July 6, 2017 • Life for Leaders
For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause. Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch!
I want to spend another day reflecting with you on Isaiah 34. This chapter can be troubling because it seems to celebrate God’s vengeance. God seems 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. He doesn’t ignore our sin or excuse us because of familial and social influences. Sin matters profoundly to God. He hates it. He judges it. He condemns it. As God’s people, 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 live justly in all we do.
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 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 himself, through the Son, took God’s own vengeance and judgment. He 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.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
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 his love, his vengeance and his mercy?
How might you seek justice in the course of your daily life and work?
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.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6)
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.
In the final paragraph of the devotion, there are two mistakes that need to be corrected:
In line five, “God’s give of eternal life” should be “God’s gift of eternal life.”
In line six, “It cost the sacrifice of the Jesus,” the “the” should be removed: “It cost the sacrifice of Jesus.”
Thank you for your keen eye!