Throughout the Old Testament, there are many references to a specific day. A day when the Lord, the mighty God, would come to earth and pass judgement on humanity. The Old Testament writers describe this as a day of destruction for wicked people, a moment when all the enemies of God would be called to account for the wrong they had done. It would be a day of vengeance.
You would be forgiven for shying away from this idea. In fact, when Jesus stands in the temple and reads out Isaiah 61 he stops right before this line. Could it be that not even Jesus liked the idea of bringing vengeance on his own creation?
One reason was the political weight this verse carried. Some of Jesus’ own disciples were hoping for war - a chance to overthrow the Romans, the shedding of blood was the goal.
Perhaps the word ‘vengeance’ doesn’t do the scripture justice in our translations. The Hebrew is more nuanced and carries tones of wrongs being made right and justice being established.
When we take this perspective we start to glimpse Jesus on the cross. The shedding of blood some of his disciples sought after coming from their own leader. The deliverance of justice being twisted and misplaced on an innocent man. The overthrowing of power as the governing authorities disempowered the King of Kings. Somehow, we’re left with a God who died - the day of vengeance had failed.
When Isaiah talked of vengeance he spoke in relation to Kings and nations, not individuals, who have abused their power and rule through acts of dominance and aggression. Perhaps there is comfort and hope in the knowledge that Jesus has now risen and conquered every authority and power. He stands head over everything and one day rulers who’ve sat in the place of God will have to acknowledge Jesus as King and every wrong will be made right and justice will come.
So, this lent, what would it look like for you to engage with justice? Maybe from a global, ethical scale or even something local in your community. How could the kingdom of Jesus come alive to you in this time?
We invite you to join us as we journey slowly and prayerfully through Isaiah 61 - line by line over forty days.