Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.
The story of our salvation is the story of Zion redeemed.
Mount Zion was a hill in Jerusalem the Canaanites had used as a fortress. Zion became a synonym for Jerusalem as well as for the whole land of Israel. Sometimes, it also represents the people of God, the holy Christian church.
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Holy Spirit pointed an accusing finger at his people with the words, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt…” He went on to identify the guilt. “They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him” (Isaiah 2:4ff).
This will have consequences. Isaiah admits, “Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”
We can picture what that would be like. We have seen photos of destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We have learned of the power the Creator has at his command. It is frightful.
Long before, Moses had written of the Holy One, “We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation” (Psalm 90:7).
How does someone escape this fury? What can be done to turn away his anger? Could sinners pay a fine? Could they offer a bribe? Could those people pay the Holy One off by offering him sacrifices?
They tried it. It didn’t work. It will never work. He scolded them, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!”
He told them, “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.”
But then they heard, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).
How can that be? Those people surely were not able to stop sinning, were they? They surely were not able to make up for the evil they had done by trying extra hard to do good, were they?
Of course not. They and we must confess with the prophet, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
Filthy rags! That’s the best we can offer. It’s an impossible situation for us.
But not for the Redeemer God. As Jesus would tell the people of his day, “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). The LORD himself would step into that impossible situation.
“Zion will be redeemed with justice” Scripture declares.
Jesus brought that justice into the courtroom of the Judge of all. The Son of God was absolutely without guilt. But he assumed the debt of the guilty. So, he became guilty.
He was found guilty. He was given the death sentence. It was carried out on Golgotha.
The debt once owned by humans is now paid for.
How does one become the recipient of the payment, the redemption?
The need for help needs to be recognized. Sorrow for sin needs to be felt. The Holy Spirit seeks to enable that. It is called repentance.
Thus, the word is given that Zion will be redeemed with justice, and it is explained, “her penitent ones with righteousness.”
The righteousness of the Holy One of God now covers the former guilty ones who place their trust in the Savior God. So, the apostle can announce, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
That’s it! Zion has peace with God. Zion is redeemed.
And we are Zion.
Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit, we lift our eyes in wonder to hear that our guilt has been paid for. Our trust in Jesus as our Savior has placed us among the redeemed of God. For this, we thank you. For this, we praise you. Because of this, we are forever blessed. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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