It's a dreadful depiction, the image of Almighty God visiting His fierce anger on the nations of the world.
In John's Revelation, the Apostle watches as angels pour out seven bowls of "the wrath of God," afflicting mankind with sores, pestilences, thirst, tormenting heat, devastating earthquakes, hailstorms and other terrors. (Revelation 14)
Isaiah, gazing into the future centuries before, sees the Lord striding out of Bozrah, His sword crimson, His robes red from the blood of the nations He has trampled in "the winepress of His wrath." (Isaiah 34 and 63).
Who, the prophet asks, is this terrible Being traveling "in the greatness of His strength?"
It is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the LORD God of Israel.
Why has He crushed the nations so ferociously as to leave sword and clothes drenched in blood? Because it is the day of His vengeance.
Vengeance for what? What is it that has made Him so angry? What are the nations guilty of that has caused this rage to build up inside the Creator until it is ready to erupt in a flood of fury?
Isaiah, together with the other prophets - Jeremiah and Nahum, Ezekiel and Micah, Zechariah, Zephaniah and Joel - gives us a clear and unmistakable answer:
It is His year of vengeance for the controversy of Zion. (Isaiah 34:8)
God is furious with the nations because of the way they have mistreated and persecuted Israel - the apple of His eye. (Zechariah 2:8)
And He is bringing them into judgment because they scattered His people and divided up their land. (Joel 3:2)
The LORD is determined, as He says through Zephaniah, to gather the nations together in order "to pour on them My indignation, all my fierce anger…" (Zephaniah 3:8)
Why is He so angry? Let us count the whys:
For 2500 years the Jews have been singled out for persecution, dispersion and destruction.
The history of the Gentile nations toward them has been one of hatred manifested in every form of cruel violence man, at every stage of his progression through the centuries, could devise.
Name it; it's been done to the Jews. And it's been done to them simply because they are Jews.
They have been crucified, skinned alive, broken on the rack, burned at the stake, pilloried, impaled, sawn in two, torn limb from limb, enslaved, driven from their homes, banished, baptized under pain of death, blood-libeled, robbed of all their earthly possessions, torn from their families to be raised in "Christian" homes, made the scapegoat for every social ill, from plague to fire to defeat in war to war itself.
The Jews have suffered the swords of the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Arabs. They have endured the pogrom mob murders, the examinations of the Inquisition, expulsion from the lands of their birth, incarceration in ghettos, suffocation in cattle cars, frenzied asphyxiation in gas chambers and the flesh-devouring fires of the crematoria.
For millennia, in every generation, the Jew has been the prey of the Gentile, while Israel's anguished cry has rebounded, apparently unheard, off a bronze, uncaring sky.
That cry swelled to a crescendo at Auschwitz where, for Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and countless others, God died.
(But God did not die. God has been there for every minute of every one of those 2500 years, watching, agonized and tormented right along with His people, feeling their pain, yearning for their release from it, but bound by the curses they had brought upon themselves as Moses warned them they would.)
And then? Surely it should have finally ended then? After the liberation of the camps and the revulsion and self-loathing that gripped the Gentile nations forced to gaze upon the fruit of the Jew-hatred they had nurtured and cultivated for so long. Surely it should have ended then?
But it did not end. It has not ended.
For a brief moment, vows ascended around the globe as nation after nation swore that "never again" would such horror and terror be permitted to take place against the Jewish people.
But as a drunkard sickened by his lack of self-control pours his last bottle down the drain, only to instantly regret doing so, so did the nations, through the forum that united them, agree to give the Jews their own haven state, and then immediately wish they had not.
They had a chance - these nations: many of them guilty of abusing their own Jews, or of closing their doors to Europe's and abandoning them to the Nazis. They had a chance to redeem themselves, to rally in support of the Jewish people and stand between them and their enemies that remained.
After all the evils they and their forebears had inflicted on the Jews, or permitted to happen to them, the nations owed it to the people of Israel to stand solidly with them and commit to ensuring the survival and prosperity of their state.
Instead, they have let those enemies (who are every bit as determined to wipe out the Jews as Hitler was; they only lack the means - for now) hijack the very mechanism that was instituted to ensure a Holocaust could not happen again. And these enemies of the people of Israel are using the United Nations to drive the Jews into a corner, de-legitimizing their state and aiming to eventually annul it.
Granted, not every one of the UN's 190 member states is actively working to destroy Israel. But this does not pardon those nations that abstain from voting on the myriad anti-Israel resolutions regularly churned out. They are guilty of letting it happen. Again.
If 20 centuries of persecution of the dispersed Jew were not enough to fill the cup of God's anger to overflowing, then surely the fact that Hitler's unparalleled attempt to obliterate the Jews did not stop anti-Semitism, did not teach the gentiles a lesson, is surely topping it up.
Wait, you say, God Himself punished the Jews because they were unfaithful to Him.
Yes, God removed His hand of blessing and allowed them to fall under the curse.
But what has angered Him is the way the nations of the world have enthusiastically pitched in, eager to be instruments of that punishment in God's hands. (Zechariah 1:15) They have gone far further than He ever intended them to.
And it is not just the vicious behavior against the Jews; it is also the reason behind the behavior, the core motivation for anti-Semitism: Embracing secular humanism and other godless philosophies and beliefs, the nations have rejected God, His commandments, and by the same token the people He calls His own.
As the Psalmist says:Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His anointed, saying, "Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us." (Ps 2:1-3)This is the reason the LORD God is so angry.
They have said, "Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more." (Ps 83:4)
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