- “Depth of mercy, can there be
- Mercy still reserved for me?
- Can my God His wrath forbear
- Me, the chief of sinners, spare?”
- -Charles Wesley
That’s the question we’re left with at the end of chapter 5. In these final three chapters of Isaiah’s prologue he again paints several vivid pictures of the condition of God’s people – leaving us to wonder, is there an end to God’s mercy? And, if so, has it been reached?
In Chapter 2 (after leaving off in chapter 1 with an unquenchable fire) Isaiah starts off with the ideal condition of Zion – a place all other nations “flow” to like a stream that can’t help but go in one direction, toward the house of God of Jacob. A place of peace and continual seeking after God.
But the current state of things is, in fact, just the opposite – the stream is flowing the wrong direction, away from God, there is war instead of peace, striving after material wealth instead of seeking the things of God, and Zion is being consumed by the nations instead of being a blessing to them.
The rest of chapter 2 and all of chapter 3 are a gruesome portrait of the religious and social conditions of Jerusalem and Judah and of the impending judgement “in that day.”
Going into chapter 4 we’re already asking the question “can my God His wrath forbear?” and we brace ourselves as again in verse 2 we read “in that day…” – a verbal signifier of the coming wrath of God.
- “In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious,
- and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel…”
Wait, beautiful? Glorious? Didn’t we just read about the stripping away of all things beautiful “in that day?” And the death and destruction of all the men in battle ”in that day?”
This is another one of those little pieces of light that punctuate Isaiah’s message – reminding God’s people that they are, indeed, God’s people. He delights to rescue them. He delights to wash them clean. He delights to protect them.
These verses in chapter 4 are reminiscent of the promise we read just last week in Chapter 1
- “Though your sins are like scarlet
- They shall be as white as snow;
- Though they are red like crimson,
- They shall become like wool.”
God doesn’t dangle his mercy out in front of his people like a carrot to lure them out of sin. He doesn’t say “though your sins are like scarlet, they might be as white as snow.” No, it’s a done deal. It is who he is.
- “Can my God his wrath forbear,
- Me, the chief of sinners spare?”
We affirm the answer to this every Sunday as we, with all boldness, approach His Table and freely partake together of his gifts for his people at Communion… yes, because of Jesus, the true “branch of the Lord”, God can forbear his wrath for the sins of his people in the time of Isaiah and our sin today.