Between the Now and the Not Yet

Denise J. Hughes

Day: 3 | Plan: Isaiah

Today's Reading: Isaiah 3-4

Isaiah 4:2 (ESV) "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."

As a child, I wrestled with two competing images of God. From Sunday School stories, I heard about the kind and compassionate Jesus who healed women and invited little children to come to Him, (Luke 8:40-56; Matthew 19:14) but I also heard about the God whose wrath could smite whole villages. (Genesis 19:24-25)

Which kind of God is He? The compassionate Healer? Or the holy Judge?

When we see God as one or the other, we miss the whole of who He really is, which is why it's so important we read the whole of the Bible.

For instance, Isaiah 3 describes God's judgment against His people who have flaunted their sin and exploited the poor, because He is a holy and just God. (Isaiah 3:9, 14-15) If we read Isaiah 3 in isolation, however, we might be inclined to think of God solely as a judge to be feared. But He is also a God of grace and mercy, compassion and kindness.

When we read Isaiah 3 as sandwiched between Chapters 2 and 4, we see a fuller picture of the infinite, One True God. In Isaiah 2:2, the "mountain of the house of the LORD" is depicted as the highest and most exalted of all mountains in a future-day Jerusalem. Such visual imagery signifies honor, strength and safety. Then in Isaiah 4:2, the "branch of the LORD" is depicted as beautiful and glorious. Both references speak of the coming of Christ and the establishing of His eternal Kingdom.

Despite everything God's people could see with their eyes, their hope in God's promises could remain steadfast and sure. Their suffering would not continue indefinitely. Their pain would one day end. The God of holy judgment is not without mercy. The Savior would come.

Maybe that's where you are today. Maybe you're in the midst of a fierce battle, and the losses have been severe — so severe, in fact, you're not sure how you'll get through another day. Maybe everywhere you look, you only see destruction, and the only thing smoldering in the ashes is the intense pain you feel. Maybe the thought of Jesus gently restoring all you've lost seems like a distant mirage, too far in the future for you to even imagine.

For all of us living between the now and the not yet, Scripture promises that our pain comes with an expiration date.

Yes, we serve a holy and righteous God, but He is also merciful and kind. A picture of this two-fold truth sits on the mantle in my living room, where I have a stack of books, standing vertically between two bookends. One bookend is the front wheel of a miniature antique bicycle; the other bookend is the back wheel of the same bike. Together, they form a complete picture. Indeed, a bicycle couldn't function without both wheels.

In the same way, Chapters 2 and 4 are like grace-filled bookends that frame the heartache in Chapter 3. When combined, we see a gracious and loving God who is also holy and just.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for being a God who is holy and just, as well as compassionate and kind. In You alone we find the fullness of both grace and truth, mercy and justice. Thank You for the sweet kindness You have shown in adopting us as your daughters. You have rescued us from the sorrow of sin and the pain of living in a fallen world. You have placed us in Your family, and You have given us true hope. Help us to reflect, more and more each day, the fullness of who You are to everyone we meet. In Jesus' name, amen.

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