Look: “The oppressor will come to an end, and destruction will cease; the aggressor will vanish from the land. In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it—one from the house of David—one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.” (Isaiah 16:4b-5)
God’s people and the Moabites had what might be termed an ambivalent or mixed relationship. On the one hand, Israel’s King David was descended from a Moabite woman. On the other, Israel and Moab occasionally warred with each other, the latter frequently paying tribute to the former.
When Moab fell into idolatry and, as a result, unchecked injustice (idolatry always brings social injustice), God both condemned and lamented Moab’s resultant deterioration and subjection to foreign conquerors. Earlier in Isaiah 16, God tells His people through the prophet to welcome the refugees who crowd Israel’s borders. God always expected His people to welcome the refugees from oppression in light of the fact that God’s people had once been delivered by God when they were refugees from oppression. This openness to others is also commanded of modern-day Christians. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it,” Hebrews 13:25 says, alluding to the incident recorded in Genesis 18:1-15.
But, as often is the case when one of ancient Israel’s prophets delivers God’s Word, there’s a sudden expansion of the prophecy for more than just the time in which the prophecy was delivered, in this case the eighth century. It’s as though God can’t restrain Himself from telling the Moabites and the Israelites and the entire world that one day, He will bring a new King to sit on David’s throne, a King Who will make all things right. Verse 5 says, “In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it—one from the house of David—one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.”
The King will end injustice, another word for which, in both the Old and New Testaments, is unrighteousness.
He will also speed “the cause of righteous.”
In other words, the King being foretold will condemn sin, but will also justify sinners who trust in Him. Jesus is that King!
Though Jesus is God, He is also God in human flesh: true God and true man. As a man without sin, He bore our sin on the cross, accepting the rightful condemnation for our sin--our unrighteousness, our injustice--so that He could make righteous all who turn from sin and trust in Him. When Jesus returns to the earth to fully establish His Kingdom, the “oppressor will come to an end, and destruction will cease; the aggressor will vanish from the land.”
Listen: It’s telling to me that in this verse, as in others in which God addresses the immediate situations of His and another people, His thoughts move to His redemption for all people around the world who dare to welcome the King He sent us in Jesus.
God’s redemptive work with ancient Israel was simply the prelude or the first act of His rescue mission for the whole human race.
Tragically, many reject God’s rescue in Christ, but God delights in the idea of offering salvation to all His children. “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39)
Respond: In this verse in Isaiah, Lord, I spy You becoming giddy with Your love for the whole world, even for me. You can't contain Yourself! I see that You are a God filled with the joy of love for all of Your children, every one of whom You want to return to You for love, power, grace, forgiveness, and life!
Thank You that even in our darkest or most rebeliious days, You never forget Your promise, Your grace, or Your intentions to overcome the injustice and sorrow that result from human willfulness and idolatry. You keep offering us forgiveness and new life through faith in Jesus Christ!
You are giddy with the very idea that after all is said and done, Your grace and power and love will make all things right!
Just as You never tire of loving us, Lord, help me to never tire of thanking You. In Jesus’ name. Amen
[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]