Isaiah 63 shows us how God punishes and forgives. There is much to consider as we read of God bringing vengeance to Edom and of how He felt compelled to save Israel. Israel’s reaction is satisfyingly humble and will serve us well in terms of how to behave under the visage of the Almighty.
Verses 1-6: Reprisal Against Edom
Verse 1 starts out with a vision of One coming from Edom. Specifically He comes from Bozrah, a city which was perhaps the capital of Edom. This One coming from Edom is described as “…glorious in His apparel, Traveling in the greatness of His strength[?—] “I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”” It is God, traveling from the land of Edom after having taken vengeance on the nation due to their being adversaries of His beloved Israel. Edom was known for being Israel’s chief enemy and it always stood on the side of whomever was against Israel. Psalm 137:7: “Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom, The day of Jerusalem, Who said,“Raze it, raze it, To its very foundation!”” Psalm 137:7
In addition to its opposition of Israel, Bozrah was also known for making wine. In this passage, we have a vision of a lone God (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19) treading on the winepress in Bozrah. Only the juice that stains His garments and robes is not from grapes, but from the bodies of the punished. The two ideas of treading grapes to make wine and God treading on the people of Edom as punishment are presented as a poetic duality.
God waited, yet there was no one to save Israel from her enemies. So, He took it upon Himself. The arm of God makes an appearance here, bringing salvation to Israel for God’s sake. Instead of being overfilled with wine, now the wicked of Edom are drunk with God’s fury, a lethal dose that humbles their strength and lessens their might.
We would do ourselves a disservice to read this passage and not make reference to Revelation 19. In Revelation 19, we have a similar vision of Christ on a white horse, with a robe that is dipped in blood. Jesus is striking the nations, condemning them with His speech. It is a powerful scene: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” Revelation 19:11-16
Also, in Isaiah 11, there is a messianic prophecy that tells of Christs’s power along the same lines: that it is with His mouth that he condemns: “But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.” Isaiah 11:4
What can we take from these visions? God condemns Edom and punishes them in Isaiah 63 while Christ is described similarly, striking down the nations using the force of truth that He speaks. If we are carefully preceptive, it is almost as if we can see two out of the three personalities of God (Father & Son out of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit) working together to complete the total will of God.
Verses 7-14: Compassion
In these verses, Israel is recognizing the grace, mercy and compassion that God has had on them. As we read this passage, we get the sense of the relationship of God and Israel from God’s point of view. Let us review the sequence presented:
- God gave Israel great goodness, mercy and lovingkindness (v. 7)
- God takes Israel under His protection, saying they are “children who will not lie” (v. 8)
- God felt sympathy for them when they suffered and He helped them to survive and thrive (v. 9)
- God saw them rebelling, so He turned His face away from them (v. 10)
- God then remembered Moses, and the relationship He had with the people and how much He loves them (v. 11, 12)
- God resumed to watch over them, leading them through danger, so that they may survive and thrive once more (v. 13)
The sequence tells a story of love, patience, punishment and compassion. God loved Israel too much to leave them to die in their sins. Instead His plan all along was to provide for them (and all of mankind) a Savior through which to be reconciled.
The final point of this passage is memorable, and it contains an idea that we have visited before in Isaiah. God redeems Israel for the sake of His own name: “So You lead Your people, To make Yourself a glorious name.”
Verses 15-19: Remorse
Israel is ready to come back to God and is making this known in a very earnest and straightforward way in these verses. It is heartbreaking to hear their confession as they sorrow for the ways they have ignored God. They recognize that God hardened their hearts (v. 17).
The Israel in verse 14 is Israel Abraham’s son, not Israel the nation. Israel as a nation is saying that Abraham and Israel do not recognize the nation due to the state of their great sin. Their guilt and remorse is almost palpable. Because of their forsaking God and His commandments, they had become just as all the other people in the land. The prayer’s primary purpose is to ask God to return to Israel, so that their progeny does not disappear from the land. Israel’s conviction is highly persuasive in these verses, and it suggests that God has looked into the heart of the righteous remnant and has seen true repentance.
A powerful thing to consider and take away from this passage is God’s power. God’s power has had a profound effect on the subject of all three sections. Among Edom in the first section, God’s power to take vengeance is without equal and should strike fear into the hearts of sinners. In the second section, God’s compassion is so powerful that He controls the fates of nations. And in the third section, God’s power shows us that it is such that it can prove the need for repentance just as it instills a deep guilt into the hearts of those that have willingly disobeyed Him.
Tonight, let us think about God’s power. What has it done in your life?