THE LORD INDIGNANT-
General James Green
T here are times in history when the world becomes so sinful that it provokes the LORD’s Wrath. I have shown that Isaiah 13:9-11 was such a time. Now here in Isaiah 34:1,2, we find another reference: “Come near, you nations, to hear; and hearken, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it; the world, and all things that come forth from it. For the Lord is indignant against all nations, and His wrath is against all their host. He has utterly doomed them, He has given them over to slaughter.” (Amplified Bible)
As I have stated beforehand, the Bible uses the present, past, and the future. There is the present “day of the Lord” in which He deals with sinful man/nations (or in Isaiah) and there is the future “day of the Lord”, the eschatological expectation of universal judgement and catastrophe.
Another point we need to remember in dealing with the word “all” is that the word “all” in some texts must be understood in a limited sense (see Matt 3:5.6; 17:11; Lk 2:1; Rom 1:8; Dan. 2:38-40; Col.. 1:23, etc.). We must rely upon Scriptural context which shows to what extent “all” is limited to a part. Then we have the word “all” used in the absolute sense as including everything. All Scripture can be understood in context/content if efforts are honestly made.
Most scholars believe Isaiah 34 to be eschatological. But most believers who believe that God is only “love” and not “wrathful” find verses 1 and 2, too unrealistic, or too “hateful” for their taste. As I said beforehand, God’s (and Jesus’) nature consists of both “love” and “hate” (see our writing on the Wrath of God). These “God is only love” folks are repelled by the many word picture of Yahweh God, sword in hand, wreaking vengeance upon both man and earth. In Hebrew it is a striking literary composition, carefully worked out in arrangement and in details; something of its effectiveness can be felt in the translation of the RSV (some like it better than the KJV).
“Draw near, O nations, to hear, and hearken, O peoples! Let the earth listen, and all that fills it; the world, and all that comes from it. For the LORD is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host, he has doomed them, has given them over for slaughter. Their slain shall be cast out, and the stench of their corpses shall rise; the mountains shall flow with their blood. All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree. For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom, upon the people I have doomed. The LORD has a sword; it is sated with blood, it is gorged with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, a great slaughter in the land of Edom. Wild oxen shall fall with them, and young steers with the mighty bulls. Their land shall be soaked with blood, and their soil made rich with fat. For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion. And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into brimstone; her land shall become burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up for ever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.” (RSV Isaiah 34: 1-10)
PAST ----> FUTURE
Here in Isaiah 34:1-10 (see also 13:24; 63:1-6; Zech 1) are seen the TERRIBLE consequences of the final intervention of the LORD to deal with the hateful and implacable opponents of His righteous purpose. The language is very passionate and the figures vivid, for these are the qualities of Hebrew poetry seeking to convey the stark conviction that the righteous will of the LORD must ultimately prevail on earth, the clash between good/evil, right/wrong, between the LORD of heaven and history, and the evil forces which defy Him, must be, WILL BE resolved in the end. Most believe to be the Last Judgment on a cosmic scale. In out texts we can see both settings proclaimed - verses 5 and 6 equals the immediate object of God’s WRATH, and this suggest only a particular manifestation of the “day of Yahweh (which) is near upon all the nations:, as this story goes back to the story of Jacob and Esau, and reaches great intensity after the Edomites had sought to profit thru Judah’s destruction by the Babylonians (see Obadiah 10-12). But, as scholars point out, in Obadiah verses 15 and 16, the judgment on Edom is again only a particular manifestation of “the day of the Lord”. Edom is thus a representative of the enmity to Judah and to her religion which to the Jews was the same thing as enmity against Yahweh God.
WHOLE WORLD ?
In James Muilenburg’s “The Literary Character of Isaiah 34" (1940), he states that after the exordium addressed to the WHOLE WORLD (v,1), the composition is in two movements in contrast: vv. 2-8 equals the violent outpouring of God’s Wrath, and vv. 9-17 equals the aftermath of ruin after the wake of the storm. In the first, the FURY OF God rages thru the earth and heaven (vv.2-4); then His reeking sword is turned on Edom to exterminate man and beast in a sacrifice of appeasement (vv.5-7); this is “the day” when accounts are settled (v.8)
In the second movement, a DREADFUL hush has fallen on a scene of desolation. Smoke rolls upward from the whole land as from an unquenchable fire (vv. 9,10) and amid the overgrown ruins of the city, there is no sound or movement but that of creatures (vv.11-17). The “nations” are summoned (34:1), not as witnesses (see Amos 3:9), but to HEAR their sentence pronounced (see Micah 1:2). God has DOOMED them! (Vv.2-4) The “prophetic perfect” tenses express a future which is certain.
Scripture sometimes is not “loving” but “awful”. Men and beast are destroyed, the very soil is dunged with rotting, stinking death!, not a bit beautiful. Verse 8 speaks of “the LORD’s Vengeance”(KJV),,, “the year of recompenses for ... Zion”. Sure, there was an Israelite Zion then and a spiritual Israelite Zion today - the true Ekklesia of God. Hebrew scholars translate it (as a verbal adjective) to mean, “for the champion of Zion”.
There is however, one figure of speech which has in ALL ages caught the imagination - “the Day of the Lord”. From the distant past down to our present age( which some feel is passing quickly!); God’s WRATHFUL JUDGMENTS have flowed. Deeply implanted in the human spirit is the fear of the future, fear of doom. We can use many metaphors but one thing is CERTAIN- ALL ( in the absolute sense) will stand before God and give account for his/her life. It is Heaven or hell!