Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
We are about to begin a worship series on the book of Isaiah (Fall 2019), which is exciting and overwhelming. The book of Isaiah is split into “Before – During – After.” It starts with the Lord telling a rebellious Israel that He is going to send them into “Exile” at the hands of their greatest enemies, and that their worldly efforts of power and money will only make things worse. BUT…God will not (actually…CAN NOT) forget them, and will passionately, lovingly, powerfully and surely ransom them from Exile, and re-plant them, restore them, renew them, into the Promised Land.
Can you imagine what it would have been like to be at the bullseye of this prophesy? Can you imagine the stress, fear, questions and accusations that would result from being taken into desolate exile?
Though from our comfortable couches we can’t truly understand the heart of an exiled Israel, in our own ways we absolutely struggle with this anxiety.
- When my sin causes me dark sorrow.
- When it feels down to my bones that God has abandoned me.
- When the hopes of my life lay shattered on the hospital floor.
- When I can’t seem to “catch my breath” in life.
- When the weights of expectations and disappointments crush me.
Into this oppression the Lord (in Isaiah 35) whispers deep winds of hope and even joy. This hope, this Gospel, doesn’t minimize the darkness in the least. Actually, quite the opposite. The deeper the darkness, the brighter the light; the deader the dead, the more alive we are made. Whereas God brought Israel out of slavery to their greatest enemy, God has brought us out of our slavery to our greatest enemy: ourselves, our sin. In the person of Jesus God literally meets us in our exile, in the middle of our deepest pain, disappointment, fear, anxiety, doubt, failures, hopelessness. He doesn’t just call us out of it…he CARRIES us out and gives us new life. Look at the next verses:
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
- In our brokenness, we are blind; but God renews our sight.
- In our sin, we are deaf; but God restores our hearing.
- In our weakness, we are lame; but God re-creates our legs.
- In our death, our voices are suppressed; but God reopens our mouths.
And not just us! God HAS and WILL renew creation! Isaiah goes on to promise that waters will overtake the desert and result in forests of peace where there is no death, no fear, no brokenness. And the means for this rescue and renewal; the way God will do this unimaginable healing — the Highway of Holiness, which is the person of Jesus, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He has personally come into our Exile, and was exiled from the Father on the cross so that, through his payment God will have shower us with “recompense” (reward).
Yes, it is really hard to see when you are in the dark; to believe this kind of beauty can spring from the ground of our deserts; to hold onto his glorious hope when our failing senses tell us that all is lost. But it’s true. This life has been secured on our behalf and God is not only going to rescue us FROM the Exile of sin and death, he is renewing us FOR true life. The end of Isaiah 35 paints this picture:
10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.