26 November – 2 December 2017.
During the history of the church, some people have looked at all the problems and disasters going on in the world, at all the pain and suffering, and have thought that God must have left us. “Maybe God was here when he created this world,” they said, “but since then God has abandoned us. God is no longer here to see our pain. He is not here to guide us or to help us when we are in trouble. He has left us to suffer all alone.” Sadly, today some people still talk this way. But it’s incredibly wrong.
In Jesus we know that this idea is completely untrue. Christ is Immanuel: “God with us”. God hasn’t abandoned us; he is right by us every day. He sees our troubles; and even more, he helps us and he cares for us when they come. Even in the Old Testament we hear this same good news.
When we first read Isaiah 34, we may be shocked by how violent the text sounds. It talks about God taking terrible revenge on Israel’s neighbours, the Edomites, because they helped to destroy Jerusalem. The text describes Isaiah’s hope of all the horrible things God will do to punish Edom. Of course, through Jesus we know that God doesn’t take revenge, and he is not a violent, angry, or destructive God. But in this Old Testament passage, the writer lets his own anger come through and influence the way he shares God’s message. Nevertheless, behind this anger there is still something beautifully true here.
That truth is the promise that God really does see what we are going through in life. God is not far away. He was there with the Israelites seeing how they suffered; and he is here with us too. He sees us when we suffer, he sees what our enemies are doing to us, and he promises us that he will act. God is a God of justice; he isn’t a God who just watches evil and atrocities happen and doesn’t care. God doesn’t close his eyes to evil or pretend it doesn’t exist. Instead he promises us that his judgement will come. Sometimes people hurt us in secret and think that no one will ever know. But God knows. God sees, and he will act to put an end to injustice. He will make sure that the bullies and the oppressors and the abusers will be held responsible for what they have done.
God knows what we are going through; he sees how we suffer. And he gives us this promise: that he will step in, he will defend what is right, and he will make sure that evil never wins.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis