“It was for me the day of vengeance;
the year for me to redeem had come.
I looked, but there was no one to help,
I was appalled that no one gave support;
so my own arm achieved salvation for me,
and my own wrath sustained me.
I trampled the nations in my anger;
in my wrath I made them drunk
and poured their blood on the ground.” Isaiah 63:4-6 NIV
No, your eyes are not deceiving you, I am using the same text as I did yesterday, because I have a little more to say. It’s about the things we see and don’t see. All of the commentaries I read about this section of scripture for yesterday’s piece emphasise that it is a messianic vision of Judgement Day, that Jesus is both the sacrificial lamb and the warrior figure. None of them mention the sadness that pervades the text.
If we look past the violent imagery in this prophecy, the overwhelming sadness and anger of the Lord is that he is working alone. He wanted help and support and there was none in the offing. This appals, or in some other translations, astonishes him. For this is our forsaken God, sad but nevertheless walking out in triumph. His fate is always to be left alone, forgotten, turned away from, left to do it all himself. And this is heart breaking. And it is as true in acts of judgement as it is in his lonely cry on the cross. And within this I hear a deep call to Oneness for all believers. For God has always and will always want us for his family, for his friends, for his children. But I wonder if there are some things, nevertheless, like a king or a general, that he must do alone.
But this surprise the Lord shows makes me wonder, might we then partake in the work of redemption? Would he have needed his wrath to sustain him if he had had company? Might the redeeming work have been done, or be done, a different way with help? Of course, the idea of prophecy is that it comes true, but there are times when it is used to spur change. Jonah prophesied the destruction of Nineveh, but because the city repented, God relented and the prophecy did not come to pass. This does not mean that the prophecy was in any way a lie, because it was what was going to happen when Jonah preached it. The outcome was changed by the action of the people and the heart of God. As Jonah says, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2 NIV partial).
So perhaps this image of our Lord striding home bloodied from battle might spur us into asking him how we might help, how we might ease his burden. In truth it seems a foolish thought. But if the Lord wants help and support, what might be prayed now or done now to offer him the succour and help that this scripture tells us he will one day long for? I know that the most painful times in my life have been when I have felt utterly alone, especially when facing a mammoth or uphill task, and so this piece of scripture makes my heart ache for God. He certainly does not need my help, but perhaps he would like it. And maybe if those of us who love him come together as true church as his bride, we might work together with him, working towards the redemption of the world, and at least willing to walk with our general when the battle comes.
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