Isaiah 34-36: Be Strong; Fear Not!
September 13, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Isaiah 36 introduces the remarkable story of Jerusalem’s rescue from the hand of the Assyrians, but that story is connected organically to the succeeding chapter, and we shall then deal with that story tomorrow in that connection.
Isaiah 34 and 35 first announce a worldwide judgment and then point to the means of salvation and rescue from that judgment. Isaiah 34 announces to the globe (“Draw near, O nations, to hear,” 34:1) that the LORD is “enraged against all the nations” (34:2). The universal sinfulness of humanity is taught in various places in the Bible, and it is necessary to remind ourselves of it, not so that we can be “negative” or “put people down,” much less decrease the intrinsic value and worth of each other, but so that we can rightly find the remedy.
We all, in our honest moments, know that there is something not right with us, and with the universe. At all places, at all times, and in all situations, there is a moral taint—an ink drop of sin splashing into the clear cool water and spreading its darkness to the outer rim of the glass. This is our situation. We are also, it is true, and the Bible equally teaches, made in the image of God. But we must not let that truth outweigh the horror of the other truth: that we, who are made in the image of God, have marred that image and rebelled against the God who made us.
What is the solution? It begins with God’s initiative. It is not going to come from a new moral code or our own moral efforts. In particular, it is God’s Word that initiates: “For the mouth of the Lord has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them” (34:16). Word and Spirit (“the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” Ephesians 6:17) together bring to an eternal blessedness those that he gathers into the land, “They shall possess it forever; from generation to generation they shall dwell in it” (34:17).
Is Isaiah 35 speaking of an immediate salvation (the rescue from the Assyrians), a slightly-less immediate salvation (the return from exile), a more distant salvation (the coming of the Christ), or the far horizon of Christ’s second coming? Or is it outlining principles that apply to all works of God’s grace in revival, culminating in Christ himself, and which we can continue to taste as God pours out his Spirit in our own day? Some of these promises are probably referencing the far horizon (“They shall see the glory of the LORD”; “the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus,” 35:1-2). All somehow or other are centered on Christ who did heal the “lame” and the “mute” (35:6), and there is apparent reference to the return from exile, too (“The ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing,” 35:10). But it is also true that when we ask for God to come in fresh power, the “highway” of salvation, then making his paths straight through “the Way of Holiness” (35:8), can apply to principles of gospel ministry today that focus on Christ and preach Christ.
Whenever the gospel is preached and believed, lame walk, mute sing, and there is rejoicing and salvation. And so, dear friend, today, be confident that Christ, his Word, the gospel, is powerful to save you and his people:
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 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.” Isaiah 35:3-4
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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