“Be patient, establish your hearts”

Our chapter (34) in Isaiah today clearly has some application to our days. This is further illustrated by the way it flows into the next chapter which is so evidently a picture of life in God’s kingdom: this chapter is often quoted and some of its verses form part of our hymns about the kingdom. The vision presented in today’s chapter has, of course, its roots in a situation in the prophet’s own time, but God causes the prophet to extend his vision much further.

Look how today’s chapter starts, “give attention O peoples! Let the earth hear … for the LORD is enraged against all the nations and furious against all their hosts; he has devoted them to destruction …” (verses 1,2) followed by the words “all the host of heaven shall rot away and the skies roll up like a scroll”. These words are seen as symbolic of the leaders, those in power in the nations, the ones the people look up to! This is even clearer in the next verse where we read, “my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens…” God’s sword!

Verse 8 puts the focus on Zion, God’s holy mountain. “For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion”. But why the reference in the next verse to Edom? Back in Genesis 36:1 we learn that Esau (the brother of Jacob) starts to be referred to as Edom. There is a parallel here to Jacob being renamed Israel. One of Esau’s wives was the daughter of Ishmael (verse 3). Esau had twelve sons as did Jacob and the detailed list of his descendants (verses 9-43) shows they spread as far as the Euphrates (verse 37).

This led us to ponder on the implication that at that at the time of the “recompense for the cause of Zion” there is a parallel event when “streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch” (Isaiah 34:9) – and that Edom is a particular object of God’s vengeance?

The chapter ends with God exhorting all those who are seeking him in this time of great trouble, “Seek and read from the book of the LORD … his Spirit has gathered them … from generation to generation they shall dwell in it. The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom … with joy and singing … The glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God … be strong and fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance … then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped …”

You will see we have quoted as far as verse 5 of chapter 35 which illustrates the sequel from where we began to read at the start of chapter 34. Our reading in James 5:1-3 has parallel thoughts, it is about the “the miseries that are coming upon you … in the last days” and offers the powerful exhortation, “be patient, establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (verse 8). As the world moves closer to chaos how essential it is that we establish our hearts.