The next few chapters (24-27) will be what are known as “Isaiah’s Apocalypse.” You can see why from the doom and gloom described. Yet, there are some technical things missing to truly be apocalyptic in nature. For instance, we are missing the words calling this out as a “vision.” There are also scholars who question if Isaiah wrote this, and if he did, shouldn’t it be at the end? These are details I share with you, but let’s not let them keep us from hearing God’s message to us today. After all, the purpose of this is to “reflect” not figure out the who, what, where, and how!
I have to admit this wasn’t the most uplifting of readings today. There was the glimmer of hope in verses 14-16. We’ll come back to that. But what this reading says to me overall is that God is in control. If he wants to bring destruction to the world, he will. We saw what he did with the flood in Noah’s day. He promised he would never do that again. In the descriptions were read in Isaiah, there is no mention of water covering the earth.
Yet we do see some similarities to both Noah’s day and our present day. “The earth suffers for the sins of its people, for they have twisted God’s instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse consumes the earth. Its people must pay the price for their sin.” People aren’t the only ones to suffer the consequences of sin. The earth does, too. I think of the vivid pictures I have seen recently of all the plastic that is polluting our oceans. Is plastic sinful? I won’t go there, but I will say that having something that is disposable requires that we have a wise place to dispose of it. I’m not sure we’ve thought through what our convenience is doing to our world. That kind of self-centered behavior is sinful. Wouldn’t you agree?
I don’t think anyone could argue we are not doing a very good job of being stewards of the beautiful world God created for us. He created it for us. For us! He also created our minds and creativity. We can do a much better job of taking care of what God has entrusted to us than we are. Sin affects every aspect of society so extensively that even those faithful to God suffer. We are caught up in the demise of God’s creation.
When does this destruction take place? This passage doesn’t say. Has it already happened? Is it simply a representation of what “could” happen? Is it happening now? We need to take these words seriously and prepare. Ask, “How do I respond to what may be my future?”
Then, nestled amid the chaos, we read this. “But all who are left shout and sing for joy. Those in the west praise the Lord’s majesty. In eastern lands, give glory to the Lord. In the lands beyond the sea, praise the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. We hear songs of praise from the ends of the earth, songs that give glory to the Righteous One!” There will be people who survive this devastation. And they will be joyful! They will be singing praise to the Lord. How can that be!?
This is a beautiful picture of the remnant. Despite everything they have gone through to get to this moment, they are experiencing joy. That’s the unexplainable joy we feel when we are connected to our heavenly Father. We can be sad, but we will never lose our joy. It’s a hard concept to grasp for those who don’t have unending joy in their lives. We muster that joy simply by clinging to the truth that God loves us, he is for us, and he is with us. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. For that, I am joyful.
We can look around and see chaos. We can easily be sucked into negativity. We can feel hopeless. We can also feel joy. Psalm 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” That’s what I want to experience.
Let’s pray … Lord, replace my anxiety with joy. I know you are for me, fighting battles I don’t even know are raging around me. Thank you for your protection and grace. Forgive me for my lack of focus and distractions. May I be still in your presence and feel your loving arms lifting me up. In Jesus’ name. Amen.