Ah, you destroyer, who yourself have not been destroyed, you traitor, whom none has betrayed! When you have ceased to destroy, you will be destroyed; and when you have finished betraying, they will betray you. ~Isaiah 33:1
Harsh words. Not exactly you’d say to your best friend over a cup of coffee. “You traitor! You’re going to get yours!” The prophet Isaiah is lamenting over the invading country who is destroying Israel because they’ve turned away from God. They’ve left their first love and attempted to do life on their own. Isaiah is faced with the reality of the situation – the attack and betrayal of his beloved country – and he doesn’t like it. He’s ready for the tables to be turned on Assyria, and he’s letting his feelings be known.
And yet, right after those sobering words to his enemy, Isaiah turns to God and pleads for Him to save them.
O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble….For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” ~Isaiah 33:2, 22
Commentator Luma Simms gives this insight in the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible:
Isaiah moves back and forth from lament to hope, from lament to a cry for help…from the reality of hardship, oppression, and chastisement to future hope and victory….We live in what has been called the ‘already and not yet.’ Christ conquered sin, death, and Satan on the cross. He has inaugurated his kingdom. But while we wait for his return, we contend with the destroyer who, in an ultimate sense, has been finally destroyed. Satan’s doom is sure, but he is still waging war against God’s people. And so we too are a people that move from lament to hope, from hardship to assurance, from our failings and weaknesses to the promise of the final return of Christ in glory.
I love that these verses give us permission to face the reality of hardships and lament over them. To not stick our heads in the proverbial sand and say ‘bless God, it’s all gonna be okay,’ but to grieve the reality of hardships and lament over living in the ‘not yet.’ That part often comes easily for me. And yet…
If we lament over failings and weaknesses, we must also, like Isaiah, turn from that lament to hope. We must also face the reality of hope in Christ and our future victory. These failings, these hardships, they are not the end of the story. The victory of Christ is the final chapter. And we are IN Christ. In Him, we move from lament to hope. In Him, the victory will be ours.