“Say to those who have an anxious heart,
‘Be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come
with a vengeance, with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.’”
This is an interesting verse. It’s part of one of my favorite passages, Isaiah 35. This chapter ranks right up with Romans 8 when I need encouragement. Actually, there are lots of passages and chapters that are encouraging. All one needs to do is spend time reading and mulling them over. This is exactly what I did last night, on a beautiful summer evening.
I know that this verse is part of an overall prophecy of Isaiah regarding the exile of Judah and the return of the remnant who are the ransomed of God. In his wisdom and according to his name, he did not utterly destroy Israel for their complete refusal to walk closely with him. Indeed, he did severely punish them, as he promised, but he also plucked a few out so that he might rebuild them into a people of his own.
Now, that promise leads to what we call the New Covenant in which God not only forgives their sin but gives them a new heart in which to worship him. God not only pardons them but changes them so that they might not deny him by worshiping other gods. This is a big deal because our heart is wicked and strays easily. How soon and often did the Israelites run to foreign gods immediately after God performed some big miracle for them? We’re no different, except that God changed us. He gave us a new heart.
Yes, we still sin and have periods of rebellion, but there is a fundamental difference. We are born again. They Holy Spirit now resides inside of us. All this is part of an overall plan that included the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God in the flesh. We are no longer the people we once were. We have been permanently changed in an instant of time, although many of us don’t know exactly when that instant occurred. The change is certain, nonetheless.
God uses imagery of a journey, of a road, of a process to describe how he takes us from this place on earth to our eventual home with him. While we are not putting one foot in front of the other on an actual highway, we who are saved are indeed making progress to heaven. Yes, one day we shall be in an actual place in which we will physically be with God. In the meantime, He is molding and shaping us so that we are not only forgiven of our sins but will no longer even desire sin. Sin will be completely removed from us.
I don’t know about you, but I am sick of sin. The idea of being free of it is hard to comprehend. At times, it seems impossible until I remember how God has already changed me. I’m not the man I used to be. Certainly. Yes, he has removed sin from my life and is continuing to do so. Perhaps part of the problem is that I think that am the one that must clean up my own sin, not understanding that my own sin, by my own hands and will, has so permeated the very fabric of my being that I cannot rid myself of it. On my own, I am still beyond hope, even though I am a mature Christian. God is the one who changes me. He is the vinedresser.
Which brings us to my verse. Who of us can say they are free of anxiety? No one, that’s who. This verse, therefore, applies to all of us. It applies to you as well as it does me. We’re anxious people. What does the Lord command us? To be strong and fear not! Then what happens? God will come and save us. In what manner? With vengeance. And recompense.
Let’s look at these two words:
Vengeance: punishment inflicted, or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong.
Recompense: Make amends to (someone) for loss or harm suffered; compensate.
Since we are assured that we are no longer enemies of God, vengeance is not directed at us. Yes, God corrects us, severely if necessary, but we have escaped the wrath of God. No, vengeance is directed at others. Who? Those who have injured or wronged us. Can you think of one that tempts us and then accuses us constantly? Yup. Satan. It’s also directed at others. What does Jesus say about those who cause a child of God’s to sin? “…it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6) Vengeance is God’s business. It’s his obligation that he WILL fulfill. You think your hackles get raised when a bully is on your kid? That’s nothing compared to God.
On the other hand, God recompenses those who have been harmed. He compensates us for our loss. I don’t know about you, but this whole idea is hard to imagine. God is going to compensate me for the harm done against me? This whole thing should be the other way around! I’m the one that should be paying for the harm I have done to others! It’s me who was (and is) in the wrong!
Maybe I have this whole thing wrong. Could I be sorely mistaken by thinking everything is all right with me? No, I’m not mistaken. I’m born again as evidenced by my transformed life. This promise applies to me. Recompense is for me.
Psalm 84:11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Now, I can get all tangled up with the idea of walking uprightly. That’s why it’s important to study our bibles to understand these things. I still sin, yes, but I also am in the Spirit. My position with God has been totally and forever changed. These promises apply to me.
My marching orders for today? I’m starting the day out anxious. Who doesn’t? God instructs me to be strong and fear not. Why? Because He will come with vengeance and recompense to save me. Bottom line: I don’t have anything to worry about. I can trust my Lord.
Oh, there is one other thing I should do. It’s in the verse that leads up to it:
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees,
We’re to encourage others with these things. I hope I’ve encouraged you!
Father, thank you so much for your words. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers