Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Isaiah 63 begins with these perplexing words. They are presented in a question and answer format.
[Question] “Who is this that comes from Edom,
from Bozrah in garments stained crimson?
Who is this so splendidly robed,
marching in his great might?”
[Answer] “It is I, announcing vindication,
mighty to save.”
[Question] “Why are your robes red,
and your garments like theirs who tread the wine press?”
[Answer] “I have trodden the wine press alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their juice spattered on my garments,
and stained all my robes.” (Isaiah 63.1-3)
We can add our questions to these verses that are difficult to understand.
Who Is Edom?
The Edomites were traditional enemies of the Hebrews. In a larger sense, Edom represents the evil that plagues us all.
When God says, “I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau” (Romans 9.13), we need to know that God does not hate an entire race of people.
For “God so loved the world” is true of the Edomite descendants of Esau, just as it is true of the Hebrew descendants of Abraham.
What God does hate is evil, which is symbolized by Edom.
Why Does God Act Alone?
Verse 3 declares that God acts alone to bring vindication against evil. Why must he act alone?
The Bible teaches that we all are “under the power of sin, as it is written:
‘There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
there is no one who has understanding,
there is no one who seeks God.
‘All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
there is no one who shows kindness,
there is not even one.'” (Romans 3.9-12)
Step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous reads, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.”
We can substitute any evil that controls us for “alcohol” in this step and it will apply to us.
Since we are powerless to rid ourselves of sin, transgression, iniquity, rebellion, and the like, we need a power greater than ourselves. That is where God arrives and acts to set us free.
God’s Vindication Seems Severe
If these words in Isaiah 63 are literal, isn’t God’s vindication severe and harsh?
It is important to remember that God hates evil. He hates evil for the harm that it does to the humans he loves.
Let’s not forget that God loves people, but hates evil. That will assist our understanding of harsh passages like this one.
We also can balance these words with those from Isaiah 53. The One who brings vindication against evil is also the Suffering Servant, who was crushed for our inequities.
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53.4-6)
One of the greatest pleasures of my life is to see how God transforms his enemies through his redeeming love. The expression, “God defeats his enemies by making them friends,” is an awesome testament to his character.
Does God’s Love Eliminate Judgment?
The final question about God’s love and judgment must not be overlooked. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are given that designation because they are good news. They tell the good news story of God’s love.
Even though the Gospels are filled with the best new humanity could ever hear, they also contain several warnings about judgment.
I love to emphasize God’s love and find it hard to write about judgment.
To balance my easy going outlook, I frequently quote the question Abraham asked God, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18.25).
God is the Judge of all the earth. We can count on God bringing justice to every aspect of life, and that includes making right the wrongs of humans.
There is a multitude of evil on the earth. People have two choices. They can experience God life-changing love, or they can meet the Judge in his judgment.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross has some excellent insights into this passage. I encourage you to listen to Rudy’s thoughts on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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