Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans topped with Justin’s Almond Butter
Today’s Passage: Isaiah 25
When you praise God, what do you praise him for? For his kindness, his power, his majesty? Perhaps you praise him for sending his Son to die on the cross for your sins. Or perhaps, if you are Isaiah, you praise him for destroying a city.
That’s right: God displays his glory in straight-up wrecking shop. “I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name…for You have made a city into a heap, a fortified city into a ruin” (25:1-2), says Isaiah. This is no garden-variety demolition job; God has leveled an entire city and torn down its defenses. Isaiah elaborates: “A palace of strangers is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt” (25:2). You don’t come back from destruction like this. God’s work is thorough, leaving no hope of recovery for the castles and walls that his power has torn down.
Isaiah may raise a few eyebrows when he says this devastation is praiseworthy. It took a lot of human effort to build that city, wherever it is. People lived in that city! But God has a reason for leveling it, says Isaiah: “Therefore a strong people will glorify You; cities of ruthless nations will revere You” (25:3). God wants to show his greatness to nations who are confident in their own strength. They’re convinced that their fortified city allows them to carry out their ruthlessness. When God brings it down, however, they see that might does not make right. On the contrary, right makes might–justice by definition has a strong arm, power and goodness come together in the God who created the universe, and the city of pride will not last.
I wonder just how convincing Isaiah’s message was in his own time, if many of his audience raised the white flag and conceded that God is worthy of reverence after all. And I wonder if this passage would convince anyone reading it today. Would anyone who’s disinclined to praise God from the outset read this passage and then, by its conclusion, turn around and join Isaiah in praising God? Somehow I doubt it. But before I assume that he’s preaching to the choir, I wonder if Isaiah isn’t saying all this for anyone else.
Maybe he’s saying it for himself. Maybe he’s saying it for God.