63 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.”
Points of Interest:
Geography and History Lesson of the Day–Edom and Bozrah
Edom (aka Esau) was Jacob’s semi-estranged twin brother. The two of them mostly went their own way in life, and when they did happen to run into one another it was always a bit tense. The nations descended from each of them ended up with a similar relationship to that of the two brothers. The people of Edom settled just to the south of Judah; Bozrah was their capital.
I don’t know whether Edom is mentioned here just to bring some local color to this image of the striding giant warrior, if Edom is a stand-in for all of Jerusalem’s enemies, or if Edom particularly gets God’s ire. Apparently, during the famous conquest and exile which serves as the backdrop for our Isaiah readings, the Edomites had joined the Babylonian army and played something of a central role in that army’s sacking of Jerusalem (Obadiah 1:8-12). When they should have had a brotherly response to Judah’s misfortune, they instead celebrate it and even side with the enemy.
If I were to look at it from the Edomites’ direction, I might call this a tad bit unfair. Jacob was far more likely to steal Esau’s food than the other way around (see Genesis 27:18-35, for instance). And later on in history, David–the king of Israel and Judah–conquered Edom, and they were a Judean vassal state all the way until the time of the Babylonians 400 years later. So, it’s not like they primarily played the bully role in the relationship.
I guess God is kind of like a parent when two of their kids are fighting: ‘I don’t care who hit whom first. You’re both grounded.’
Grisly Moment of the Day–That’s an interesting shade of red ...
When the warrior is seen from far away, it looks like they’re wearing one of those new splendor garments; the fabric has a really interesting pattern, in a vaguely familiar shade of red. As the warrior gets closer, the watchers start to think, ‘Maybe it’s actually not splendor at all. I think that’s a wine spill.’ Finally, in a dreadful moment, it becomes clear that that’s not wine at all; the warrior is spattered with blood.
Theology of the Day–Vengeance
You may remember from Monday’s passage that the Servant’s mission is two-pronged: bring about (1) the year of God’s favor, and (2) the day of God’s vengeance. I have to say that, at first blush, I’d be more comfortable if, as in Jesus’ reading of it in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:18-19), part 2 were simply left out. I don’t think it can quite work that way, though. Good news for the poor may feel a lot more like bad news to the rich. Rescuing a prisoner means robbing the guards. If you’re going to protect the caravan, it means killing the wild dogs. Retribution for those who’ve been robbed or cheated means punishing the thieves and bullies. Salvation and vengeance are two sides of the same coin.
I’m comforted by the fact that God’s favor lasts a year, and God’s vengeance goes on for only a day.
Also, it seems like everyone has a choice about the side of the coin they will see. Whether you’re the object of God’s favor or God’s wrath isn’t pre-determined. A foreigner who treats others well gets rewarded by God; an Israelite who uses the sabbath to abuse the wait staff faces punishment. God is committed to moving people down the highway to the new city he is building. Anyone who gets on the road, stays on it, and helps others along gets God’s protection and provision. Anyone who puts up roadblocks better beware; God very well could get God’s people safely home over your dead body.
Taking it Home:
For your six: Even if it kind of, sort of, logically makes sense that compassion and vengeance are different sides of the same coin, I still just don’t really like it. I’d like it to be compassion and more compassion; compassion all around. It’s just one of those things about God that’s hard for me to get. I really don’t want to hear about anyone’s blood being smattered on anyone. Are there things that are hard or confusing for your six as they each relate to God? Ask God to make a way through any roadblocks your six might have when they think about relating to God.