33: Woe to you who plunder, though you have not been plundered;
And you who deal treacherously, though they have not dealt treacherously with you!
When you cease plundering,
You will be plundered;
When you make an end of dealing treacherously,
They will deal treacherously with you.
2 O Lord, be gracious to us;
We have waited for You.
Be our arm every morning,
Our salvation also in the time of trouble.
3 At the noise of the tumult the people shall flee;
When You lift Yourself up, the nations shall be scattered;
4 And Your plunder shall be gathered
Like the gathering of the caterpillar;
As the running to and fro of locusts,
He shall run upon them.
5 The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high;
He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness.
6 Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times,
And the strength of salvation;
The fear of the Lord is His treasure.
7 Surely their valiant ones shall cry outside,
The ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.
8 The highways lie waste,
The traveling man ceases.
He has broken the covenant,
He has despised the cities,
He regards no man.
9 The earth mourns and languishes,
Lebanon is shamed and shriveled;
Sharon is like a wilderness,
And Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits.
10 “Now I will rise,” says the Lord;
“Now I will be exalted,
Now I will lift Myself up.
11 You shall conceive chaff,
You shall bring forth stubble;
Your breath, as fire, shall devour you.
12 And the people shall be like the burnings of lime;
Like thorns cut up they shall be burned in the fire.
13 Hear, you who are afar off, what I have done;
And you who are near, acknowledge My might.”
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid;
Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites:
“Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?
Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”
15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
He who despises the gain of oppressions,
Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes,
Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed,
And shuts his eyes from seeing evil:
16 He will dwell on high;
His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks;
Bread will be given him,
His water will be sure.
17 Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will see the land that is very far off.
18 Your heart will meditate on terror:
“Where is the scribe?
Where is he who weighs?
Where is he who counts the towers?”
19 You will not see a fierce people,
A people of obscure speech, beyond perception,
Of a stammering tongue that you cannot understand.
20 Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts;
Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet home,
A tabernacle that will not be taken down;
Not one of its stakes will ever be removed,
Nor will any of its cords be broken.
21 But there the majestic Lord will be for us
A place of broad rivers and streams,
In which no galley with oars will sail,
Nor majestic ships pass by
22 (For the Lord is our Judge,
The Lord is our Lawgiver,
The Lord is our King;
He will save us);
23 Your tackle is loosed,
They could not strengthen their mast,
They could not spread the sail.
Then the prey of great plunder is divided; The lame take the prey.
24 And the inhabitant will not say, “I am sick”; The people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity.
I don't ever recall a time in my lifetime when there was more talk against injustice. It's a welcome sound. It's a familiar sound. When God speaks that is His main theme. When Jesus was here it was His main theme.
It can seem like a lonely and impossible task to stand up against injustice, to see the tragedies on every side of those holding the power running roughshod over those who have none. Then I read His promises and I can take heart again. Children will not be sexually exploited forever without end or without consequence. Women will not be treated as less or as objects forever or without consequence. Society may turn a eye from the poor but He sees them and a day is coming when He will lift them from their suffering. In that day skin colour will be seen only as another example of God's love of variety and contrasting beauty. Language will never be a barrier again for the language of love will be spoken there. Those who seemed to plunder without accountability here will not be there. True peace will reign. No police will be needed. No doctors either.
In Psalm 73 David was in despair over the injustices he saw. It seemed to him that it was far more profitable to be evil. They seemed to prosper without impediment. Then he said he went into the sanctuary of God and then he understood. What did he see in there? He saw death. He saw blood. He saw the innocent lambs. He saw the guilty going away free. He saw in the inner most room a throne of mercy. Then he understood.
We are living in a day of mercy. Unlimited mercy. It is the mercy and grace of God that subsidizes our evil. Our complete freedom to do well or to be horrific is all sponsored by the blood of the Lamb. Without Jesus we would die and this planet long ago would have self-destructed. Instead He waits. He prays. He sends His Spirit to every human heart. He pleads. He draws. He carries our guilt and shame in the hope that we will turn from it and seek righteousness.
The book of Isaiah over and over from every angle warns and promises. The warning is that mercy will end. The plunderers will be plundered. Evil and those who persist in it will be cut off. At the same time promises, precious extravagant promises.
"Come let us reason together" says the Lord. "Though your sins be like scarlet they shall be white as snow..."
And my favourite promise in this chapter: "Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will see the land that is very far off."
It may seem like a fairy tale now. It may seem like wishful thinking. However eternity was planted in our hearts. The ideal we long for here was planted in us by the One who will bring it to completion. Trust Him.