by Pauline Simonsen
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The Lord of hosts is exalted by justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness (Isaiah 5:16).
The trajectory of this week’s Bible readings on human greed and grasping leads us inexorably, inevitably, to this outcome. To end the social injustice we humans inflict on each other, God brings his justice.
In Isaiah 5, a fierce, sad Isaiah describes an Israel that reeks of corruption, injustice and debauchery. They are not God’s chosen, holy people – they are ‘rotten’, rejecting and despising the word of ‘the Holy One of Israel’ (Isaiah 5:24).
So Isaiah warns of the judgements that the Holy One of Israel will bring on his beloved people. The property magnates who buy up the small holdings and drive people from the land will find their great mansions desolate and their land producing only a fraction of what it should. The pleasure seekers and the socialites, who spend their lives looking for the next drink and the next party, will die of hunger and thirst. The celebrities and high-status aristocrats will be brought low, just one of the common people, as all are taken as slaves into exile.
Isaiah’s prophecy comes true, as Israel is brought low by the Assyrians and Babylonians.
What of our world? Israel sounds no different to us and our western culture. What is the Holy One’s word to us as we read this?
Like Isaiah, I, too, often despair at this superficial, corrupt and violent world we live in. And I yearn for God to make things right. How I wish that truth, justice and compassion might increase, and God’s righteousness might shine forth instead!
And then I remember – it has! He has! God shines forth, in all his beauty, righteousness, compassion and honesty, in Jesus! The Holy One who is the way, the truth and the life, who went about doing good. He has taken all the injustice and corruption of the world into himself on the cross. He has birthed a new kingdom of justice and mercy in this world.
Final judgement will come upon our culture and all cultures. But in Jesus Christ, we have the righteousness and goodness of God present now. When I am tempted to despair about our world, I remember King Jesus, who reigns already, and whose just kingdom is coming. You and I belong to him. And we carry his kingdom within us to this crooked and perverse generation. Little Christs – shining like stars in a dark world.
Lord Jesus Christ, we bless you for bringing the righteousness of God to our broken, crooked world. Keep us strong in hope in you, trusting that you will bring true justice and mercy at the right time. Shine your light through us, Lord; make us carriers of your righteousness. We ask in your name. Amen.
Pauline is a Bible college teacher and spiritual director in Palmerston North, New Zealand. She’s married to Roger – who is recently retired – and she says she enjoys having him home a bit more! When she gets some free time, Pauline loves cooking and reading and likes nothing better than sitting with a cat on her lap and watching the birds in her garden.