Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 1 2019 - Isaiah 63 – Treading out the winepress

Isaiah 63 falls into 2 parts. Verses 1-6 describe, in somewhat gruesome terms, the coming of God in judgment upon all that has damaged and destroyed his world.

Let me take you back to the previous chapter where we saw that the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, has placed watchmen on the walls of his holy city. These watchmen are to join the risen and glorified Messiah in giving God no peace from their prayers and intercessions until he makes his redeemed people a praise in all the earth (Isaiah 62:6-7). We spoke of this as the calling, in part, of every Christian, to pray as Jesus taught us for God's kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Isaiah 63 describes what the watchmen on the walls now see. They see a character coming towards them from Edom. This idolatrous nation, descended from Esau and situated to the southeast of Jerusalem, with its capital Bozrah (not to be confused with Basra in Iraq), was a longstanding enemy of Judah and is used here as a symbol of an unbelieving world, contemptuous of the promises and goodness of God (see Genesis 25:29-34; Isaiah 34:1-15; Ezekiel 35). The man striding towards Jerusalem is robed in splendour and is proclaiming that he has won a great victory.

The watchman notices that his splendid garments are stained and splattered red as though he has been treading red grapes in a winepress and asks why this is so. The victorious character replies that there was no one else who was able to execute God's judgment and to save God's people from the threats of a world in rebellion against God. He has trodden the winepress of God's anger alone and has trampled down the opponents of God. His robes are now stained with their blood:

I trampled the nations in my anger;
    in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground. (v. 6)

This grim picture may make us feel uneasy or even fill us with revulsion. It is indeed an awful picture. Nevertheless, it is the testimony of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation that God rescues his people by crushing those who oppress them and who are implacably opposed to the saving purposes of God. That is what God did when he rescued his people from Egypt. That is the desire of his martyred people in Revelation 6:10 when they cry out to God, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" That is part of what we pray for, whether we realise it or not, whether we like it or not, when, as watchmen on the walls we give God no rest but plead that his kingdom may come.

So this vision of the glorious victor in God's battle against evil gives way in the latter verses of this chapter to a psalm of praise and intercession recalling God's goodness to his people in the past and pleading for the Lord to show mercy again in saving his people.

I wish we could look in more detail at verses 7-19 of this chapter, but space does not permit. But I must pick up one remarkable phrase. Verse 9, perhaps speaking of Israel's slavery in Egypt, says of God, "In all their distress he too was distressed". God is moved by the plight of his people. This is most clearly demonstrated in the Lord Jesus Christ. He who was God from all eternity became human – became one of us. He shared and felt our distress. He endured the opposition, anger and violence of a world opposed to God and shed his blood for us: "by his wounds we are healed." Here is the most wonderful truth in all the world: we who also were rebels against God and worthy of God's judgment are redeemed, forgiven and made children of God because his blood stained his spotless robes – "the punishment that brought us peace was on him"; he endured God's wrath in our place. He, the victor over all the powers of sin and death will one day come again to establish his kingdom and make his unworthy but redeemed people "a praise in all the earth".

Lord Jesus, help us to tell the world of your kindness, your deeds of compassion and saving goodness for which we offer you our heartfelt and unceasing praise.

Peter Misselbrook