Tuesday of Christmas I – Isaiah 63:7-14

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
    the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord has granted us,
    and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
For he said, “Surely they are my people,
    children who will not deal falsely.”
    And he became their Savior.
In all their affliction he was afflicted,
    and the angel of his presence saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
    he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

10 But they rebelled
    and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
    and himself fought against them.
11 Then he remembered the days of old,
    of Moses and his people.
Where is he who brought them up out of the sea
    with the shepherds of his flock?
Where is he who put in the midst of them
    his Holy Spirit,
12 who caused his glorious arm
    to go at the right hand of Moses,
who divided the waters before them
    to make for himself an everlasting name,
13     who led them through the depths?
Like a horse in the desert,
    they did not stumble.
14 Like livestock that go down into the valley,
    the Spirit of the Lord gave them rest.
So you led your people,
    to make for yourself a glorious name.

Toward the end of C. S. Lewis’ book “The Horse and His Boy,” the protagonist, Shasta, finds himself walking alongside a great lion who is Aslan, the God figure of the novels. Throughout the novel, Shasta regularly ran into various cats. There was one who sat by him when he was frightened one night. Another lion who chased him and another time when a lion nearly caught his friend, leaving a great scratch upon her back. Shasta wonders why he has had such encounters and Aslan tells him that there was only one lion, He was all the cats and even some that Shasta had not seen or noticed.

Isaiah seems to be saying something like this to us today. He recounts the love of God, but if you notice verse 10, it says that the people rebelled, and God became their enemy and he himself fought against them.

It is easy to forget sometimes that we are rebellious creatures, yes, even those of us who sit in pews and show up on the Sunday after Christmas and Easter. It would be easy for us to imagine that God sees us differently than the rest of humanity. But in all the ways that matter most, He does not. Jesus has died for all to save us from the wrath of God. That wrath is real. God has no tolerance for sin, not your sin, not my sin, not anyone’s sin. He is the enemy of sin, including this sinner.

God’s enmity in Isaiah was purposeful. It brought the people back to Him. God remembered his promise and delivered them from their foes. So, we too get to come to the end of this passage. We are not stuck in the middle section. God wrath has passed over us in Christ, the paschal Lamb. Like a horse in the desert, we do not stumble. Shasta, in the story, crosses a horse in the desert. They eventually descend into a valley and are refreshed. The Lord, our Good Shepherd, leads us through valleys, some pleasant and some which are the shadow of death. But he never stops loving us.

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