Isaiah 59-63: Uncomfortable

When I first read through this section of scripture, I was struck by a couple of things. First, Isaiah 59 is probably one of the best descriptions of sin and it’s consequences that the Bible has to offer. It covers the full gamut from how it creates barriers between us and God, to how it distorts our ideas of justice and righteousness, to God’s reaction to sin and his desire to eradicate it.

The second comes from chapter 63, where a day of judgement is described in which God will bring punishment on the nations for disobeying him and following after their own ways.

The truth is, both of these topics can be very uncomfortable, and neither of them are nice to read about. I know some Christians who will not read some parts of the Old Testament because of these sections of scripture. We don’t like to think about God’s wrath or the consequences of sin in our lives. We are quite comfortable with a God who loves us, will die for us and who offers us an eternal place in his presence. The very reality of that New Testament truth is unattainable without an understanding of sins wrongness and God’s inability to accept sin. It is because of those two things that Jesus had to die for us, had to appease God’s wrath and take our judgement on ourselves.

We mistakenly think that somehow God’s wrath and judgement are not present in the New Testament, when in reality they are very present. It is just that God took that wrath and judgement for sin and redirected them, away from us and our sin and onto Jesus Christ. He took wrath out on his son instead of on us.

The other thing that makes me chuckle about this whole conversation about God’s wrath and judgement is that people make it sound like God is wrong in his response, that if somehow God would just get hold of his anger issues then wrath and judgement wouldn’t be an issue. But Isaiah 59 makes it very clear it is our sin that is the problem, it is our sin that kindles God’s wrath. He can’t turn a blind eye to it. If he did he would be allowing us to wallow in the consequences of sin that Isaiah 59 describes. Let me tell you, you think our world is pretty screwed up now, can you imagine what it would look like is justice was completely out of the picture, if goodness was punished instead of rewarded?

But also notice something that can be very easy to overlook when reading through heavy pieces of scripture like these ones. Notice that both chapter 59 and 63, in the midst of talking about these negative things, describe God’s response to them. Notice that it is not a response of destruction. Both chapters end talking about God’s plan for redemption, God’s love and graciousness. Even in his anger at OUR sin and OUR unfaithfulness, God does not treat us as we truly deserve.

My friends do not run away from these uncomfortable pieces of scripture that make you look at the sin in your life and it’s consequences; these sections that make you realize that the root of God’s wrath is humanities sinfulness, not some cosmic inability to deal with his anger. Remember that God does not sin, that even his judgement and wrath are holy. And then remember that God worked to turn his wrath and judgement away from us. Unlike Isaiah’s original audience, we have the privilege of reading these things in light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Isaiah 64-66

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