Isaiah 18–22: Justice & Mercy

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 4: Friday

Today’s Bible reading, Isaiah 18–22, continues with prophecies of God’s judgment of nations that began in chapter 13 and finishes in chapter 23.1 Chapters 18–22 contain judgments on Cush (Ethiopia/Sudan), Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia and Jerusalem.

Last week I quoted Derek Kidner as saying:

“…these chapters teach a primary and central truth: that Yahweh’s kingdom is the world. This is easy to announce in general terms; to spell it out, as this section does, is to show that this sovereignty is nothing titular, but actual and searching.”2

Reading large sections of the prophets at a time is a repetitive lesson over and over again of the truth that God is a righteous God and He will judge sin. Nations may be powerful today, but He will judge them in His time. Realizing that God alone is judge also underscores the face that we are not. We are to forgive. Ray Ortlund writes:

“…there is one thing that can save us from becoming vengeful people. It’s a belief in divine vengeance. “The certainty of God’s just judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence in the middle of it.” The blood of the innocents still cries out to God from the ground (Genesis 4:10). And when a confidence in God’s fierce opposition to all human injustice enters our hearts, we have a reason to forsake our savage impulses and love our enemies.

“…What can stabilize us when injustice gloats in triumph
over us? …It is Isaiah’s vision of God’s final justice that
moderates our anger and frustration right now.

“…We wonder, is there somewhere a justice worthy of
the name, or is that idea just one more of life’s mocking
disappointments? Isaiah has an answer to our longings.
His answer is the day of the Lord.

“God has promised to step in decisively and to punish all
wrong with absolute finality. And what the Old Testament
calls “the day of the Lord,” the New Testament calls “the
day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8), because
Jesus is the one through whom God will judge the world
and bring us into eternal peace….”3

We are also to leave judgment to God because we have been commanded to forgive.  Christians have been forgiven; we cannot withhold it from others. That can be so incredibly hard in the face of great injustice and evil when we or those we love have been devastated by others. Knowing God and trusting in His justice enables us to leave vengeance to Him.

The other thing I see evident once more in my reading are the silver and gold threads of God’s mercy and compassion that are interwoven in Isaiah. He strikes in justice; He also heals.

“The LORD will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the LORD, and He will respond to them and will heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”
Isaiah 19:22–25

Isaiah brings us face to face with God. Worship Him in His righteousness and justice, in His mercy and compassion.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1, 2Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds.,
A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 599.
3Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, pp. 125–126. He is quoting Miroslav Volf in
the quote within the quote.
Fire/Flame Textures:

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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