through His Word
The Complete Picture
It’s not difficult to take in the complete picture of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa. The portrait is only about thirty inches tall by eighteen inches wide.1 It was hanging behind bullet-proof glass when my family and I saw it in the Louvre in Paris. What’s difficult is figuring out the expression on her face. What did the artist have in mind? Was he hoping to intrigue us with the mystery of her half-smile? Are we supposed to deduce that she knew a secret, or heard a joke, or saw a loved one walk into the room?
Another painting in the gallery stunned us. The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Caliari is about twenty-one feet tall by thirty-two feet wide.2 It is taller than a two-story living room, and half again as wide. To see the details of the complete picture, we had to walk from one end of the room to the other, and crane our necks up and down. The details were magnificent. Richly dressed guests were seated at a u-shaped table that filled the width of the painting. Jesus, seated near the center, seemed to be the guest of honor. Servants stooped over to pour huge jugs, and musicians strummed their instruments. Too many people crowded an upstairs balcony. Every area of the painting added to a feeling of celebration, and the countless, tightly packed details seemed to add an extra illusion of noise. Softly clouded blue skies and the architecture of the surrounding buildings completed the top of the painting. We wanted to capture the magnitude of the painting’s size in a photograph, so my husband stood in front of it for comparison. He looked tiny.
The complete picture of who God is, includes His portraits as Judge that are found in Isaiah, in many books of the Old Testament, and in the book of Revelation in the New Testament. Considering the whole counsel of Scripture, we know that God won’t always tolerate evil. Eventually He will deal with it decisively.
Israel and Judah had first-hand evidence of this. God had allowed various nations to pick at them, poke them, and prod them. Nevertheless, their sin escalated. The day was coming when, for the first time, God would send an empire against Judah who would conquer them and carry them away captive to a foreign land. This empire, this army, is portrayed in the final verses of Isaiah Chapter 5. Here we see the effects of becoming hardened in sin, and of offering to God no repentance or reformation. In Judah’s case, God would whistle for the enemy. (Isaiah 5:26-30) …
Wild grapes were the fruit, the effects, that God was finding among the people of Judah. He had found these poisonous fruits for a long time. Any efforts that He made to set things right were rejected. They didn’t enlist His help to clear out the gunk and muck from their hearts and minds. Scarcity, famine, humiliation, and so forth, had not proven sufficient motivation to turn the people from their sins. Their bad habits grew worse in strength and persistence. Ultimately, they had no respect for the LORD of hosts, the Holy One of Israel. Therefore His anger was aroused against His people. He promised them that in time, if they did not repent, He would stretch out His hand against them. He would employ as an agent of judgment, a swarming empire, a relentless army, who would seize them like prey, and carry them away from their homeland, captives. Judah would be helpless and terrified, and no one would deliver them.
Yet these forewarnings themselves contribute to the complete portrait of God. We see in them God’s heart of compassion toward Judah, to encourage them to turn from their sins and avoid reaping sin’s devastating effects. He continued to grant them time to repent. God’s mercy and forbearance precede His judgment.
1. Louvre, the Collections (Paris, France: Reunion des Musees Nationaux, 1991), 394.
2. Ibid., 402.
From Isaiah: Setting Things Right, pp.146, 148
Copyright © 2013 by Beebe Kauffman