Isaiah 21:1 (ESV)
The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.
As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,
it comes from the wilderness,
from a terrible land.
Isaiah uses a powerful and destructive desert storm to illustrate the judgment coming against a people who are enemies of God’s people. How should God’s people respond when that judgment is sent? Several years ago I was watching a TV series with some of my grandchildren. There was an evil man in the series that was constantly hunting down the hero of the show. In one of the final episodes the bad guy was killed. I had not realized how much my grandchildren had gotten into the story until that moment. The bad guy was killed and my four grandchildren instantly erupted in cheers. That got me thinking. Is cheering the appropriate response to God’s judgement?
How should we respond to refugees, when they are refugees fleeing God’s judgment? They deserve what they are getting. Shouldn’t we cheer? The end of Isaiah 21 describes refugees fleeing the destruction of God’s judgment.
Isaiah 21:14-15 (ESV)
To the thirsty bring water;
meet the fugitive with bread,
O inhabitants of the land of Tema.
For they have fled from the swords,
from the drawn sword,
from the bent bow,
and from the press of battle.
The enemies of God’s people will be devastated and destroyed. For a people experiencing God’s judgment, that has a ring of hope. Yet the appropriate response is not celebration, but mercy. I ran across these lyrics this morning by Nathaniel E. and Christy L. Nockels. They express the heart of God and the grace and mercy we receive in Christ.
Behold what manner of love
That we can be called Your children
Behold what manner of grace
That we can see Your face
Unmerited favor resting on me
Unspeakable joy setting me free
You gave a second chance to me
This is the grace we have received from God, yet we are so slow to give it to others. Tema is not a part of the People of God, yet they are known for their hospitality. In this passage they reach out to those fleeing judgment and destruction with mercy and provisions. Too often we cheer at the pain of our enemies. Too often an ungodly world is more merciful than the people of God. Should we not weep with the heart of God? Hear Jesus words on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). He spoke those words even as the guards were casting lots over his clothes. Father, give us the heart and mind of Christ, that we might see a lost and broken world through your eyes.