There are times in life when the wicked just seem to get away with their wickedness! Over a decade ago I faced such a time when the schemes of evil ones sought to ruin me and actually did prevail momentarily where my college education was concerned. Throughout history we see the times when Christian's were fed to the lions in Rome and when the Scottish Covenanters were mercilessly martyred by those who should have been their brothers in the faith. Throughout our world even today Christians are being hunted down like wild animals in Pakistan and other places. Atheism, Islam, Paganism, etc. all seek to tear down the church and dethrone our God. Is God watching? Will He act? Will He right the wrongs?
Verses 8-17 of Isaiah 34 remind us that God is not asleep and He will act for His people at just the perfect moment. The problem for us is that we often don't trust that His moment is the right moment. We too often look at the persecution we are facing as though it were solely about us rather than about God's glory and gospel. How many multitudes came to faith in Christ during the times of ancient history because of the testimony of the martyrs in their martyrdom? How many in Pakistan and China are asking to know of the hope that lies within our brothers and sisters who are willingly dying for the cause of Christ? How often do we stop and realize that our very own "persecutions" are a blessed opportunity to be salt and light for our Savior? Life, the good times and the hard times, is not about us - it is about God. The sooner we come to grips with that, the sooner we will be able to wait patiently on His timing of recompense.
"For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion." God has His day set. It is ordered. It is decreed. It will happen exactly when it is to happen. Do we trust Him?
God has promised that He will deal with wicked men. We must remember that "the Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pe 3:9). God's "seeming" slowness is in reality an expression of His patience while the elect are being gathered in. If I am impatient then my eyes are selfishly on my circumstances rather than on the gospel opportunities that lie amid my circumstances. Matthew Henry reminds us this morning that "as there is a day of the LORD's patience, so there will be a day of His vengeance. For though He bear long, He will not bear always." God's patience led to my salvation. May I be patient with His all-wise timing that others may receive what I have freely been given.
"For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion." I love the last part of this verse. The day of vengeance and the year of recompense are for the "cause of Zion." God loves His church. She is His bride and He will always do that which is best for His bride. He sees our plight. He knows our needs. He understands our cause better than we do and He will justly plead our cause at exactly the right moment. Do we trust our heavenly Spouse?
The remainder of the chapter speaks of the recompense that will surely come. Verses 9-17 vividly portray the consequences upon the wicked for their stubborn refusal to flee to the arms of our patient God. They have scorned His compassion. They will now experience His vengeance. That vengeance is full and frightening. Isaiah tells of utter devastation and ruin. He speaks of chaos and calamity. Oh, what a mess sin makes of things. A fruitful land becomes barren and a bustling city is turned into a ghost town.
Matthew Henry's words on these remaining verses were dear to me this morning. Pay particular attention to his last sentence.
"Verses 9-17 describe the melancholy changes that are often made by the Divine Providence. Places that have flourished go to decay. We know not where to find the places where many great towns celebrated in history once stood. These verses describe the judgments which are the just punishment which God will inflict when the year of recompense for the cause of Zion has come. Those that aim to ruin the church can never do that, but will infallibly ruin themselves."
God love His church - He loves those of us that belong to it. He is wonderfully patient in order that more and more might be gathered into her midst - into our midst. May we live our days and face our trials with a patient and gathering perspective. "For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion."