Isaiah 51:4-5 “Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation. The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations.”
God’s salvation comes from his system of justice, a system of justice unlike anything else the world has ever known. That is why he can say, “My justice will become a light to the nations.” In God’s justice system the judge is the one who serves the very sentence which he has passed on the criminal. The lawbreaker goes free. The judge is sentenced to death in his place. Poor lawbreakers like ourselves find a never ending source of pardon because our Judge became our Savior.
Jesus will be the one who returns someday to judge all people, but he first came to save them when he paid for our sins with his life. The fact that you and I will sin this coming year is more certain than death and taxes. The fact that all those sins will be forgiven, and all their guilt erased, is just as certain. Our only Judge has also become our Savior, and that promise gives us confidence for the new year.
But we don’t have to wait. We can enjoy the salvation God promises immediately. He continues, “My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations.” God forgave the children of Israel for their sins. He declared them not guilty, pure and spotless, though they had been nasty, guilty, and filthy with their sins.
God’s forgiveness for them was real, but the historical events that formed the foundation for that forgiveness were still waiting in the future. The time for the Savior was drawing near. It was on the way. But it had not yet arrived in time. In a sense, Old Testament Israel’s forgiveness was on credit. God’s promises to them were like his credit card, assuring them he would pay for all the forgiveness they were receiving now. The Lord repeats those promises here. He wants them to be sure that when he promises something, it is as good as done.
That same salvation and righteousness is near to us in the sense that it is already here. This past Christmas we saw again how the Lord did send the Savior. He did pay the bill. We can confess with Simeon, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.” We not only have the confidence of God’s promise that he forgives our sins. We have the confidence of knowing how he did it. We see the promise fulfilled, and we can live in the confidence that Jesus is our living, present Savior every day.
God’s salvation lasts forever. His righteousness never fails. That is our greatest confidence for the year to come. Forgiveness of sins isn’t going to run out by spring. Grace won’t break down from years of too much use. Every time we go back and ask the Lord to take our sins away, he will do it. Every time. Every day we live, eternal life and a piece of real estate in heaven is our present possession. Every day. We have a promise, signed and sealed in Jesus’ blood, guaranteeing us it is so.
This is a good place to start celebrating the new year. These are really the only good things guaranteed in the year ahead. God still cares so much for his people. His salvation doesn’t change. Looks like a promising year.