photo by Laura Evans
For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.
—Isaiah 33:22 NIV
Dear ICB family,
Judge. Lawgiver. King. They're not likely among the top 10 words that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. How, then, is the fact that God is our judge, lawgiver, and king the best news in the world?
Well, first we have to recognize something: For some, this is not good news at all.
Ah, you destroyer,
—Isaiah 33:1 ESV
The sinners in Zion are afraid;
[T]he Lord is enraged against all the nations,
The context makes it clear that "destroyers," "betrayers," "sinners," and the "godless," whether those "in Zion" or those in whatever nation they might live, are bound for "destruction" and "slaughter."
It is a terrible—and terrifying—thought.
So for whom, then, is the fact that God is a judge, lawgiver, and king good news?
Isaiah 33 also makes that clear:
'Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire [remember that our God is a consuming fire; see Is. 66:15; Heb. 12:29]?
The fact that God is judge, lawgiver, and king is only good news for the righteous. It's only good news for those who walk and speak uprightly. It's only good news for those who shun oppression, refuse bribes, and don't even speak of or look at evil. Those people—the righteous—will live securely, will be guaranteed all their needs, and will be able to look with their own eyes upon the "king in his beauty."
(Reminds you of Matthew 5:8, doesn't it? "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.")
So will the righteous please stand up?
And not a soul on the planet rises to his or her feet.
Why? Because Romans 3 comes crashing down as a scathing indictment against all humanity:
None is righteous, no, not one;
But the righteous are the only ones for whom God's presiding as a judge, legislating as a lawgiver, and ruling as a king is good news! What kind of hope could we possibly have?
Peter summarizes the good news this way:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.
—1 Peter 3:18
There is a righteous one who has walked and spoken uprightly. There is one who has never oppressed anyone under his authority for selfish gain. There is one who has never accepted a bribe and who has closed his ears and eyes from dwelling on evil. His life was made secure. He never lacked bread from heaven or living water. And most certainly, at the end of his road, he looked up and saw the face of God.
His name is Jesus Christ. And there is no one like him. It is this one, the only one worthy in and of himself to be called righteous, who "suffered once for sins." And who'd he do that for? For all the rest of us: "for the unrighteous." In other words, for the "destroyers," "betrayers," "sinners," and "godless," all bound for destruction.
And do you see the amazing purpose he had in mind as to why he did that? He suffered for the sins of the unrighteous "that he might bring us to God." We don't have to be like the "sinners in Zion" or those among the nations who are "afraid" and "trembling" (Isaiah 33:14). Instead, Jesus the righteous one freely gives the gift of his righteousness to the unrighteous, and when the unrighteous simply receive it, God looks down and considers Christ's righteousness to be their very own.
Only as such can they enjoy the hope of Isaiah 33:15–17. They will be the ones who can dwell with the God who is a consuming fire and not be burned but instead enjoy the radiant heat of his beautiful glory forever (Psalm 23:6). There will be no one who can ultimately shake them (even if someone destroys these fleeting tents called bodies [2 Corinthians 5:1–5]). Bread from heaven and living water will be theirs forever (John 6:33–35). And their eyes will finally get to see the happy, delighted face of God (Matthew 5:8; 1 John 3:2).
This is the hope that is ours and that we proclaim to the world.
Holding onto the gifted righteousness of the truly righteous one with you,