What will one answer the messenger of the nation? The Lord has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.” – Isaiah 14:32
I’ve been studying the book of Isaiah over the past several weeks and it has been such an incredible blessing to read and study chapter by chapter this beautiful revelation of God and his redeeming love. When I came to Isaiah 14:32, God said to me “Stop! Read it again.” And so I did. He said to me “Read it again, and listen to ME speak.” And so I did. And I read it a third and fourth time and I’ve read it many times more since that day. As I write this short word of encouragement, please understand the depth of this great truth: God is actively working to save, sustain, and sanctify His people for the glory of his name. What’s more is that every circumstance believer’s face is working toward that ultimate goal as well. The book of Isaiah is written to this end and in it we find the great revelation of God’s judgment against the sin of his people tied to the abundant grace of God to sustain his “remnant’ who will carry out his work in this world. At the center of it all is Jesus, who is the Holy One established in Zion as the King of Kings and to whom all the afflicted in this life can run and find refuge. (Psalm 5:11, 73:28, Zephaniah 3:12, Hebrews 6:18)
A little contextual background on Isaiah 14:32 will help us greatly. Isaiah’s prophecy comes at a dark time in Israel’s history, as they are facing the threat of destruction from Assyria to the North. Already, Isaiah has prophesied the future destruction of Babylon (Isa. 14:1-23), as well as the fall of Assyria (Isa. 24-27), who is a “Babylonian type of empire”, who mocks God and oppresses His people. No nation that rejects the Lord God will stand, and both Assyria and Babylon would one day face the wrath of God. By his sovereign choice the Lord God uses unbelieving nations and empires to correct and refine his people, as HE preserves and sustains his remnant who will ultimately glorify his name (Isa. 10:2-22). The Assyrians to the north were pressing into Judah, threatening to destroy them. The wicked and faithless king Ahaz has disgraced the Davidic line of kings and the once proud Judah is no longer relevant in the eyes of the nations. The Philistines, having once pushed back the Assyrians, will once again face the full wrath of the bloodthirsty empire (Isa. 14:29). So, Philistia turns to Judah to form an alliance against Assyria, their common enemy. Yet the Lord declares through Isaiah that their alliance is with Him, not pagan idolaters. God promises that those who are established in Zion will be safe, and all the afflicted of God will find a place of peace and safety on Zion.
Zion represents the presence and authority of God. Those who are surrendered to God will find hope in the midst of sorrow and peace in the midst of turmoil. The “messengers of the nations” will come to call God’s people into a partnership, yet there is no partnership to be had with those who reject God and who worship false gods. The people of God have always been and always will be safe by faith in God alone. Even those who are severely afflicted will find a true place of refuge in God. I know the word “afflicted” is a strong word, but I believe it is accurate. We are people who are often afflicted by the pressures of life happening all around us.
The Christian life is not, as some would say, “all doom and gloom”. I firmly believe the life we have in Christ is one of joy, peace, and gladness. The most effective Christian witness comes from a believer who is “happy in the Lord.” But we also must be honest with ourselves and our condition; there is much that afflicts us in this life, whether it is from our own sinful pursuits and poor choices, or perhaps another person’s actions have harmed us, or even those instances where something unexpected has occurred and no person is really responsible. The promise we read in Isaiah 14:32 gives us a clear and hopeful outlook: the people of God who have been afflicted, hurt, damaged, and defeated in this life have a place to go to find true peace. This “place” has more to do with a person than an actual building or location. The refuge we need is “founded upon Zion”, the place that signifies the sovereign rule of God’s Son, Jesus. In Christ Jesus we find freedom and joy and a release from the burdens we carry from our anxieties and concerns in how we will save ourselves (1 Peter 5:7).
Jesus promises us rest from all of that stuff (Matthew 11:28-30). He is all that we need (2 Corinthians 12:9). Do you have sorrows? Run to the refuge of Christ your Savior today, the one who bore all your sorrows on the cross. Do you have regrets and fears? Run to Jesus right now, the one who paid for those regrets and who calms your fears. Is there and pain and shame in your life? Run to the great and glorious refuge in Jesus; the one who heals your pain and who took all your shame upon himself in order to set you free and give you rest (Hebrews 12:2, Isaiah 61:7). Yes, the good news of the gospel really is THAT GOOD! Jesus is our refuge, where all of the afflicted in this world can find peace.