You and I can wring our hands about the unraveling of the church’s moral fabric, but if we’re honest, we have to admit that we have done our own share of thread pulling: sexual indiscretions when we are young and cowardly looking the other way when we are old; lying to avoid taking responsibility for mistakes and letting someone else take the rap; laughing at jokes and entertainment and using language that ought to fill us with shame; and all the while dutifully going about our public lives as Christians. Yes, we have pulled our own threads out of the moral fabric of our people. We may lament having to live with the consequences of our current moral crisis, but we know that we don’t deserve any better. What we deserve is far worse, and God has something far worse prepared for those who will not repent.
It has always been this way. Over two thousand seven hundred years ago the LORD warned his people through Isaiah, “They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations; so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring on them what they dread” (Isaiah 66:3-4).
But warning and judgment are never the last word for the God of Scripture. He never goes long without holding out a promise of Grace. Now he offers us something far better. “For this is what the Lord says: I will extend peace to her like a river…” (Isaiah 66:12). What the Lord offers us is peace. This is not a truce, in which neither side wins, but both sides agree to give up the fight. No, our Lord has won the war. He has destroyed everything in us that was offensive by the death of his Son on the cross. He has put down our rebellion by the forgiveness of our sins. He has overcome our resistance by the onslaught of his love. He has overwhelmed our defenses as he sent in wave after wave of his grace, pouring in over our lines, disarming our wills, and conquering our hearts. God has extended spiritual peace to us through the work of his Son and the preaching of his gospel.
And that peace keeps flowing to us in an unending supply. He extends peace to us like a river. This is not a little creek that might disappear in a dry year. The word river here is the word that is used to describe the Nile, the Tigris, or the Euphrates. This is like the mighty Mississippi, swiftly, relentlessly pushing great volumes of water along on its way to the ocean. If you live in New Orleans, you might run the risk of being overwhelmed and flooded by the Mississippi, but it’s not going to shrink up and leave you dry. God’s peace in the forgiveness of sins and the giving of his love relentlessly, generously flows to us in an overflowing supply.
The ancient Jews recognized that peace with God meant more than an end to the fight. When one is at peace with God, then everything else in life is affected. We gain a sense of serenity and wholeness in knowing that things are the way they are supposed to be. That doesn’t mean everything is pleasant or easy, but God is in control, and God loves me, so everything must be serving both him and me.