Yesterday, I wrote about my struggle with fear and a passage from Isaiah that greatly encouraged me. The takeaway for me was: “God is faithful and committed to me, His child – so fear not, soul.”
As I thought about this truth more, I was reminded of something I’d read on someone’s blog recently that caused me to return to Isaiah with new eyes and further develop yesterday’s application.
A recent post from Tim Challies encouraged people to look at Scripture and understand what it meant to the people then before seeking to apply its truth to today. Taking his encouragement, I see in Isaiah that the particular passage I was encouraged by was addressing a specific people; namely, the redeemed of God. And what was the proclamation to them then?
Strengthen the feeble hands; steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you. (Isaiah 35:3-4)
As I think about what this message must have meant for those in Isaiah’s day, I see that in their time, Christ had not yet come. Those who trusted in God’s salvation were awaiting their Savior and the time when He would suffer and die for their sins. Verses 5-7 refer to the promised first coming of Christ, and this is the assurance given to God’s people:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert…
This brings so much depth to the hope found here in Isaiah for me (and for you!). Because Christ HAS come! Christ HAS suffered and taken the place for my sins, and He HAS risen from the dead! The command to not fear, then, is rooted in the hope of the promised Messiah, the One who was sent from God the Father and who died in His Beloved’s stead, to forgive her of her iniquity and bring her to God. Fear not, then, because Christ came! He died in His Beloved’s place and has fulfilled the promise of God! This is what it means to say that God is faithful and committed to His Bride. What was prophesied in Isaiah’s day has been fulfilled in ours. So fear not, soul.
But there is something else being prophesied in this passage regarding the redeemed in Christ. Listen to verses 8-10:
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… But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
This is a picture of eternity with God, and only those whose faith is in Christ alone will be found there.
Again, thinking back to Isaiah’s day, the people of God were encouraged to stand strong by looking ahead not only to Christ’s first coming when He would take away their sins; but also to His second coming, when He would finally put an end to all sin forever and usher in His Beloved to be with Him for all eternity.
Reflecting on this today, I can rest fully assured that Christ will come again and do as He says because He fulfilled the promise of God the Father in coming the first time (just as God prophesied throughout Isaiah and all of the OT). My heart and soul are buoyed up by the steadfast love and faithfulness of God on display here! Knowing that He came and died for my sin gives me all the more reason to trust in what God has yet to fulfill: Christ will come again. He will do it exactly as He proclaims throughout Scripture, and when He does, I will be with Him forever because I have been bought by the blood of Christ. I. Am. His. So fear not, soul.
How helpful it is to view Scripture in light of what it originally meant for the people it was written to, at the time it was written. I find that it safeguards me from wrongly interpreting the Bible (by the Spirit’s help!) and from misplacing my hope. In this particular instance, my motivation to stand strong and not give in to fear is on the basis of God’s faithfulness to His people in ransoming them for Himself and bringing them into eternal glory with Him at Christ’s second coming. (He is faithful and committed to His people in specific ways! May we not assume that He is committed to us in ways that Scripture does not actually proclaim.) I don’t know what tomorrow holds, I don’t control what others might do against me, and I may have enormous struggles and suffering in this life. But I don’t have to fear, because Christ has bought me, and He will one day return to to abolish sin forever, restore what was lost at the Fall, and reign with His people forevermore. So fear not, soul. He is coming.
In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay. -Hebrews 10:37