and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
'Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.'"
Whereas “ruthless nations” used their strength to bring oppression and foster injustice (Isa. 25:3-5), God is a “stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isa. 25:4). While they may be forgotten and mistreated by society, God remains a refuge for them.
Biblically, a paradox arises: it is precisely God’s impartiality that makes him partial to the poor (Deut. 10:17–18; cf. James 3:17). We think of fairness as treating everyone the same, yet God sees perfectly the many ways in which things are not the same for all people. The world gives inherent priority to the powerful, wealthy, and beautiful. Impartiality for God does not mean treating everyone the exact same way at all times, since he alone perfectly takes into consideration all things (Rom. 11:33–35). It is in fairness that God favors the forgotten and receives the rejected (Psalm 113; cf. Ps. 107:41; 136:23). God’s royal majesty is seen in his tender mercy (Ps. 138:6; cf. Luke 1:52–53). How easy it is for us to forget that God gives priority to the weak, the vulnerable, and the needy (James 2:5). Accordingly, one of the marks of a healthy church, and a healthy Christian, is an impulse to extend God’s compassionate care to those most in need—supremely those in spiritual need, but also those in physical need. The church thus becomes a “stronghold” for those must vulnerable, bringing the peace of Christ to trial-ridden lives.
God’s mercy to the needy has a flip side here, according to Isaiah: he will not turn a blind eye toward the injustices carried out by the nations. The sovereign Lord, who has “done wonderful things,” will act “faithful and sure” (Isa. 25:1), and this includes his plans to carry out a just judgment against the idolatrous and tyrannical nations (Isa. 25:2–5). He will “lay low” the “pompous pride” of such harmful powers (Isa. 25:11).
Furthermore, the Lord promises to “swallow up death,” not for a time but eternally. He will “wipe away tears from all faces,” taking away his people’s “reproach” (Isa. 25:8–10; cf. Rev. 7:17; 21:4). Only in his substitutionary death and life-giving resurrection do we see Christ as decisively victorious over the power of sin and death (1 Cor. 15:54; cf. Heb. 9:8–24). United to him by God-given faith, we share in his triumph.
This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible.