August 1, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 34:8 (NRSV)
For the LORD has a day of vengeance,
a year of vindication for Zion’s cause.
Isaiah 34 points to God’s vengeance, reminding us of just how much God detests sin and loves justice. As people loved by God, we will seek to love what God loves, and this includes justice.
Isaiah 34 can be troubling because it seems to celebrate God’s vengeance. In this chapter, God appears to relish the thought of judging the nations. How is this picture of God consistent with the God revealed to us in Jesus, a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness? What in the world are we to take away from Isaiah 34?
For one thing, the vision of God’s judgment of the nations reminds us of God’s justice. The Lord doesn’t just wink at sin as if it were no big deal. Our holy God doesn’t ignore sin or excuse us because of familial and social influences. Sin matters profoundly to God. God hates it, judges it, and condemns it. I know that sounds extreme. But we must face squarely who God is as revealed in Scripture and who we are to be as God’s people. Note: we are not to exercise the vengeance that belongs to God alone. But we are to share God’s passion for justice, to seek it, and to endeavor to live justly in all we do. As we’re reminded in Micah 6:8, the Lord requires that we “do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with [our] God.”
The fact that God hates sin is underscored in Romans 6:23, which reveals that “the wages of sin is death.” But this is not the whole story. Romans 6:23 reads more completely: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s gift of eternal life is free for us, but extremely costly to God. It cost the sacrifice of Jesus. God the Father, through the Son, took God’s own vengeance and judgment. God the Son suffered the wages of sin – death – so that we might not have to. Thus, the picture of God’s vengeance not only reminds us how much God hates sin, but also how much God loves us.
God does indeed love us more than we can ever understand. This is wonderfully true. Yet we must remember that God also loves justice (Psalm 33:5; 37:28). In fact, Psalm 99 refers to God as the “lover of justice” in a most memorable verse, “Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” Thus, as those whom God loves, we will also love what God loves, and this includes justice.
Are you ever inclined to minimize your sin? When? Why?
Do you ever minimize God’s love for you? When? Why?
How can you hold together God’s justice and love, God’s vengeance and mercy?
How might you seek justice in the course of your daily life and work?
Do something today as an expression of your commitment to “do justice” (Micah 6:8).
Gracious God, the more I consider just how much you hate sin, including my own sin, the more I am amazed by the lavishness of your love and grace. It cost you greatly to do that which was necessary to forgive me. You did this out of love. What a wonder!
May I live each day remembering how much you care about right and wrong. May I never forget that you are a God of justice, a God who condemns sin. May I be someone who seeks to live justly in every part of life.
May I also live each day remembering how much you love me. May I live in the joyful freedom of your forgiveness, not so that I might sin more, but so that I might give myself to you in a life of consistent worship and gratitude. Amen.
Banner image by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.