Behold, brothers and sisters, I bring you glad tidings of great joy at the Christmas season here as we are about to enter the home stretch of the Advent season waiting for the birth of the Savior. I was reading in my personal quiet time from the book of Isaiah this week, and you know how it is. You are reading in your Bible and you’re stopping, you’re thinking about something and chewing on it kind of deeply, and then you go to church on Sunday and that’s what the pastor is preaching on. That happened to me this week. I was reading from Isaiah 63 and I was really stirred in spirit as well encouraged and comforted by the passage that I was reading.
I got to church on Sunday morning as we were going through a little bit of some personal stuff and I took great comfort from Isaiah 63 for the second time this week as my pastor addressed it. So I thought I would address it as a bit of an Advent thought or a Christmas encouragement, and I hope that you can be comforted by it.
The Messiah has always been, and for this portion of history will always be, a coming Messiah. He is now and not yet. The kingdom that he rules and will rule is both among us and is not yet fully realized. We have a Messiah that has come and yet he is still coming and every year we go back to a position of darkness waiting for the light to dawn. During the advent season, we patiently and humbly remember waiting for the coming of the Messiah so that we can celebrate the light of his birth, both physically and spiritually in our world.
Isaiah 63 is a “Christ is coming” passage. The Old Testament Israelites were always waiting for a time when the substitutionary sacrificial system would be put to an end by perfect blood. They were always killing beasts (sheep, oxen, etc.) to make a sacrifice which atoned for their sins. And all those sacrifices pointed to the fact that each time guilt was covered or atoned for substitutionally, it was imperfect and it would have to be done again next time there was sin. That by itself pointed to the fact that an ultimate Propitiation needed to be shed for the forgiveness of sins once for all time.Even as the cows were killed, people could look forward to the fact that there was a Messiah that would one day come whose blood would be spilled, even though they didn’t know it in these terms, so it wouldn’t have to keep happening over and over again because of the perfect blood of Jesus.
The Old Testament Israelites waited for a Messiah to come, rescue them and institute a kingdom on earth. Some of the Children of Abraham are still misguidedly waiting for that Messiah, but he has indeed come and he will come again. All through the scriptures we see the repeated cry, “come Lord Jesus, come” and he will come again for us, you and me, brothers and sisters, children of Christ. He will come again.
We have a vivid picture in Isaiah 63 of the coming king. We actually have two pictures. These are the first words that we hear in Isaiah 63 and they are foretelling of the coming of the day of God’s vengeance, “Who is this who comes from Edom in crimson garments from Basra? He who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength. It is I speaking in righteousness, mighty to save. Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the wine press? I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath, their lifeblood spattered on my garments and stained all my apparel for the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help. I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold. So my own arm brought me salvation and my wrath upheld me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger. I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
As a pro-lifer, I’m so often confronted with the idea from pro-choice critics that God is responsible for more deaths than anybody. Whether it is miscarried children or the crusades or other catastrophes in history it is always an argument we face. My answer is this: misguided people have misunderstood the message and act in ways contrary to the way God would have us act. However, we cannot and we will not equivocate on the idea that Jesus and the Godhead, the giver of life, alone has the discretion to also take life. He doesn’t do it randomly.
One of the things that we talk about as a distinction between pro-choice and pro-life is that pro-lifers are against the intentional shedding of innocent human blood. When human blood is not innocent, it is not murder to take that life. That’s why you can be tried for manslaughter or negligent homicide, or you can be tried for intentional homicide or murder. And the penalties are different because innocence matters. As this relates to abortion, the innocence of the unborn matters.
In this case, the lifeblood of the peoples of the earth is spattered on the ground specifically because the King, who comes to judge the people, has found that no one is righteous and that no one is innocent. For this reason, their blood stains his garments.
Yet, brothers and sisters, in the middle of this chapter, the scene changes from a coming King who was coming in his vengeance to a King who is coming in his victory and pouring out mercy and grace on whom he will. And this is where we pick up in verse 7:
“I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely. And he became their savior in all their affliction. He was afflicted. And the angel of his presence saved them, and in his love and in his pity, he redeemed them, he lifted them up, and he carried them all the days of old.”
It goes on, but brothers and sisters, these are comforting words. There are so many topographical metaphors of making rocky places into planes or making the hills into flat places. John the Baptist prophesied the coming of the Messiah who would make the crooked ways straight. These are topographical references to the spiritual reality that Jesus would meet on the cross to make our rocky places flat and level.
God is doing that in our hearts. In this particular passage, we see a merciful Savior coming back from battle. In his arms are the spoils of victory and what he has in his arms is you, me and the people who have been and will be redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ in his goodness because vengeance, as it says in this passage, was poured out on Jesus on thecross for all that. I did wrong against God and vengeance was poured out on Jesus on the cross.
This is a message of comfort and it is beckoning for you to come to Jesus. This is where all that we have done wrong has not been overlooked and forgiven as the world forgives, but it has been atoned for because the vengeance has been poured out on Jesus where it should have been poured out on me. Where God’s vengeance might be poured out on you, Jesus says, “come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” His blood will satisfy all that you have done to transgress the great and good God of the universe.
Take comfort in this Advent season that our coming Savior in the manger is also the triumphant King who comes in mercy and compassion for those whom He has saved. Yes, vengeance and wrath for those who will reject Him, but in his arms are the spoils of war, and we are those spoils, brothers and sisters. He carries you compassionately. So be encouraged during the holiday season and remember that the God that we serve, the Creator of life, loves you. He has known you since before you were born. He’s known you since he stitched you together in his mother’s womb and he beckons you to come to Jesus. Thank you for being a part of Passion Life during this Advent season and we look forward to serving you as we move into 2024.