What is your hope for the world? What is your vision of the future? What we hope for may not be what we foresee happening, especially if we leave God out of the reckoning. But add him in, and we discover that we have a different kind of hope, a certainty that the best of all possible worlds is coming; and that as followers of the King we will have a place in that future world and, here and now, have a part to play in bringing it about.
Isaiah’s prophecy gives a vision of what that new world will be like, and what it will be like entering it. The vision is of renewed creation, with barrenness replaced by fruitfulness, disability replaced by joyful health and strength, disfigurement replaced by beauty. The way into that world is described as a ‘highway’, a road easily and safely travelled. The travellers are the ‘redeemed’, the ‘ransomed’ – those who once were in bondage to sin and evil, but have been set free by the Lord. Yet the road is inaccessible to those who still hold on to what is wrong.
v. 4 jars on our ears. It promises to those in bondage that God will come with vengeance and retribution to save them. What place have vengeance and retribution in a God of love?
It may help to see that what is being described is simply Justice. The promise is not merely that victims will be released and taken out of harm’s way, but also that those who are perpetrating evil will receive their due reward. Divine vengeance and retribution have nothing unfair or malicious about them, only what is scrupulously fair – and always with the offer of forgiveness to those who have a change of heart and turn to the God who made them and loves them and wants the best for them too.
There can be no perfect world in the future unless the evils of this present world are satisfactorily dealt with one way or another. Justice must be done! The good news is that the Judge who is to come is also a Saviour as well as a King. No-one can pull the wool over his eyes. But his eyes are of love, and his offer of forgiveness through his suffering and death on the cross is open to all who are willing to accept him.
God’s plan is for a world free from evil, a world where all that exists is in harmony with their ruler and with each other. Jesus, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate, is that ruler. By his life, death and resurrection he has prepared the way. Now he is preparing a people who will enter that world with everlasting joy. Matthew 11:2-11 shows that John the Baptist thought the king would immediately bring about the new order without delay. Jesus had to point him towards the fulfilment of part of that prophecy, so that he could trust that the rest would be fulfilled in due course. Today we look forward to the time when Jesus will come in all his majesty to do it. However difficult life is, we have hope! Be strong!
1) How do these passages help us get ready for Jesus’ coming?
2) How important is justice to you? How important is it to God?