O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. For You have made a city into a heap, A fortified city into a ruin; A palace of strangers is a city no more, It will never be rebuilt. Therefore a strong people will glorify You; Cities of ruthless nations will revere You. For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless Is like a rain storm against a wall. Like heat in drought, You subdue the uproar of aliens; Like heat by the shadow of a cloud, the song of the ruthless is silenced. The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine.And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." [Isaiah 25:1-9]

One-third of the world today is nominally Christian. In India we have Christian denominations Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. What difference does it make? Or what difference should it make to our nation? That is the question. Are Christians supposed to be just another minority group working for their own communal rights and privileges, struggling against the majority of Hindus and Muslims?

In most of the countries of Asia (except perhaps in the Philippines), Christians are a numerically small minority. What is God’s purpose for us in our nations? We cannot as Asian Christians look back to a time when ‘Christendom’ or ‘Christian nations’ were a fact of history, as Western Christians can.

How do we find a way to become a dynamic presence in our own nation? India, with her poverty and injustice, dishonesty and corruption, hope and frustration, lack of leadership and initiative, is one of the saddest nations of the world today. Is there some good news that we can be and bring to our people?

Christ the King came into the city of Jerusalem seated on a donkey. He came healing and serving. He brought joy to the down-trodden and the oppressed, to the lame and the paralytic, to the blind and the deaf. He came as light for the world in darkness, bringing joy and hope [St. John. 3:19; 12:46]. And he said of his disciples, in his great high-priestly prayer, ‘As Thou didst sent me into the world, so have I sent them into the world’ [St. John 17:18]. Our presence in the world then has to be on the same lines as that of Christ’s.

The Old Testament looked forward to the presence of the Saviour God. The 25th Chapter of Isaiah gives us some understanding of what the prophets expected to happen when God comes.

Verse 25:1-2 He has already done ‘wonderful things’, which are the basis of expecting more wonderful things to happen when He comes in person.

Verse 25: 2-5 What are the things He has done?

  1. He has judged the mighty nations that were oppressors. This is historically true in part, and in part it is yet to happen. The great empires of Alexander and Julius Caesar, of the Pharoahs and of Nebuchednezzar, of the Portuguese and the Spaniards, have all fallen. Their remains are mostly in ruins today. Even the more recent colonial empires of West European nations are now in the process of crumbling: a new form of economic oppression and exploitation, which we today call neocolonialism, is now spreading, awaiting the judgement of God. The poor nations are becoming poorer, while the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. We do not yet see the judgement of these nations and groups within our own nation but that cannot be far behind. God’s judgement of the rich and the oppressor has been partly fulfilled, and still yet awaits full consummation in the future.

  2. God has been a refuge for the poor, the protector of the needy and the oppressed (25:4). this is also partly realised and partly to happen in the future. We see that the working classes in many countries have begun to experience the redemption from oppression and want. But in nations like ours, millions are still poor, still oppressed. There is no shelter for them from the storm of grinding poverty and no shade from the heat of widespread famine.

The kingdom has come in Jesus Christ. The poor have had the good news preached to them. But the total fulfillment is still a matter for future realization. This future gets some content in the remaining part of Isaiah 25.

Verse 25: 6 - 8

  1. The most appropriate symbol of the Kingdom of God is that of a banquet.

  2. The banquet of the Lord is not just for the people of Israel, but for all nations (v.6).

  3. The banquet is rich and sumptuous -- not skimpy and bare.

  4. The symbolism of wine is that of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of forgiveness and joy, of creativity and holiness, of righteousness and peace.

  5. The word translated the ‘veil’ in v. 7 could also mean the ‘shroud’ -- the covering for dead bodies or for mourning people. The symbolism is particularly apt for India, where the ‘shroud of gloom’ spreads over all areas of our national life. The banishment of sorrow and suffering, misery and pain, belonged to the heart of the Kingdom as the prophets saw it. They expected the coming of the Messiah to be the occasion for lifting the shroud of gloom cast over all nations.

  6. The destruction of death is part of the messianic expectation (v. 8). A gospel that speaks only of material well-being is a perversion of the biblical message. ‘Eternal life’ is the quality of life that lives in this world without being enslaved by the fear of death, which knows that if this tent of our body is destroyed, we have a heavenly tent not made with hands (2 Cor. 5:1 ff). The Christian concern is not only for the ‘good life’ in the image of holiday resorts and vacationing centres. The good life, which accepts this world and rejoices in it, is also a life that transcends this world and triumphs over death. The ‘wiping away of tears from all faces’ (v. 8) means also giving people a transcendent hope, as well as giving them meaning, purpose and sustenance in this life.

Verse 25:9

Only when in practice both these concerns of the Christians become real to themselves and to others will our talk about God have any meaning for them. The God for whom India waits is a God who is both interested in and does things for the immediate economic, social and political problems, and at the same time brings victory over death itself; the God who not only punishes in his wrath and forgives in his grace, but the God who dispels famine and want, oppression and exploitation, pain and misery, hatred and dishonesty; the God who judges the oppressor and vindicates the oppressed; the God who gives life to those who live in the valley of the shadow of death.

In India we Christians need to realise the wide range of salvation that God brings -- not just the individual salvation in the ‘other’ world, but corporate and national salvation here and now as well.


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