Full of fury

At the end of Isaiah 51, the prophet uses the image of the cup of wrath (cf. Psalm 75; Jeremiah 25; Revelation 18). Jerusalem has drunk so much that she has been asleep; she stumbles around without anyone to help her (v. 18). No one can help because all her sons are drunk too, fainted in the streets (v. 20).

But the rest of verse 20 gives a different portrait of the significance and effects of the cup of wrath. The sons are subdued now, but they are like wild oxen who have been caught in the net. They are quiet only because they are restrained. The implication is that they were raging like a bull before. The fury of Yahweh finally subdues them, but before it does it makes them wild. Zion is a quiet drunk; she goes to bed and sleeps it off. Her sons are crazy drunks who rage until they are trapped. Before the fury of the Lord subdues them, it makes them furious.

The end of the verse is also significant: The fury of Yahweh is parallel to the “reproof of your God.” Fury is not so much a judgment on those who disobey; God’s fury takes the form of His passionate correction of His people.

Putting all this together, the picture seems to be this: Yahweh pours out the wine of His fury by sending His prophet to reprove the people’s sins. They become enraged at the Lord’s rebuke, storming like wild animals. Finally, they are pacified and fall. This is the sequence of Jesus’ ministry: He gives the wine of wrath in His stinging rebukes of hypocrisy and injustice; the Jews respond with rage and kill him; they rage because they are filled with the fury of the Lord, because they hate the Lord’s correction.

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