The past week has been wrenching for so many of us with links to the United States. Having been born in Washington State and raised in Oregon and California, America is my “home and native land.” While our family became dual citizens after moving to Canada, I remain concerned about what happens south of the border.
The images of angry mobs storming the US Capitol buildings, smashing windows and ransacking offices, was both disgusting and disheartening. And knowing that this violent rampage was incited by the President himself made it all the more troubling.
My devotional reading through Isaiah last week brought me to these timely verses:
“Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation: for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait” (Isaiah 51:4-5).
The Lord speaks these words to Jews who would experience exile in Babylon. Many of them had become disillusioned with the leaders they had known. Their own kings had failed them badly. The Babylonian kings were no better. The Lord seeks to revive their wilted hopes and hearts with a promise of His justice. In his unrivalled power (“his arm”), He declares He will “judge the peoples” and establish a just rule on earth.
This kind of strong and just ruler is what the people were longing for (“the coastlands hope for me and for my arm they wait”).
In commenting on these verses, John Oswalt writes: “We long for someone who is both strong enough and good enough to rule. . . in justice.” (Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Vol 2, 336-337)
Oswalt is right. People around the world want leaders who are both “strong enough and good enough to rule in justice.”
We need leaders who are strong enough to get things done. Weak leaders who are incompetent or insecure don’t produce needed results. They fail to stand up to challenges; they falter at critical moments.
But strength, by itself, is not enough. We need leaders who are good—in their motivations and morals. They must evidence a selflessness that pursues the best interests of those they serve. They must have a personal integrity that gains respect and inspires trust.
Tragically, this past week showcased a president wielding strength without goodness. And the result was chaos and carnage.
Isaiah reminds God’s people that our hopes for justice and righteousness in our fallen world must be ultimately focused on God. While all who carry leadership responsibilities must seek, by God’s empowering grace, to lead with both strength and goodness, none of us are strong enough and good enough to do this perfectly. Thankfully, God has promised a Leader will come to bring His justice and righteousness to our confused and broken world. Earlier in his book, Isaiah spoke of how the Lord would accomplish this:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (9:6-7).
On Christmas we celebrate this Child’s first advent. Now, as we groan for a better day, we hope and wait for His second coming. Only when Jesus returns to set up His eternal kingdom will the Lord’s promise, given in Isaiah 9:6-7 and 51:4-5, be finally and fully realized.