God’s Passion for You - Isaiah 63

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Copyright October 16, 2022 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
As we move into the last chapters of Isaiah, we will find some of the most triumphant verses in the entire book. However, amid these declarations of God’s redeeming power, there is chapter 63 which shows us the flip side to the joy of salvation: the reality of God’s judgment.
We don’t like to think about judgment. We much prefer a God who shrugs at sin and says to everyone, “It’s OK! I love you just the same.” But that is not the God of the Bible. The true and living God cares about right and wrong. He is passionate about wanting the best for you. As a result, He will judge those who spurn Him. But we must keep in mind that the God who judges is also the God who offers salvation to any who will embrace it. He is willing to forgive anyone who will come to Him, acknowledge their sin, and ask for God’s help in turning from that sin. He will give salvation to anyone who dares to believe the promise of Christ that “no man comes to the Father, except through me.”
In this emotional passage, we learn some important truths about the God who loves us.
God Has the Power to Save or Condemn
1 Who is this who comes from Edom,
from the city of Bozrah,
with his clothing stained red?
Who is this in royal robes,
marching in his great strength?
“It is I, the Lord, announcing your salvation!
It is I, the Lord, who has the power to save!”
2 Why are your clothes so red,
as if you have been treading out grapes?
3 “I have been treading the winepress alone;
no one was there to help me.
In my anger I have trampled my enemies
as if they were grapes.
In my fury I have trampled my foes.
Their blood has stained my clothes.
4 For the time has come for me to avenge my people,
to ransom them from their oppressors.
5 I was amazed to see that no one intervened
to help the oppressed.
So I myself stepped in to save them with my strong arm,
and my wrath sustained me.
6 I crushed the nations in my anger
and made them stagger and fall to the ground,
spilling their blood upon the earth.”
Edom was a nation to the south of Israel, and Bozrah was the capital city of Edom. Edom and Israel had been combatants since way back in the book Genesis where twin brothers Jacob and Esau were rivals and eventually enemies. It carried on to their descendants. Edom (descended from Esau) hated Israel (who descended from Jacob). Edom was a thorn in the side of Israel. They did not help them when they were attacked and remained indifferent to their suffering.
The chapter begins with the Lord with stained clothes from the blood of His judgment on the nations (specifically Edom). We don’t like passages like this. We like to think of God’s judgment as like being punished by our parents. It may be unpleasant for a while, but you get over it. As a result, many do not fear God’s judgment.
The Judgment of God is devastating. We read of weeping and gnashing of teeth and an eternal fire that people must endure forever. It is the reality of God’s judgment that should spur us on in right living and in our witness to others. Our indifference to the real plight of those who walk past us every day shows how deficient our view is of God’s judgment.
There are some things we must keep in mind. First, The Lord’s wrath is not impulsive or uncontrolled. Most of the time when we become angry, we are reacting to something. It is largely an impulsive response to an irritant. We talk about “losing our temper.” We lose all sense of control. At times it is as if we are watching ourselves behave poorly but can do nothing to stop it. God’s anger is not like that. It is measured and purposeful.
Second, the Lord’s anger is directed toward persistentrebellion. God does not wake up one day irritable and decide to wipe things out. The Lord has endured the rebellion and insults of man since the Garden of Eden. Mankind has persistently turned away from God to worship and give devotion to things we have produced or to other people. Commentator Ray Ortlund wrote,
Our natural moral calculations always overestimate what we’ve done and what we deserve and underrate what God has done. . . Our deepest beings are too infested with hostility toward God for merit-based pay to work. We fail God more than we know. Then we blame him and get bitter and small and hateful. If that’s where you are with God right now, hang on. Trust him as much as you can, and let him lead you forward. He has something better for you.[1]
Third, the Lord’s final act of judgment will be devastating and unending. In Revelation 6:15-16 we read,
“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from … the wrath of the Lamb’ ” (Revelation 6:15, 16)[2]
There are some who would say: I cannot serve a God such as this. This judgment seems to extreme for this to be a loving God. They ask, “How could a loving God send anyone to eternal damnation?” Commentator John Oswalt gives us a picture that may help you.
Think about the prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp. Striding up to the barbed-wire gates comes a blood-spattered, smoke-begrimed GI, who with one burst of his submachine gun blasts the locks off the gates. Does he look distasteful to those prisoners? Not in the least! He is the most beautiful thing they have seen in years. He means freedom; he means deliverance; he means life from the dead. Can you imagine any of them saying, “Now Yank, those Nazis are really nice people, and if you had just talked to them gently and rationally, I am sure all of this unpleasant violence would have been unnecessary”? Hardly! On that field, there was only one approach, a fight to the death and winner take all.
The same is true in the spiritual world. There can be no negotiation with sin, for it is the sworn enemy of all that God is. It is sin that killed the Son of God, and it is sin that will kill all God’s creatures if it can. The idea that we can have a negotiated peace where God holds one part of the creation while sin holds another is ludicrous. In the end, either the righteous God will rule the world or sin will. The same thing is true of the human heart. The thought that we can have forgiveness of sin by the blood of Jesus while continuing to practice that which killed him is ludicrous. Christ the warrior comes to destroy sin and set us free. (NIV Application Commentary, Isaiah pp. 661-662)
The judgment of the Lord will be awful, but we will understand it as an act of a just, merciful, and loving God.
His Love is Unfailing (7-9)
After this message about God’s Judgment we read,
7 I will tell of the Lord’s unfailing love.
I will praise the Lord for all he has done.
I will rejoice in his great goodness to Israel,
which he has granted according to his mercy and love.
8 He said, “They are my very own people.
Surely they will not betray me again.”
And he became their Savior.
9 In all their suffering he also suffered,
and he personally rescued them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them.
He lifted them up and carried them
through all the years. (Isaiah 61:7-9)
At the end of verse 1 we read “It is I, the Lord, announcing your salvation! It is I, the Lord, who has the power to save.”
The message is clear: We do not need to face the Judgment of God (even though we deserve it). This salvation is granted to us because of His mercy and love (v. 7) We can never demand salvation. It is a unfathomable gift from God. We have earned, by our behavior, the wrath of God. I can’t explain God’s love, I can only declare it. We owe our salvation to Him alone.
When Jesus hung on the cross on trumped-up charges from the very people He came to save, it would have been natural for Him to curse that crowd. That would have been justice. Instead, the Lord said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” This is mercy. It is undeserved kindness.
In verse 9 we are told that it was because of God’s love and mercy that he redeemed them (and us). There is no time when we can gloat and feel we have earned our salvation. There is never a time when we should feel we are saved because we are better than someone else. Those who understand the nature of salvation, will always have a grateful heart.
God has promised to save us and to keep us if we will just follow Him. It’s His incredible promise of love.
The Lord Gives Rest (14)
Isaiah testifies that even though the Lord worked to save His people, they continued to rebel against Him and “grieve His Holy Spirit.” As a result, the Lord fought against them. He will likewise do the same against us. Eventually, the people turned and looked for Him again.
Does this seem like a strange way for God to respond to His people? Ray Ortlund gives us another great word picture that I think helps us understand the concept.
When a child runs into the street right in front of a car, the dad pulls his child to safety angrily. If a neighbor rescues the child, he doesn’t get angry. Only love cares enough to get angry and rebuke and discipline. So it is with God. If our lives grieve his Holy Spirit, he won’t support our stupidity. The Bible says, “God opposesthe proud” (James 4:6). When the church is knocked back on the defensive by surrounding social forces, the problem is not the church’s relationship with those surrounding forces. The problem is the church’s relationship with God. We need to be saved from ourselves, first and foremost. If we will embrace his steadfast love, he will show us what it means that our God is a Mighty Fortress.[3]
When we draw near to Him, we are blessed to find rest. In Hebrews four, we read about entering God’s rest. We are told that “we who believe can enter God’s rest.” (Hebrews 4:3)
The idea of “rest” is captivating, isn’t it? The opposite of rest is churning. Which word do you think best describes believers today? Which word best describes you? Sadly, I think it is probably churning. We churn because we feel overrun by the culture around us. Things we have believed and cherished have been turned on their head. We may wonder if the only way to find peace is to conform to the pressures of the culture. IT IS NOT! Peace (that deep, settled sense of contentment) cannot be gained by conforming to the social pressures of our day. We can’t gain peace by running faster or doing more. We find peace when we come to Him. We find peace when we trust Him more than the culture around us or even our own willpower or ingenuity.
God offers us a peace that “surpasses our understanding.” It is deeper than we can imagine and more enduring than anything the world can offer.
He sees us even when we cannot see Him.
Look at the contrast between verses 15 and 19,
15 Lord, look down from heaven;
look from your holy, glorious home, and see us.
Where is the passion and the might
you used to show on our behalf?
Where are your mercy and compassion now?
19 Sometimes it seems as though we never belonged to you,
as though we had never been known as your people.
Every person wants to be seen. We want to feel like we matter to someone. We especially want to be seen by the Lord. We want to feel that God is on our side. However, when difficult things come into our lives, we wonder, does God not see us? or does He no longer care about us? Or even, “Why is He ‘doing this’ after all I’ve done for Him.” (Do we really think He is in our debt?) Our first response in difficult times is “what is God punishing me for?” We’ve all done it. It reminds me of the story of the man born blind in John 9. When the disciples saw the blind man (probably begging along the side of the road) they asked, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” The assumption is that since this man had this difficult challenge in His life, it must have been because of something he or someone close to Him did . . . in other words, it was some kind of punishment.
Don’t you sometimes feel that way? We want to know why our child has challenges, our marriage is strained, our body is filled with disease, or why bad things happened to us. We are quick to conclude God has turned away.
Jesus responded to the disciples telling them the man was not being punished . . . in fact His blindness was going to make it possible for God to be glorified. In other words, this man was blind for numerous years and God used that to point others to Him. He is still using it, thousands of years after the man had died.
The lesson for us is to be careful about drawing conclusions about such things . . . even in our own lives. It could be that God has allowed difficult things in your life
· To prepare you for some future ministry (2 Cor 1 tells us that He lets us face tough things so we can know His comfort and then be able to comfort others.)
· To give you the chance to glorify God in your weakness (Paul prayed three times for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” Was this a disease, a disability, or a person that was constantly harassing Him? We don’t know. God denied Paul’s request so Paul could know that when he was weak and forced to trust God, He was actually at his strongest.)
· He may allow and use hard things to show us and others the true heinous nature of the effects of sin in the world. If God eliminated all the hard things, we would think sin wasn’t that big of a deal. But it is. Sin destroys life as it was designed to be.
· And sometimes God allows suffering to show the world the difference faith makes in how we respond to hard times. Suffering then becomes a platform for us to testify of His greatness.
Even though at times it may feel like God has disowned us or turned against us, God is faithful even when we are not. The Lord does not turn away from His children. God does not cause our suffering, but He doesn’t waste it either. God uses these times to deepen us and/or to further His Kingdom.
This passage calls us to a choice: How will we respond to these things?
· Will the reality of judgment motivate us to turn to Him for forgiveness and new life?
· Will we diligently work to root out sin from our lives and align our lives with His Word so that we might live as faithful citizens of HIS kingdom?
· Will we reach out to others with humility and a sense of urgency that comes from knowing the Lord may come in judgment at ANY moment?”
· Will we stop complaining about God’s judgment and give thanks for the fact that in His judgment He will rally to the cause of the overlooked, the unappreciated, and those who are victimized by the world? He will not brush off our hurts . . . He WILL deal with them and make things right. His love, ironically, is at the heart of His Judgment.
· Finally, will we stand as a beacon to a lost world pointing the way to hope, godliness, and yes, even common sense?
When we take Him seriously . . . the world will take us seriously.
[1] Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. and R. Kent Hughes, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 421. [2] Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. and R. Kent Hughes, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 424. [3] Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. 427.
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