Israel acts in the world, observing her traditions. Torah establishes order; but she sees chaos. She proclaims light; but she perceives only darkness. She trusts in a sovereign God; but for what reason? In a world of injustice, cruelty, pain – in a world like this, the most natural conclusion to make is that the LORD is pleased with those who do evil. ‘Where is the God of justice?’
This conclusion wearies the LORD. God has not ordained injustice. God is not benefitted by the exploitation of those with no money, no property, no hope. Seeing a teenage girl get raped does not turn God on. God is not mirrored by the ecclesial machismo that insists on a manly Christianity. But God is wearied by the suggestion that because nothing changes, God is idle and God is indifferent.
And why is God wearied? Because once God’s messenger has prepared the way, then suddenly – suddenly! – the LORD will come to God’s temple. God will overturn tables and God’s people will be aghast. God’s people establish order, but the LORD brings chaos, challenging the order that God’s people have instituted by bastardising the commands of God. When the LORD comes, he will refine, he will bleach, he will burn away all the filth that clings to our bodies, smearing and smudging all that we do, see and touch. The LORD’s fiery entrance is literally shocking, stinging and shaking us from our own lust, greed, pride, self-centredness and complacency. When pleading for the LORD to act, we must be careful what we wish for, because it will be painful.
But now – now the Church of God, the body of the One who is to come, bearing his scars, can announce with full confidence: ‘The LORD is here: His Spirit is with us.’