“He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” Isaiah 50:8-9
Now that is pure defiance. God is with me, so where then are my enemies, my tormentors, my pursuers? If you ever feel like you’re dealing with injustice or oppression, how does it feel to make a statment like this? And I don’t just mean with something like the Trayvon Martin case recently, or other grand scale seeming miscarriages of justice. I trust God is at work there, too, certainly; but there are equally great injustices that happen in unheard of ways, with no media attention, ever. Injustices that are never touched, let alone righted. Think about the personal ones, the ways you have known life to be unfair.
Alright, now woah, I don’t mean for you to list every way you think life hasn’t been totally “fair” in the sense that you haven’t gotten all you feel entitled to. Some of us would be fool enough to complain that other kids are born to wealth and are given Lambourghinis for their sweet sixteens, or some people are born geniuses who never have to exert themselves to be brilliant, or some become athletes who not only get to play for a living, but make millions and are famous for it. Yes, yes, terribly unfair. But you know it’s not injustice, not really. I’m not talking about other people’s rare breaks, I’m asking for the real undeserved nonsense and evil and trash you’ve had perpetrated against you. It’s worse than “no Lambourghinis.”
I’m talking about name-calling, the sinister kind that you never deserved. I’m talking about gossip and rumors with no ground in reality. I’m talking about someone else lying to steal your creativity, or authority. Or when people betray you, even for no good reason. I’m talking about people neglecting you, or purposefully ignoring you. I’m talking about when you feel objectified or tossed aside or insignificant. I’m talking about when people who matter don’t have time for you. Or when you don’t get credit for the great effort you put in, or when others do. I’m talking about when you are the butt of a joke, or the recipient of anger/rage/assault, or been dragged into something, that you didn’t deserve. I’m talking about when people hold ridiculous expectations over you, or pressure you. I’m talking about when others take satisfaction from your failure, or help you to fail; or exalt themselves and their own undeserved success. I’m talking about when people are competitive and cut-throat even when you’re just trying to enjoy playing the game. Add more to that list, if you will. These are great and small instances of true injustice.
These are situations that define for us the word “enemy” or “adversary.” They’re things we all perpetrate against each other, and I have to say where I see a deep, unified, and perfectly evil power at work. Not to blame it all on the devil, for we certainly choose for ourselves, but injustice (especially the personal kind) is what I think satan enjoys and propagates. And it’s what God takes a stand against, and fights to eradicate.
I wonder how personal this was for Isaiah, if he was speaking out of a prophet’s heart who knew what it was to try to hold God’s people accountable, only to have them “boo” him, or beat and jail him. All he wanted to do was to be faithful, and to even see the people at their best, and a best not of his own making but of God’s guidance — but speaking God’s word turned out to be no guarantee of earthly success. Here is an Isaiah who also certainly proves himself good at prophesying the feelings and words that Jesus would later use, so I wonder if this passage fits. Jesus who had some of the earth’s most unjust moments perpetrated against HIM, by his own people. Really, by us all.
In the face of injustice like that, the personal and real kind, it fires me up to see someone like Isaiah, or picture someone like Jesus (or even myself) standing up under the assault and saying in the face of my attackers — “Is that IT?!? Who will stand here in my face with me? Who will accuse me? WHO are YOU? What have you to say? Say it openly. Because the Lord is here, and he has vindicated me.” It’s like Maximus in the coliseum or something. It’s justice for the ones that spit upon and beat Jesus. Justice for the ones who gloated over it, and who laughed and said, “Where is your God?” Justice for the dictators and princes of dark places who enjoy their temporary rule and have forgotten there will be consequences. Even justice carried out ON me, for the ways I’ve contributed to the harm of myself, others, and God’s earth. But I guess, really, that justice has already been carried out out Christ in my stead, so that I can be free today. But let me, and you, let us remember it, so that we are never over-bold in crying for out for justice served on someone else.
Today, take heart in Psalm 50, for justice and righteousness are true today; but so is mercy and grace, so let it reign in you as well. Stand up in defiance of all wrongdoing, but be quick to forgive, for you yourself have been a tyrant to others, at some time and in some place. And the Lord, Jesus, has already born the guilt of it for you and for me. That should be at once both empowering and humbling, extremely.