I read the oracles of Isaiah 13ff. this morning and was wondering why there are no words from the Lord like these today. Certainly the nations of the earth are no less violent or unjust. Does our age—or, for that matter, the ages from the close of the OT canon until now—not need a specific word from the Lord about the destinies of individual nations? It seems that this could even become a criticism of the OT, of the Scriptures, of the Lord himself. “If there were a God,” a skeptic may ask, “and if the Bible were his book, whence the revelation today? Why are there no contemporary oracles against, say, North Korea, Morocco, Iran, Liberia, or the United States?”
I am persuaded, though, that this criticism arises from a heart that believes God is obligated to speak in every age the same way as he did in a previous one. If we ask about such oracles in our day, we must wonder too about the lack of similar words before the time of the OT prophets. And yet the presence of God—more specifically, the word of God—in that era is unquestionable. The forms may change, but the activity of God does not.
Actually this criticism should be turned on its head. Far from contributing evidence to the Scripture’s lack of integrity, OT oracles prove that when God speaks—even when he speaks words of judgment—his words are full of grace. He is not obligated to communicate to Moab, Damascus, or Assyria. Yet he opens his mouth, as it were, and communicates truth so that people will turn from their sin and look in faith to him. And in precisely this way there is no difference between the specific oracles to the nations of old and the general call of faith and repentance to our contemporary age. All these words are words of his grace, meant to awaken sinners to the living God: the aroma of life to life for those who believe, but the aroma of death to death for those who will not.