19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. 20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” 22 Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”
23 He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. 24 The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. 25 In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. 26 The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.
27 See, the Name of the LORD comes from afar,
with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;
his lips are full of wrath,
and his tongue is a consuming fire.
28 His breath is like a rushing torrent,
rising up to the neck.
He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction;
he places in the jaws of the peoples
a bit that leads them astray.
29 And you will sing
as on the night you celebrate a holy festival;
your hearts will rejoice
as when people go up with flutes
to the mountain of the LORD,
to the Rock of Israel.
30 The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice
and will make them see his arm coming down
with raging anger and consuming fire,
with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail.
31 The voice of the LORD will shatter Assyria;
with his scepter he will strike them down.
32 Every stroke the LORD lays on them
with his punishing rod
will be to the music of tambourines and harps,
as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm.
33 Topheth has long been prepared;
it has been made ready for the king.
Its fire pit has been made deep and wide,
with an abundance of fire and wood;
the breath of the LORD,
like a stream of burning sulfur,
sets it ablaze.
Destruction & Joy
As I have been hinting at, we find a brief respite from “Woe” to hear how God will vindicate the people of Israel. But this vindication is not all rosy, but instead is very striking in its juxtapositions: joy and destruction, punishment and praise, adversity and providence, all bound up together in this passage. And it is difficult to see these ideas in working concert with one another…
I think we need to appreciate, and as difficult as it may seem, celebrate, when God destroys. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out. Of course God is a good creator, and every good and perfect gift is from him. But this passage, and the rest of Scripture, also seems to indicate that God is also a good destroyer, that he destroys idols that lead his people astray and into sin, and that he exacts justice upon those who would violently trample others.
I know that “good destroyer” seems too hard to grasp, so perhaps a different analogy would help us: let’s say someone came up to you and said that they wanted to take a knife and stick it in your belly and cut out part of an organ. You would run screaming for the police. But if a surgeon tells you that exact same thing, and that he is doing this to cut the spreading cancer from your liver, you willingly place your life in his hands. You see, “destruction” is a relative idea: in the hands of the unwise and fallible, it is a negative term, but in the hands of a wise and precise Surgeon, it is the best thing for us.
For a similar devotional from a different text, please see here.
1. What has the Lord “destroyed” in your life? What did he accomplish through that process?
2. How can we come to better respect, and even appreciate, when God destroys harmful things in our lives?