ISAIAH 35: 1-10
LIVING TODAY IN GOD’S FUTURE PROMISES
What’s this passage all about? All this talk of wilderness and joy and water and streams in deserts and highways and ravenous beasts. Then singing and sorrow and sighing will flee away. And tucked away in all of this in verse 4 is the promise of God – that he will come in vengeance.
Funny word vengeance. Instinctively what do you think of when you hear this word? If you’re like me – what you hear is the word: revenge.
I have a friend of mine – let’s call him Paul. Paul was a member of the ten pin bowling league and they met at Wessex Bowl to have their weekly league fixtures. And one evening he had finished his bowling and went out to his bike to cycle home. He just got to it and when a man said: “That’s him – he’s the one who stole my daughter’s bike!” (This man was a member of another bowling team) – and he was accompanied by the police who promptly bundled Paul into a police car where he was taken down to the station and interviewed and put in a cell overnight. Only when his father came down to the police station with the invoice for the bike did the police realise the mistake made.
The story doesn’t end there. A few weeks later Paul and his friends went bowling and his accuser was there – as was his 4 x 4 vehicle. With his friends on lookout, Paul went round the 4 x 4 letting down each tyre! He had just finished the fourth tyre and went to walk away when his friend said: “Aren’t you forgetting something?” Paul looked confused. Then his friend pointed to the spare wheel on the back of the car. And this was let down too!
So was that vengeance? No – that is what is called revenge. And God says to us we should not take revenge (Romans 12: 19 – “do not take revenge”)
So what is God’s vengeance? It is not about God’s desire for exacting punishment but is his displeasure over all that is wrong and his desire to restore and things right.
In other words God is saying there is a day coming when he will put things totally right. So you may say (as people back then said) – “Well – great – and if that happens in my lifetime – even better. But how does what God will promise in the future help me now?”
So let’s look at that…
- It’s God’s promise to you
The writer identifies seven types of people in verses 3-5:
- Those with feeble hands (this literally means exhausted);
- those with weak knees (literally: the feeble);
- those with feeble hearts (the anxious or (literally) hurried).
- then verse 5 – the blind, the deaf, the lame and the mute.
Maybe one or more of these describes you? So what does God’s say to you in verse 4?
Be strong – do not fear. Your God will come
He will come with vengeance (to put things back right)
With divine retribution – He will come to save you
So God’s answer to us – which is especially precious when we are struggling – is to draw you to what he has promised. God’s promises are unchangeable. And there are two reasons for this.
- God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). God cannot change. If God is perfect and all seeing and all wise and all loving – and then he changes his promise? Well – he ceases to be God.
- The second reason is that in St Paul’s words (2 Corinthians 1: 20) – all the promises of God are “yes” in Jesus. Or to put it another way – at the cross God’s promises are written in the blood of Jesus. Paul in Romans 8: 32
Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?
So Paul here – argues from the greater to the lesser. If he did not spare his own Son – don’t you think therefore that he will come to save you as it says here?
So how do we apply this? We take the promise of God in verse 4 – and read it. And read it again. And again. And again. Commit the verse or part of the verse to memory. Hear the words that God speaks. Maybe get a notebook and make notes about this verse. Chew over each word or phrase. For instance, as I read the command from God himself in verse 4: “be strong” – I realise God isn’t saying that I need to whomp up strength from within. Instead I remember the song: “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord” (Isaiah 40: 31). So this strength is not mine but God’s and I need to simply wait for him as he has promised to come – as it says later in verse 4.
So I just want to encourage you to turn to the promises of God in the Bible. Read them – devour them – enjoy them. Let them permeate your very soul. So the promises become you. You become children of the promise.
- So keep walking in the promise
Now – there will be people who say “Ah – Christians – your religion is a crutch!” They will say: “you need to be strong, independent – be able to stand on your own two feet.” You need to know that there will always be people who mock.
Years ago, there was an advert emblazoned across some London buses stating that there was probably no God – now stop worrying and enjoy your life. A church in London responded in an advert outside its church next to a bus stop stating; “there’s probably no bus….!”
Look what it says in verse 8:
And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.
God has called you onto his way. Will it be easy? No. Will you always get things right? No. But keep going. There’ll be plenty of distractions. There will be people who wonder why you are a Christian. There will be people who mock.
But as you walk along the Way of Holiness, God restores you. Some of us need a lot of restoring. But God is the great restorer:
He stills you – he doesn’t rush you.He leads you – he doesn’t push you. He reassures you – he doesn’t frighten you. He enlightens you – he doesn’t confuse you. He encourages you – he doesn’t discourage you He comforts you – he doesn’t worry you He calms you – he doesn’t obsess you He convicts you – he doesn’t condemn you.
It’s been a tough year but the promise of God is like cool refreshing water to a parched mouth. So no giving up – keep walking in the promise. Keep going back to it.
- God has guaranteed the promise himself
You may ask – how can I know this promise is for me? How can I know that I am in? Look at the end of verse 9 and the start of verse 10:
But only the redeemed will walk there (in the Way of Holiness) and those the Lord has rescued will return.
Who are the rescued? Those who have turned to God. In other words this is about repentance. We are turning back to God. And for the Christian this is a constant refrain. We are a people who continually turn to God.
You may be utterly bereft – you can turn back to God. You may be drenched in sin and shame. You can turn back to God. You may feel lost. You may feel total anxiety. You may feel utterly ill. Or low. Or down. BUT – you can turn back to God. Acts 2: 21 All who call on the Lord will be saved!
How can you know this is true? Well – the writer has sneaked it into verse 9. God has sneaked it into verse 9! God says: “But only the redeemed will walk there”. Now remember this was written hundreds of years before Jesus entered the world. This word redeemed means deliverance at a set price.
What does this mean? God has paid the price so that you would be his. You may be tearfully humbled that God who is utterly perfect, utterly holy, utterly powerful would stoop into your world – which may be an utter mess – to come and rescue you. And the way that he comes in vengeance – to put things right for you – is to pay himself to put you right.
And what did he pay? What was the price paid for you to be put right with God? Well – it’s not “what was the price” – but who was the price. His name is Jesus.
God guarantees the promise through Jesus himself. In Jesus it is as if God is shouting –
“You didn’t trust me in the Garden of Eden. You didn’t trust me when I delivered the Ten Commandments. You didn’t trust me when I rescued you from Egypt. You didn’t trust me. You don’t trust me. You don’t trust me that I want what is good and I know what is right. So now the only way I can vindicate myself is that I need to publicly prove that I am worthy of your trust. And the way that I will do that is through Jesus who will live the life you should have lived and will die a death for you so that it can be shown once and for all that I am utterly trustworthy and worthy of your praise.”
Charles Wesley wrote:
Jesus! the Name high over all,
In hell or earth or sky;
Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.
Jesus! the Name to sinners dear,
The Name to sinners giv’n;
It scatters all their guilty fear,
It turns their hell to Heav’n.
Jesus! the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
And bruises Satan’s head;
Power into strengthless souls it speaks,
And life into the dead.
God’s way to put the world right is through Jesus. Who would have thought that God’s plan to reconcile himself to sinful people, to deal with the sin of the world, to come in vengeance, would be through a baby?
So today – lift up your head. Jesus has come; he is coming and he will come again to put it all right. And live in that promise now of what he will do.
In Jesus’ name. Amen