Isaiah must have been gazing with such joy into the glory of that far away day of promise, and then lowered his eyes to the reality of what was going down around him.

The near-term prophesy of God’s wrath still had to be addressed.

Because of the people’s refusal to repent, God’s hand was stretched out in judgment.


God’s Judgment on Arrogance

The people in Samaria refused to see the fall of the northern provinces, Zebulun and Naphtali, to Assyria as God’s judgment of them.

The Lord sent a word against Jacob,
    and it fell on Israel,
and all the people knew it
    Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—
    but in pride and arrogance of heart they said:
“The bricks have fallen,
    but we will build with dressed stones;
the sycamores have been cut down,
    but we will put cedars in their place.”

Isaiah 9:8-11 (NRSV)
Archaeological Park by the Temple Mount | By ThomazzoOwn work, CC BY 3.0

This is exactly what God said would happen way back when Moses was giving his final instructions to the Hebrew people before they went into Canaan. Moses explained in great detail all the blessings that would come from obedience and all the consequences that would come from disobedience to God’s word.

God’s Promised Chastisement

In fact, detail for detail, if you compare Isaiah’s description of the people laboring under the discipline of God,

They will pass through the land, 

  • greatly distressed
  • and hungry;
  • when they are hungry, they will be enraged
  • and will curse their king and their gods.
  • They will turn their faces upward, or they will look to the earth, but they will see only distress
  • and darkness,
  • the gloom of anguish,
  • and they will be thrust into thick darkness.
Isaiah 8:21-22 (NRSV)

… with the consequences Moses outlined,

“But if you will not obey the Lord your God by diligently observing all his commandments and decrees that I am commanding you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you:

“The Lord will send upon you

  • disaster,
  • panic,
  • and frustration in everything you attempt to do,
  • until you are destroyed
  • and perish quickly,

on account of the evil of your deeds with which you have forsaken me. 

“… The Lord will cause you to be

  • defeated before your enemies;
  • you shall go out against them one way and flee before them seven ways.
  • You shall become an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 

“… The Lord will afflict you …”

Deuteronomy 28:15, 20, 25 (NRSV)

you will see God kept to God’s word.

God was doing exactly as the Lord said God would, to turn the people back round to the Lord in repentance.

This was their wakeup call.

The Prophet Isaiah | By Raphael – Web Gallery of Art: Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain

God’s Continued Chastening

Yet instead of recognizing God’s hand at work, instead of receiving God’s discipline, instead of repenting of their own wrongdoing and returning to the Lord their God, they scoffed and said, “We will build better, it is no big deal, in fact it is a favor to us, because we can use better supplies this time.”

Therefore the Lord would continue in God’s reproof.

So the Lord raised adversaries against them
    and stirred up their enemies,
the Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west,
    and they devoured Israel with open mouth.
For all this [God’s wrath] has not turned away;
    [God’s] hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:11-12 (NRSV, brackets are mine)
Tiglath-Pileser Besieging a Walled City. | Internet Archive Book Image, flickr, Public Domain

The Wrath of God

Most of us, when we think of wrath, think of rage in all its horrifying, ugly, frightening, and twisted human form, destructive, violent and anti everything that you and I might associate with loveliness and purity.

In fact, our associations with wrath, vindictive fury, and retribution are usually of evil people.

It goes against the grain to put God in the same category, Whom we know to be loving and compassionate. No human being you or I might know personally is both loving, forgiving, and compassionate and vindictively wrathful. It makes a person feel bad that an awesomely all-powerful being might also be permanently and resolutely angry with people—with us. Even worse when there seems to be nothing anybody can do about it.

God’s wrath, seen in that light, feels unfair and unkind. You and I might say we have tried our hardest to be good people. Does not even the thought count with God? 

But this is not the nature of God’s wrath.

The Book of Isaiah often speaks about the idea of wrath, but instead of describing God as harsh and condemning, Isaiah talks about God’s love, grace, and generosity.

It appears to be an unbridgeable chasm, does it not? How can those two positions be reconciled? They seem as opposite as black and white, as day and night.

Yet, the evidence shows God’s love will never make peace with humankind’s current condition. The wrath of God springs from an infinite grief over broken people and the broken relationships between people and God, people and each other, and people with creation. God’s wrath flows from the beautiful and pure grief of a Being Who is breathtakingly holy and lovely. God Who loves and longs for intimacy with humankind, and for shalom among all creation, will have it.

So what is it, then? What is this Wrath of God, if it is not this twisted, vindictive rage that you and I see sometimes in people? 

Holiness

The Wrath of God is God’s just judgment, God’s active, resolute opposition against all sin and evil, everything that is wicked and wrong. It is the consuming fire of the presence of God’s holiness which burns up in a fiery instant all that is not holy, all that is unholy.

Nothing that is unholy can survive contact with the purity of God’s holiness.

Like matter and antimatter, only one can remain once both have come into contact with each other.

Purification

The Wrath of God is described as a furnace, a place where ore is separated into two parts—the precious metal, and the schist that surrounds it. The metal, through the action of great heat, is refined to its purest state. The schist, of course, is melted into great slags of waste.

Same furnace, two results.

The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure,
    silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

Psalm 12:6 (NRSV)

God’s promises are pure, just as all things that pass through a furnace are pure.

Your hand will find out all your enemies;
    your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them like a fiery furnace
    when you appear.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
    and fire will consume them.

Psalm 21:8-9 (NRSV)

Whatever cannot be purified will instead be consumed.

Fidelity

The Wrath of God is apparently even now at work, as God tests the hearts of each person. Apparently, according to the Apostle Paul, this testing is revealed in the darkening of people’s minds, and in the downward progression from darkness to depravity.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those who by their injustice suppress the truth.

Romans 1:18 (NRSV)

The Wrath of God is described as slowly building, like water behind a dam, which will one day burst open on the Day of Judgement, when every person will stand before God and all creation will be arrayed around the throne of the Lord. It will be a day of truth-telling, of revelation, when all will appear is it really is.

One of William Blake‘s watercolour illustrations for Robert Blair‘s poem The Grave | William Blake, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Restoration

The Wrath of God scoured away the sickness of sin, of corruption and death when Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath at the cross.

God continues to cleanse the hearts of those who come to the Lord in faith, seeking reconciliation.

And it is at least partly through the agency of the wrath of God that injustice will be replaced with justice, that what is wrong will be made right, what is broken remade, the dead reborn, creation renewed, and the cosmos restored to shalom.


Hallelujah! Come Lord Jesus.

One thought on “Isaiah 9: The Wrath of God

  1. Reblogged this on Zero Lift-Off and commented:
    Thank you sister/professor Joanne! This presentation is absolutely beautiful and points to God’s truth and absolute nature of divine perfection!

    I quote these excerpts with a joy in my heart because of God’s truth!

    “Yet, the evidence shows God’s love will never make peace with humankind’s current condition. The wrath of God springs from an infinite grief over broken people and the broken relationships between people and God, people and each other, and people with creation. God’s wrath flows from the beautiful and pure grief of a Being Who is breathtakingly holy and lovely. God Who loves and longs for intimacy with humankind, and for shalom among all creation, will have it.”

    Holiness
    “The Wrath of God is God’s just judgment, God’s active, resolute opposition against all sin and evil, everything that is wicked and wrong. It is the consuming fire of the presence of God’s holiness which burns up in a fiery instant all that is not holy, all that is unholy.

    Nothing that is unholy can survive contact with the purity of God’s holiness.

    Like matter and antimatter, only one can remain once both have come into contact with each other.”

    This got me thinking about something I had written more than a year ago which I would like to share here.

    Anyone that knows anything about physics and biological life knows that intergalactic space travel; what these birds are suggesting, is not possible, and if the expense or matter anti-matter bending of physics weren’t enough in their minds to prove it an unattainable capability in our material frame of reference and science; the sheer foolhardiness and stupidity to think we or any corporeal beings that are biological like we; is beyond a fool’s errand to think otherwise!

    “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:37

    “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” Acts 3:19-21

    First John 2:15-16 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

    Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Clearly from this verse, we cannot consistently please both God and the world. The desire for popularity and even fame or fortune is rooted in our old sinful nature. When we give in to it, we are living “according to the flesh” (Romans 8:5, 12).

    “If we are consumed with loving the world, which means being devoted to the world’s treasures, philosophies, and priorities. God tells His own to set their priorities according to His eternal absolute value system. We are to “seek first” God’s kingdom and righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
    https://lawrencemorra.com/2021/04/25/some-are-saying-that-something-strange-is-going-on/

    “The Wrath of God scoured away the sickness of sin, of corruption and death when Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath at the cross.
    God continues to cleanse the hearts of those who come to the Lord in faith, seeking reconciliation.
    And it is at least partly through the agency of the wrath of God that injustice will be replaced with justice, that what is wrong will be made right, what is broken remade, the dead reborn, creation renewed, and the cosmos restored to shalom.”

    Revelation 21:4 “promises, He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, no mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
    God bless.

    Brother in Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence Morra III
    Shalom

    Liked by 1 person

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