As I lingered in bed this morning, pulling the covers higher to combat the Utah cold, I dug into the first chapter of Isaiah. Immediately, God turned my personal thoughts to the terror that’s been taking place in Paris, reminding me that he certainly cares about the sufferings in this world. Headlines have read that the death count had reached close to 130—130 souls, some lovers of Jesus, I’m sure, but some not. These were immortal souls, created by the eternal God, and loved by him as part of his wonderful creation.
Both Christians and non-Christians have been filling up my Instagram feed with photos and captions displaying prayers, “good vibes,” and “positive thoughts”—whatever those vague terms mean— toward the events in France. The shock and sympathy encompasses all of the watching world.
So, what’s going to happen next? What decisions are the leaders going to make in order to prevent this in the future? Will be justice be served for those who entered that concert hall? How can one even make another pay for the crimes that they were willing to die to commit in the first place? How is the Church going to step in to love the hurting? How are my leaders in my country going to get involved? What can I do?
All my thoughts were hemmed in by a few truths God reminded me of as I read through this first chapter of Isaiah. The first thing he reminded me of was that Paris is a picture of every city in the world. We all reside in sinful nations, full of people laden with iniquity, which spills over into tearing people down with our thoughts, words, and actions, and dealing corruptly with one another as we forsake our Creator (Is. 1:4). Murder resides in all of our hearts (Mark 7:21). We are all law breakers. A city of sinful humans, severed from Christ, will always be prone to self-destruction. All of our cities need to be cleansed by Jesus, and one day will be, hopefully very soon (Is. 1:24–26). Paris will not always be marked by terrorism. There is a hope and a future for Paris (Jer. 29:11). This is possible because of the next truth God reminded me of:
Salvation comes from God alone (Ps. 3:8). Isaiah’s very name proclaimed this truth that he was appointed to bring to God’s people: Jehovah is salvation.
This is good news for all who are affected by the events in Paris: those of us sitting anxiously before our televisions, those who with family members that have been unjustly murdered, and those who are helping the hurting and cleaning up the destruction.
But why is this good news? Because man’s wisdom for fixing and cleansing our cities and the world will always let us down. Man’s wisdom is by nature faulty. There’s no amount of positive vibes, good thoughts, or even prayers that can undo the wrong that’s been done. Only God’s divine wisdom found in the gospel can bring peace. This is what God said through the pen of Isaiah: “Come now, let us reason together … though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (1:18). Only Jesus can wash away the pain of these events and bring about forgiveness, and only by the gospel. That is the entire mission he came to earth for: to make a way to take away sin and its devastating effects, and to reconcile sinners to himself (John 1:29).
This means our hope is not in any politician’s plan for revenge, any military strategy, powerful guns and weapons, or even human attempts at peace and reconciliation. Like the psalmist we should say, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7). We should also obey the words of 1 Timothy 2:1–3 and pray for our leaders, trusting that the hearts of our leaders really are in the hands of God, and he can turn them wherever he pleases (Prov. 21:1).
Lastly, God opened my eyes to evidence of his grace in the fact that he has placed believers in Paris for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). In Isaiah 1:8–9 we read, “And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.” Paris is a city under siege, but God has not turned his eyes from them and he is near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18). As evidence of his grace, he has lovingly and sovereignly placed his people there in order for believers to minister hope and reconciliation during this grief-filled time (2 Cor. 5:18).
Like the believers in Isaiah’s day, God desires that his people would remain clean, pure, and holy because Jesus has purchased our righteousness and made a way for this to be possible. We are not to succumb to fear and never set foot off our front porch again. We are to continue to forsake evil and “learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression” (Is. 1:16–17) as we look to Jesus, the one who will ultimately makes all things right in his second coming. As believers, we know that the work will not be complete until he returns, but we also know that he has called us to work alongside him for our sanctification and for his glory.
Believer, continue to pray for all of Paris, the whole of the world, and your own city, as we wait and look for Jesus.
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