Isaiah 34,35. Bad News and Good News. God of Wrath, God of Love.
Key Notes: Ten aspects of the wrath of God.
These chapters give us dramatic contrast in God's dealing with human beings. In chapter 34 God takes vengeance on His adversaries. In chapter 35, He provides a wonderful restoration of soul, body, and environment. The good news and bad news go together: without the bad news, the good news has no meaning.
34:1–4 The Lord has declared war on all the nations of the earth. They are doomed to slaughter, to lie unburied and disgraced. Even the Host of Heaven will be destroyed, and the skies will be radically changed. Disruption of the visible universe is mentioned in Isa.13:10, 24:18–24 and Matt.24:29.
34:5–7 The scourge will begin in the heavens, but end in Edom.[ It is hard to reconcile these extremes.]
34:9–10 Edom will become a volcanic desert. (A vista of Sodom and Gomorrah.)
34:11–17 Only wild animals will live there. But God will care for them so that none are missing. It is a poignant end to the chapter.
35:1–2 But after that, the wilderness will bloom with spring wild flowers, and the Lebanon with cypress, Carmel a garden with fruit trees, and Sharon, rich with oaks and orange groves will reflect the glory of the Lord. God's mercy will cover the land, renewing it and making it beautiful.
35:3–6 The weak will be strong; the blind, deaf and lame will be healed just as Jesus reported to John the Baptist in prison. (Matt.11:5). This aspect of salvation began in Jesus' ministry. God's mercy heals and will heal sick bodies.
35:7–10 It will be a place of holiness where the redeemed, the ransomed, may walk without fear. They will have joy and gladness and sorrow will be gone. God's people will be renewed in soul. This also began in Jesus' ministry.
God's wrath is first unleashed in the heavens. (34:5). John speaks of war in Heaven with Satan and his angel thrown down. (Rev.12:7). Paul writes of battling "against principalities and powers, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph.6:12). We are only dimly aware of this arena of conflict.
Why does God have a controversy with the whole world? "For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion." (34:8). Zechariah prophesies that the world's forces will be concentrated against Jerusalem in the Last Battle. (Zech.12:1–5). But God's controversy extends to all the inhabitants of the earth at a time when wickedness is rampant and the earth is polluted. (Isa.24:4–6)
Why is Edom singled out for destruction? Edom is the name of the land where Esau settled, south of the Dead Sea. Esau was Jacob's brother, and although a more likeable man than Jacob, he was thoroughly profane. (Heb.12:16). That is, he was indifferent to God and the spiritual life, while Jacob, although devious, knew the value of staying on God's side. So we interpret the reference to Edom's destruction to be typical, emblematic of the profane world which opposes God and is the subject of His wrath.
Summary of the wrath of God--a topic almost taboo today:
1. How does God's anger work?
It is not irrational, capricious, out-of-control, impulsive or self-indulgent. It is not evil: "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wrong...." (Hab.1:13)
God cannot be the cause of evil: "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil". (Prov.8:13)
2. Human anger is frowned on in Scripture.
"The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God." (Jm.1:19). (also Matt.5:22; Tit.1:7)
"...put away all bitterness, wrath, anger." (Eph.4:31)
3. Yet there is appropriate human anger.
"Be angry and sin not, but do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the Devil." (Eph.4:6)
4. God must take vengeance on the wicked for us.
"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord." (Rom.12:19)
5. God's anger is against sin but particularly against those who do not repent, who suppress the truth, and have no faith in God. This is very important because sin is universal and inescapable. There is not a soul that does not sin.
"God is a righteous judge and a God who has indignation every day. If one does not repent, God will whet His sword...." (Psa.7:11)
"The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth." ( Rom.1:18)
"A fire was kindled against Jacob...because they had no faith in God and did not trust His saving power." (Psa.78:21)
"All the nations would say 'Why has the Lord done this to this land? What means the heat of this great anger?' Then men would say, 'It was because they forsook the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers...and went and served other gods....'" (Deut.29:24–26)
6. Sin also has natural consequences that do not cancel God's direct participation.
"He who sows injustice reaps calamity." (Prov.22:8)
"Whatever a person sows, that he will also reap." (Gal.6:7)
"He who digs a pit will fall into it." (Prov.26:27)
7. God's wrath has a time limit.
"For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you." (Isa.54:7–8)
"He does not retain His anger forever because He delights in steadfast love." (Mic.7:18)
8. God's wrath has a power restraint.
"For My Name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of My praise I restrain it for you that I may not cut you off. I have refined you in the furnace of affliction. For My own Sake I do it, for how should My Name be profaned?" (Isa.48:9–11)
9. God's wrath also has a personal boundary.
"God has not destined us for wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (IThes.5:9)
"Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God." (Rom.5:9)
10. If God knows the end from the beginning (Isa.46:10); how can He be angry with His children?
"Yet You have made him a little less than God and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands. You have put all things under his feet...." (Psa.8:5,6)
God made us very like Himself. Among other things, God gave us moral independence and chose not to merely coerce us but to teach, admonish, demonstrate, and finally punish. He may shorten our lives, but He will not force us to love Him. What we returned for His love at Creation was to become his enemies, joining Satan in trying to drag Him from the skies!
How can we bridge the terrible consequences of sin in Isa.34 so that we can enjoy the renewal of Isa.35? The answer is given in Rom.5:9–10:
"Since, therefore, we are now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life."
Jesus brought the Gospel through His healing ministry, so that we find Isa.35:5–7 reflected in Matt.11:5.
“…the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good new preached to them.”
The Cross bridges the gulf between the wrath of God and the mercy of God. Jesus took the wrath of God on Himself so that the love of God could be freely expressed toward those who receive His sacrifice.