“O Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble. At the noise of the tumult the people shall flee; when You lift Yourself up, the nations shall be scattered” (Isaiah 33:2-3).
In the first half of the book of Isaiah, the prophet has been pronouncing God’s impending judgment against the wicked in Israel and in the surrounding nations. However, there has been a faithful remnant in Israel who has continued to faithfully serve God. This faithful remnant has had to live in the midst of all the wickedness which surrounds them. As the opening verses above describe, Isaiah describes their longing as they look forward to the justice God was going to bring.
God had promised them better days when there would be justice in the land: “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice” (Isaiah 32:1). The Lord had promised them a time when the inhabitants of the land would not be full of rebellion and wickedness, but would repent and be forgiven of their sins: “And the inhabitant will not say, ‘I am sick’; the people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity” (Isaiah 33:24). But when would these better days come?
The faithful remnant are longing for God to bring this justice. Isaiah describes God’s readiness to execute His justice: “‘Now I will rise,’ says the Lord; ‘now I will be exalted, now I will lift Myself up. You shall conceive chaff, you shall bring forth stubble; your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be like the burnings of lime; like thorns cut up they shall be burned in the fire. Hear, you who are afar off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge My might’” (Isaiah 33:10-13). As He punishes the wicked both in Israel and the surrounding nations, God was executing vengeance on behalf of the remnant of His people who had remained faithful to Him: “For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8).
I can only imagine what it must have been like for Isaiah to have lived during the times in which He did. Many among God’s people had given themselves over to wickedness. Yet, a faithful few remained. The faithful few longed for the day when God would fulfill His promises to bring His justice to punish the wicked and those who had oppressed God’s people and to reward the saint who clung to God’s precious promises. As I read these passages regarding God’s response to His people, it is encouraging to note that God does heed their cry and is intent on carrying out His justice.
I have to admit, at times, I get discouraged as a Christian as I look around and see so much wickedness and injustice in the world. It is not easy to see evil people get away with things because they have people in high places that help them “get off the hook”. Like Isaiah and the faithful remnant of his day, I long for God’s gracious justice. However, while wickedness does bother me, I remember that I also have had times in my life when I engaged in wickedness and rebellion against God. Sometimes, it is tempting to forget this. Praise God that He showed me grace by sparing my life long enough for me to turn from my evil ways. I know that God is still showing longsuffering to the world by holding off on executing His gracious justice to give them a chance to repent as well (2 Peter 3:9). Today, while I long for God’s justice, I will rejoice in the grace He has shown to me!
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:10-11).