DAY OF VENGEANCE Isaiah 33–35
“For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause” (Isa. 34:8).Beyond the troubles glory waits. What these chapters tell us is that faith enables believers to live safely even while the consuming fire burns.
God is a sure foundation for our times (33:1–9) and hope for our future (vv. 10–24). Isaiah contrasted the judgment that will devastate the nations, represented by Edom (34:1–17), with the joy awaiting the redeemed (35:1–10).
Understanding the Text
“Be our strength every morning” Isa. 33:1–9.
God is a sure foundation for every time, “a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.” But we must use a key to open that storehouse, to enjoy its bounty. The text says, “The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” As we’ve seen, “fear” of God is a reverential awe that keeps us aware of Him at all times. Our awareness that God is, and that He is sovereign, gives us confidence even in the most uncertain of times. “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?” Isa. 33:10–16 Isaiah pictured God, rising as a monarch from His throne to set out for war (v. 10). This terrified the sinners of Zion (v. 14), who despair of surviving the consuming fires of God’s judgment, and they cried out, “Who of us can dwell with [survive] the consuming fire?” They did not expect an answer. But Isaiah provided one. “He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil.” These words contain no promise that the believer will be immune to trouble in those times when God judges a nation. When the bombs fall, the believer and unbeliever alike will be without electricity and fresh water. No, to “dwell with the consuming fire” is to maintain a hope that contrasts with the despair of the wicked. The righteous take refuge in God, and have faith that no matter how grim life’s circumstances, God will supply the necessities to maintain life (v. 16). “Nothing there to be called a kingdom” Isa. 34:1–17. The contrast drawn here is between civilization and wilderness. Between nature tamed by man and fields returned to the wild. The nations that God would judge refused to respond to the Lord. Their lands would be returned to the birds and the beasts. The scroll here is the prophecy found in the preceding verses. Everything God says will happen will come to pass. What God has ordained is certain. It’s striking that Scripture so often contrasts cultivated fields and wilderness when calling up visions of blessing and judgment. God really did create our earth to be the home of man. “It will burst into bloom” Isa. 35:1–10. This brief chapter concludes the first book of Isaiah. These chapters have drawn dark pictures of divine judgment, with brief flashes of light. But this final chapter glows with warmth and hope. Some of the most beautiful and best known of Isaiah’s images are found here. For some 10 years I lived in Arizona, in desert country. Dry and parched for so much of the year, the desert literally burst into bloom with the fall rains. The dominant tans and browns suddenly disappeared and in their place was a warm green, decorated with a riot of delicate colors. What a vision of the future God has in mind for earth, and for us. All that is dry and parched in our lives will soak in His rain. Then we too will rejoice and blossom, for our lives will reflect the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. “Steady the knees that give way” Isa. 35:3–4. When you and I feel weak and overcome, we find strength in this thought: “Your God will come.” While others shrink back in terror, we rejoice at the thought. He comes with retribution for them, but to save us. “Then” (Isa. 35:5–10). The concluding words of Isaiah are so vivid that they speak for themselves. No comment can do them justice. The prophet shared what God’s coming will mean for us, His people, in verses 5–10.
Upon the Burning of Our House(Isa. 33)
On July 10, 1660, the house of Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet burned to the ground, leaving her destitute of earthly possessions. She shares the pain she felt in a poignant poem bearing the title of this devotional. When by the ruins oft I past My sorrowing eyes aside did cast, And here and there the places spy Where oft I sat and long did lie: Here stood that trunk, and there that chest, There lay that store I counted best. My pleasant things in ashes lie, And them behold no more shall I. Anne understood the pain that always accompanies the loss of familiar and precious possessions. Anne understood, and expressed, the pain felt by believers of every era who must live through a period when God arises to judge their societies. But Anne also understood the secret of dwelling among the consuming fires that burn then. Her poem continues: Raise up thy thoughts above the sky That dunghill mists away may fly. Thou hast an house on high erect, Framed by that mighty Architect, With glory richly furnished. Stands permanent though this be fled. It’s purchased and paid for too By Him who hath enough to do. A price so vast as is unknown Yet by His gift is made thine own; There’s wealth enough, I need no more. Farewell my self, farewell my store. The world no longer let me love, My hope and treasure lies above. The secret? To realize that the fires can burn only what is destined to pass away. And to remember that what God has purchased for His own stands permanent, though all in this world be fled.
Treasures in heaven free us from despair when we lose earthly possessions.