Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Uncomfortable Ending?

How should a good book end? What should it communicate? A happy ever after ending to the story? All the tension resolved and loose ends tied up? A warm fuzzy feeling for the reader?

This morning I came to the end of Isaiah in my morning readings, and there was a bit of a shock in store. (I had read it before, but it hit me again today with full force).

And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.' (Isaiah 66:24)

How does that strike you? Leading up to this point, Isaiah foretells that God's justice will fall, his judgement pronounced, and the rebels will be dealt with. At the same time, God's glory will be pronounced across the world, to all nations, and many will come to Jerusalem to worship the LORD. But when they come and worship, they will also go on a gore-fest and look at the dead bodies of the rebels. Hmm... some of you might be thinking, can I be excused from the field trip?

And yet, this fits perfectly with all that Isaiah has been proclaiming about the LORD, and with all that the LORD reveals about himself. God's holiness is constantly on display in Isaiah, and the peoples' sinfulness is similarly constant. Judgement has been threatened and promised, and so it is accomplished and carried out.

But more than that, as the redeemed look on the rebels, they see God's glory even here. The assurance is given that God sees wrongdoing and will hold it to account. The wicked will not ultimately prosper. The scores will be settled, and God's wrath (even though it may appear to be slow) is nonetheless certain.

Even more than that, the redeemed are given a glimpse of God's grace. After all, the redeemed were once the rebellious themselves. In seeing the fate of the wicked, death, eternal death, the glories of God's grace are displayed to those who still stand and live forever to love, serve and worship the Lord. All of us deserve to be the dead bodies. None of us deserve to be the redeemed. Yet God in his grace saves some to display his wonderful grace.

Even in observing the defeat of God's enemies, the redeemed will triumph and praise the one true, living God, who is the only King, for ever and ever.

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