Isaiah 9:12-16 Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west have devoured Israel with open mouth. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the LORD Almighty. So the LORD will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day; the elders and prominent men are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail. Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray.
If we in our ‘God-Is-Love’ culture struggle with what the LORD’s faithful Prophet Isaiah is saying here, we are coming close to the reaction of the people to whom this warning was originally addressed. But we, at least, are in the position of knowing that everything revealed about God in this message was, in fact, fulfilled in both the Babylonian conquest (around 586 BC), and in the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD).
Isaiah’s words were largely rejected by God’s people because their view of God did not accommodate his wrath against their sin! However, as we take a long, hard look at our world today, and indeed at our own nation in it, and we read what the Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles had to say about the end-times (eg Mark 13, Romans 1:18-32; 2 Timothy 3; 2 Peter 3), we would do well to reflect on the reality of the wrath of God as presented throughout Scripture.
In fact, if we reject, or just try to ‘sugar-coat’, the doctrine of the wrath of God, we are failing to appreciate everything Jesus did for us on the cross when he took the full impact of God’s wrath in the place of all those who put their trust in him and turn to him in repentance-and-faith. In other words, we cannot fully appreciate the utter height and length and breadth and depth of the love of God unless we see it against the back-drop of his wrath against sin – the wrath that Jesus bore in our place.
For us today, perhaps the most important aspect of Isaiah’s warning is that it was directed mainly against those who were God’s representatives among his people! Is the Church today taking seriously its responsibility to “correctly handle[s] the word of truth” as Paul instructed Timothy to do (2 Timothy 2:15)? As we come closer to the time when Jesus will return in power, are we sounding a clear warning to our world about what it will mean to have to face him as a wrathful Judge rather than meet him as a loving Saviour? It is important for us to heed God’s warning through another Old Testament Prophet about our responsibilities and obligations as his ‘watchmen’ (Ezekiel 3:16-27 and 33:1-9).
– Bruce Christian