Isaiah 35:3-6 “Strengthen the feeble hands, and steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shout for joy.”
It’s not only Americans getting ready for Christmas who become depressed and discouraged. Isaiah’s people felt that way, too. The remnant of believers in Israel no longer enjoyed the respect of the rest of the people. They were a minority. And when the time came for the nation to be taken away into exile, the believers had to leave their homes and property behind just like everyone else.
We all face obstacles that make our hands feeble and our knees give way. The story is different for each of us. Is it the responsibility you don’t feel entirely qualified for? Is it the person at work or in the neighborhood who seems like a constant thorn in the side? Is it a physical problem that has changed your life? We all know that living the Christian life also means bearing a cross. Whatever your own story is, the Lord keeps many things like these in our lives as constant reminders and consequences of our sinfulness. It goes back to the garden of Eden and the curses laid upon Adam and Eve for their sin. We are no better, just as much under God’s judgement as they were.
But the Lord does not want us to live in a constant state of fear and discouragement because we are sinful people living in a sinful world. Our Savior comes with a message of strength. His encouragement takes away our fears. He gives reason to make those feeble hands strong and those wobbly knees steady: “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he comes to save you.”
We may not feel comfortable desiring vengeance. We generally don’t consider it a Christian attitude. It’s true that God warns us against seeking vengeance ourselves. He is not looking for bloodthirsty mob of followers. But he does promise vengeance as one of the ways he supports his people. Our Savior comes as judge of the world. He will destroy all the enemies of his church and his people. When God says “vengeance is mine, I will repay,” that is no idle threat. We are the ones who benefit from this work. Our Savior comes to defeat all the enemies of our faith and take them out of the way. That is a legitimate reason for his people to renew their inner strength.
More important still are the positive things Jesus came to do for his people. Isaiah looks to his ministry of miracles: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shout for joy.”
An old Sunday School teacher once mused about why we don’t simply enjoy the miracle accounts from Jesus’ life more. We don’t have to tear them apart to find their meaning. Each one is a simple confirmation that Jesus really is the Son of God. He is the promised Savior of the world. He genuinely has the power to pay for my sins, raise me from the dead, and take me to heaven. When John the Baptist sent his disciples to find out if Jesus was the Christ, Jesus told them, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”
Did our Savior have Isaiah 35 in mind? Both he and the prophet understood that every miracle he performed is good news. These strengthen our spirits, because they assure us Jesus really is the Savior.