“So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace” (Matthew 13.49-50).
Government officials have spent the better part of three days trying to figure out the motive for last Sunday night’s horrible massacre in Las Vegas. Why did this man barricade himself in a hotel room and open fire on a sea of people?
Since the shooter killed himself when police gained entry to the room, we may never know the “why”. For the notoriety, perhaps? Did he hate country music? Did he hate people who loved country music? We just don’t know. And maybe we’ll never know.
What we do know is that evil is alive and well in the world, just as it has been since The Fall in Eden. A sweet sister in our congregation pulled me aside last night to talk about the first two chapters of Romans. She commented that she cannot even say the word evil. She was taken aback by Paul’s comments about God’s willingness to “hand people over” to evil desires. We like to think of God’s love, grace, and compassion. But it’s something else entirely to think of God’s judgment, wrath, and willingness to punish evil. We don’t stop to consider that after a person repeatedly refuses to acknowledge God in their minds and behaviors that God “gives them up” to evil. Yet, Paul says that this is certainly what God does.
Sunday night we will look at Isaiah 26. The first 39 chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy is a preview for how God plans to deal with Israel’s idolatry and injustice. God will judge their sin, issue stern discipline, and then restore his chosen people. This theme of judgment, punishment, and restoration is played out over and over in the opening chapters.
In the chapters prior to Isaiah 26, the prophet issues oracles of God’s judgment upon the enemy nations of Israel—nations like Egypt, Moab, Babylon, and city-states like Tyre and Sidon. There is even an oracle against Jerusalem because of its sin. But God has a plan to restore Judah after exile in Babylon.
On “that day” Jesus will return to end all brokenness, suffering and sin. He will reverse the curse and raise the dead to rejoice in song.
Isaiah prophesies of that day in chapter 26—a day when the gates of the “strong city” will swing open so that the “righteous nation of faith” can re-enter its home. I find it comforting that even though Judah sinned and faced God’s wrath in exile, he restores them to the Land of Promise and calls them righteous and faithful. Are they truly righteous and faithful? No, there is none righteous, not one. But God, in his abundant grace, chooses to see them that way.
God has another “that day” coming—a day when God “will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed” (Acts 17.31). For those who walk in the darkness of evil, that day will come “like a thief in the night”. But not so for those counted among the righteous and faithful. “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5.4).
Here’s the bottom line: Nothing can inhibit the will of Almighty God—not a madman shooter, a series of hurricanes, an earthquake, or a terrorist attack. The world’s brokenness has created mass chaos among its people and even in nature. Creation groans in futility (Romans 8). The earth is cursed because of sin and it often appears that Satan is winning.
But he is not! God has a day coming—that day when Jesus comes back and calls a halt to all the brokenness, suffering and sin—a day when our Lord reverses the curse and raises the dead who will rejoice in song!
“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead” (Isaiah 26.19).
Jesus says that his people will “rejoice in that day” for their “reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6.23).
So, what do we do in the meantime? What do we do when shooters shoot and terrorists maim and natural disasters destroy?
We trust God!
“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock” (Isaiah 26.4).