Be Strong…Fear Not!
“Say to those who are of fearful heart, ‘Be strong, fear not!’” Isaiah 35:4 begins with this heartening phrase. All of us who have been alive long enough know that there is much to rightfully fear in the world. In Isaiah’s time, for example, there were the constant threats of war, which is the reason for this chapter in Isaiah. But the Spirit of the Lord has Isaiah tell his people not to fear the threats of Hezekiah who has raised an army against Israel.
When we find ourselves in overwhelming situations we, quite naturally, wish to be relieved from our fears. When we are threatened by powerful forces beyond our control, we become aware of our need for a savior. Isaiah encourages his people here with the faithful knowledge that we, indeed, have a savior. “Behold, your God will come with vengeance (vindication), with recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
Vengeance! We are reminded here of the words of Deuteronomy, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. (Deuteronomy 32:35) Paul repeats this phrasing in his letter to the Romans, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) God’s vengeance far surpasses any that we mere mortals can take, and his is always perfectly just. We are not to be afraid of those who threaten us, nor are we to take it upon ourselves to get payback. God knows best how to punish unjust wrongs or injuries. He brings something to it that we are not able to bring, divine understanding and mercy. His actions are always and in all ways, just. Ours are not, especially when we are overwhelmed with emotions, particularly with the deadly sin of blind rage.
With God’s vengeance comes his recompense. Recompense is to make amends for losses or harms suffered. He will compensate the suffering. He will repay us for our losses with his infinite, unconditional love. How does he manifest this love? He comes to us in the midst of our fears and our suffering and he saves us from them. Jesus is the manifestation of the Father’s love. God has come to us with his salvation in Jesus. At this Advent time of the year, we are reminded by Isaiah to “Be strong and to fear not!” No matter what our troubles may be, God will vindicate us and bring his recompense to us. It is Christ alone who saves us from our enemies, from our sins and from death. Praise be to the Father whose love for us was manifested in Jesus Christ our saving Lord, and to his Holy Spirit who remains with us throughout our long and winding earthly pilgrimage.
Lord, we turn our eyes to you in our need. We give you thanks for your loving kindness, concern and protection. We trust in your love and your saving power. Help us in our weakness to be strong and fearless, through our ever-deepening faith in you. We pray these things in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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