the upcoming desolation of the nations, he freaked as well:
I was distressed when I heard it; I was dismayed when I saw it. My heart wavered, fearfulness frightened me; The night for which I longed He turned into fear for me.
Isaiah is a historical book which prophesied and documented the fall of nations (792-698BCE), so most of us could shrug off the pain of this text as being a past event and move on. But check out Isaiah 24. It has an eerie future word feel to it, almost eschatological, which suggests that the judgment of God is far from over:
The earth mourns and fades away,
The world languishes and fades away;
The haughty people of the earth languish.
The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants,
Because they have transgressed the laws,
Changed the ordinance,
Broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore the curse has devoured the earth,
And those who dwell in it are desolate.
Isn’t our earth polluted and bruised by sin today? Has humanity not denied the Bible as an authority in all sectors of society? Hasn’t humanity broken covenant with God?
You bet we have.
How can we draw near to a God who cries out judgement over the nations, which translates to pain and more pain for each of us who live in these sinful nations?
What has been the crux of my panic with these texts? The real problem is that I am a born to it, live with it, and suffer from it, sinner. When I read Isaiah, I almost stop breathing, I am so scared of this God who utters nation-crushing threats. Worse, this same God lives in sinful me. For weeks, I have been attempting revisionist theology with zero success while the God of mercy has patiently held me on this wrestling mat, waiting for my cry of “uncle”, till I surrendered my small and sinful fearful self up to the mercy of His hands and started trusting Him and His love once more.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit showed me Isaiah 27:
A vineyard of red wine!
I, the Lord, keep it,
I water it every moment;
Lest any hurt it,
I keep it night and day.
Fury is not in Me.
Who would set briers and thorns
Against Me in battle?
I would go through them,
I would burn them together.
Or let him take hold of My strength,
That he may make peace with Me;
And he shall make peace with Me.”
Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob;
Israel shall blossom and bud,
And fill the face of the world with fruit.
My heart gasped “Abba” as I heard those beautiful words, “Fury is not in Me”. Bottom line is, God is Judge as well as Father. Being God, He is a good Judge, righteous, pure, above all accusation.
As I stopped fighting fears of retribution and punishment and gazed right up at Daddy God’s big tender eyes of love, His love poured deep into those panicked parts of my heart. God, in His love, pinned me to the mat and wouldn’t let me up until I understand my good Judge is my Good Father through Christ.
Despite our sinfulness, despite how many times we fail God, God still tenderly watches over us, wooing us to take hold of Him, that we may be rooted in Him, blossom and fill this world with fruit. Fruit comes when we trust our God though it sometimes comes from a tear-stained wrestling mat as we work out the truth of His love and awe of our all powerful God as Judge.
Merciful God, knowing how those who were really listening would wrestle with Isaiah, tucked verses of tender mercy into Isaiah with the Bigger Picture of Christ Jesus when that mighty tree of Jesse, Christ’s fruit would fill the face of the earth through each of our lives.
God dreams bigger dreams than any of us can grasp and mercy always triumphs over judgement. In my wrestling, Love came down with truth.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Let’s pray: Lord God, Almighty Father, how You love us! Love us past our fears and failures and sorrow when we sin. Love us past shortcomings and hard-heartedness. Love us and hold us still till we bear fruit with You, as You have always planned. Love us when we presume to understand and know nothing. Love us when we run and keep us in Your arms, no matter how loud we protest. You are great and loving and mighty and perfect. We bow in worship before Your greatness and declare blessings and honour and glory and power, unto Thee, Almighty God. O Jesus, thank you for jumping between us and the just judgement of God, and shouting, “I’ll take their punishment!” Thank you for loving the nations with such passion, that you took the cross for all of humanity, taking our sins upon your sinful self, that we might be righteous. Holy Spirit, lead us into greater wrestling, that our religious lies would be exposed, that You would bring us much needed revelation and freedom. O God, how can we ever thank You enough for Your love and mercy?
This Week’s Reading: Isaiah 11-25
Next Week’s Reading: Isaiah 26 – 40
- What do you do with tough passages of Scripture?
- Does Mercy speak louder than judgement in your relationship with God?
- We can’t give what we don’t have. Do you have revelation of God’s mercy? Ask for Holy Spirit to lead you into fullness of this understanding.
- Mercy given requires a forgiving heart. Can you forgive as God has forgive us and extend mercy?
- God is a good judge. How do you feel about God as judge of nations? What was your response to these chapters in Isaiah?
The New King James Version. 1982 (Is 22:8-14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The New King James Version. 1982 (Is 24:4-6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The New King James Version. 1982 (2 Co 5:20-21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The New King James Version. 1982 (Is 21:3-4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson