God’s good Word

Isaiah 35:4
Say to those with hurried hearts, be strengthened, do not fear;
Your God will come with vengeance, with Godly retribution, He will come and save you.

            God’s good Word to those with troubled hearts, racing hearts, anxious hearts. Be strengthened, He will come. This truly is a beautiful Word from God, Be strengthened, do not fear. God’s Word spoken to Elijah who was on the run from the Queen Jezebel, born in Tyre and ruling beside Ahab in Israel (1 Kings 16:31). God’s Word to the shepherds the night of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:10). And in our gospel reading today, similar words to the deaf mute, ephphatha! Be opened! And we wait now for similar words from our government when this lockdown ends, ‘be free’.

            The book of Isaiah is sometimes called the fifth gospel, because of how much the prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus. As an example, just last week we heard Jesus quote from Isaiah 29, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’ and that passage continues, ‘therefore, once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder, the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent vanish. In a short time Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field, in that day the deaf with hear God’s Word, the blind see, the humble and needy will rejoice in the Lord the Holy One of Israel.’ (Isaiah 29:13-21). What beautiful words fulfilled by Jesus, wonder upon wonder, feeding a crowd of more than 5000 Jews, walking on water and in the following chapter of Mark feeding a crowd of 4000 gentiles. And in our text today, Lebanon turned into a fertile field, for Lebanon was the ancient and now modern name for Tyre and the region of Phonicia. These people had never taken up life with God, living side by side with the Israelites for hundreds, thousands of years; they were dead and barren in their idolatry, but today a humble needy woman comes to Christ for another wonder. Lebanon has become a field fertile of faith.

            Then as Jesus travels back toward Galilee, He fulfills Isaiah’s prophecies again, the deaf hear, the mute sing for joy, and that word ‘ephphatha’ ‘be opened’ is the same word in the prophesy of Isaiah. Wonder upon wonder, truly He has done all things well. And yet He hasn’t come to make our lives easy, the Holy Spirit’s Baptism is not a sure-fire way to be healed of blindness as happened with St Paul (Acts 9:18). No, in this life we do suffer, we suffer from our own mistakes, failures, sin, and from the failures of others. Just look at Christ’s life, accused by His own people, beaten and crucified. And we know our enemies, sin death and the devil. But in Isaiah’s prophecy today we hear that God will come with vengeance, to bring retribution, to make things right and just. And today we have heard Jesus getting rid of His enemies, demons and death, by just speaking a word. And it is the same for you. He does this for you. Those beautiful words of promise, ‘You are my beloved child,’ ‘You are forgiven,’ ‘you are alive!’. Thank God that He still speaks, through the means of His glorious grace, Word and Sacrament. The Holy Spirit is at work. He comes with vengeance against the enemies of His people, we need not fear.

            If you are anxious, troubled by the situation of the world today, be strengthened by the Holy Spirit and do not fear, you are united with Christ who has conquered, who brings retribution and makes us right with God our heavenly Father. Jesus came 2000yrs ago fulfilling this promise of God, and He comes here again today with vengeance against our sin, taking it away from us, against death, speaking again His words of Life to us, and against the devil, destroying the evil in our lives. He comes to save you, be strengthened by Him, be opened by His Word, and be freed by His work, as we wait for the final retribution and our final and everlasting salvation in the New Creation.

            So the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, from now unto life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.