With Divine Retribution

When was the last time you sat down with the book of Isaiah for your devotions? Not the first book that comes to mind, is it? Still, if you are so inclined there’s a whole lot of really good stuff within the 1,292 verses of that prophetic book. For example, does this sound familiar? 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

But I digress. In Isaiah 35:4 we read, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Really? Be strong and do not fear in the face of divine retribution? How does that work? 

Pastor Timothy Keller gives us an excellent explanation when he says:

“Isaiah says the Messiah will come to save us ‘with divine retribution.’ But Jesus isn’t smiting people. He’s not taking out his sword. He’s not taking power; he’s giving it away. He’s not taking over the world; he’s serving it. Where’s the divine retribution? And the answer is, he didn’t come to bring divine retribution; he came to bear it.”[1]

You see, God’s divine retribution is a reasonable response to our sinfulness. Divine retribution is necessary to satisfy God’s need for holiness. There is nothing we can do in our own strength and power to reach His standard. In fact, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” But our God is such a gracious God! Rather than placing that burden of attempting to be righteous on us, rather than placing the crushing penalty of His divine retribution on us, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17); “He sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Every false accusation Jesus faced at His trials, He faced for us.

Every rejection from His disciples and friends, He endured for us.

Every lash of the whip, He took for us.

Every thorn that pierced His brow, He accepted for us.

Every drop of spit that splashed on Him, He gladly tolerated, for us.

Every moment of thirst, the pain from the nails, the heat from the sun, the agony of joints pulled out of place, all that He experienced in our place as He bore the full weight of divine retribution.

 That amazing act of grace is what we remember on Good Friday every year. 

But never forget that Good Friday is followed by Easter Sunday! That same Jesus who died Friday, satisfying God’s wrath, was raised again to life and continues His work on our behalf. Because of His profound sacrifice, because our sins have been forgiven, because God raised Him to life again, we have this amazing promise!

“Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:34-39)

That, my friends, is Divine and Eternal Love!

  1. Timothy Keller, Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition), p. 102.

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