Grapes of Wrath
Lord, teach us to luxuriate in Your loving-kindness (7) because You are our savior (8).
Read ISAIAH 63:1–14
Who is this coming from Edom,
from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson?
Who is this, robed in splendor,
striding forward in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, proclaiming victory,
mighty to save.”
2 Why are your garments red,
like those of one treading the winepress?
3 “I have trodden the winepress alone;
from the nations no one was with me.
I trampled them in my anger
and trod them down in my wrath;
their blood spattered my garments,
and I stained all my clothing.
4 It was for me the day of vengeance;
the year for me to redeem had come.
5 I looked, but there was no one to help,
I was appalled that no one gave support;
so my own arm achieved salvation for me,
and my own wrath sustained me.
6 I trampled the nations in my anger;
in my wrath I made them drunk
and poured their blood on the ground.”
Praise and Prayer
7 I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the Lord has done for us—
yes, the many good things
he has done for Israel,
according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
8 He said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will be true to me”;
and so he became their Savior.
9 In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.
10 Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.
11 Then his people recalled the days of old,
the days of Moses and his people—
where is he who brought them through the sea,
with the shepherd of his flock?
Where is he who set
his Holy Spirit among them,
12 who sent his glorious arm of power
to be at Moses’ right hand,
who divided the waters before them,
to gain for himself everlasting renown,
13 who led them through the depths?
Like a horse in open country,
they did not stumble;
14 like cattle that go down to the plain,
they were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord.
This is how you guided your people
to make for yourself a glorious name.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Find comfort in the psalmist’s words as you worship today: “Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages” (Psa. 50:3).
A pastor recently told me how he dramatically smeared a white shirt with mud (made to look like something even more filthy!), which wouldn’t wipe clean, to illustrate to his young people their need for cleansing through Jesus. He could have used Isaiah’s wine-stained shirt! Stamping the grape harvest in a winepress is a biblical picture of “the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (Rev. 19:15)—almost as challenging as another image in Revelation—a warrior riding horseback returning from battle bloodied (Rev.
Wrath is not a popular word for God’s action today—it sounds so vengeful. Yet a desire for justice is universal. These passages speak of justice, yes, but
also of people made righteous, of wrongs being righted. Today we ask: “Why should the wicked get away with it?” “Won’t someone do something about it?” We recoil when innocent people are bombed or starved or raped, especially when they are targeted for their Christian faith. For Isaiah, Edom represents a world that hates God’s people (1). It later became code for Rome when it was the source of organized opposition to Christians. Seeing God as avenger, bringing richly deserved judgment, “answers our cry for just redress, but takes the responsibility for achieving it out of our hands” (Barry G. Webb, The Message of Isaiah).
What should we do in response to evil—evil so pervasive that more is needed than simply letters to the editor, modest protests or even gradual improvement? Like Isaiah, we pray (7–14). We express our utter dependence on God. We rehearse his past power and capability because we know our covenant God
undertakes for his people, and our eyes of faith “have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” (Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910). There may be no immediate answer, but that is no reason to stop interceding. The Hebrews endured 70 long years of exile.
Congregations need people gifted in pastoral praying to connect them to the events of a week and gather up the prayers of God’s people. Are you one of these?
Lord, thank You that in Your mercy we are no longer the hapless grapes under Your massive feet.
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