Monday, April 12, 2010

Joy of the Redeemed – Perfect Justice at Last

“Strengthen the feeble hands,

steady the knees that give way;

say to those with fearful hearts,

‘Be strong, do not fear;

your God will come,

he will come with vengeance;

with divine retribution

he will come to save you.’”

~Isaiah 35:3-4 (NIV).

I was reviewing recently a live account—a testimony—where harrowing things took place in the lives of fellow human beings; I was caused to reflect over the evil very much alive and kicking in everyday life today and yesterday. I, for the better part, have obviously led a reasonably sheltered life compared to some. The fact of such fear and tyranny causes me to marvel for all the wrong reasons.

And this is the mood of Isaiah, for the most part, leading up to chapter 35.

There is a lot of talk of fury, wrath, destruction and judgment in these parts, together interspersed with sprinklings of joy, praise and hope—perhaps to keep the redeemed reader from abandoning hope altogether.

And then chapter 35 makes its break from the foregoing. Besides some unusual historical prose surrounding the Assyrian threat, its eventual failure and Hezekiah’s illness, the rest of the book of Isaiah is filled with issuances of hope.

This is the book of hope for the righteous distressed. And these abovementioned verses speak safety and security for those who would venture into and along the Way of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8). And this Way will be the ‘narrow way’ that Jesus opened up to the true believer in Matthew 7:13-14.

All of a sudden the ghastly and horrendous life and way of living has been stopped, and a new day of safety has dawned; now partially and then more fully unto perfection.

This “day” has two separate, but equally meaningful, realities. It began firstly with Jesus’ ushering in of the New Covenant style of life—that all who believe in him have already gained eternal life; that passage from death to life (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14). This is the life practically free from life-rending fear unto love of God and neighbour.

It is secondly and perhaps even more relevantly positioned in the ‘day to come’—this is what heaven will be like. Heaven is or will be a place of perfect justice.

The joy of the redeemed is in their Saviour—his vengeance and divine retribution is coming, as is he.

This section of the Word is “a call to the fortitude of faith, not grim determination but believing determination.” The first four lines of the quoted Scripture attest to a reassurance to ‘Behold your God,’ whilst the second four lines go further: ‘He will deliver you then from your present concerns now!’[1]

How can we, the presumed remnant, not be entirely at joy for the kingdom that has arrived—and those glimpses of heaven we see here—when we consider it will only go from good to better to best in that rapturous day to come?

We have received the Promise. We live in this day of impending hope. God, our God, will deliver us, now in part and to come most fully.

In all ways, we’re obedient, not in grim determination but in believing determination. This is the quiet confidence of trust in a Saviour of cataclysmic victory!

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] J. Alec Moyter, The Prophecy of Isaiah – An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 274.

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