Summary: Don’t Be Afraid. Be Strong. 1) God is coming to save us. 2) God is coming to fix us.
“He’s coming!” Do these words strike fear in your heart, or do they warm your heart? It depends on the situation doesn’t it? If you’re drawing a funny picture of your teacher on the chalkboard before class, a classmate’s cry: “He’s coming!” should set your heart a-thumpin’ as you sprint for your chair and dust the chalk off your hands before the teacher can figure out what you’ve been up to. On the other hand, if you’re standing outside in the rain after school waiting for your dad to pick you up, “He’s coming!” are welcome words of relief.
Today the prophet Isaiah says about God: “He’s coming!” Are these words of dread or relief? They are primarily words of relief for Isaiah says that our God is coming to save us, and he’s coming to fix us.
The prophet Isaiah lived during a time when many fellow Israelites worshipped God with empty hearts. Sure, they showed up at the temple and made their sacrifices and gave their offerings but God knew they were just going through the motions. Isaiah warned that because of their hypocrisy, God was going to allow a foreign nation to defeat them and take them into captivity far from their homes. In spite of Isaiah’s cry: “He’s coming!” most just shrugged and kept doing what they were doing.
Does that describe us? When God’s law shrieks, “He’s coming!” do we just shrug it off as we continue to grouse about our government, spread rumours about the new kid at school, or give our spouse the silent treatment when he or she hasn’t done something exactly the way we would like? If so, we have forgotten who God is. He is a holy judge, a consuming fire who does not take our self centeredness lightly. And as long as we shrug off our sins we should not think that we are on the way to heaven. Isaiah spoke about the way to heaven in our text. He called it the “Way of Holiness” and said: “The unclean will not journey on it…wicked fools will not go about on it” (Isaiah 53:8b). Whenever we excuse our sins and refuse to repent, we show ourselves to be unclean and foolish and are therefore not on track to heaven.
So far the words, “He’s coming!” have made us uneasy. But that isn’t Isaiah’s primary intent, for he is speaking to the faithful, to those who know and are sorry for their sins. Therefore when Isaiah cries: “He’s coming!” he does so to comfort. Isaiah explains: “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come,…he will come to save you” (Isaiah 35:4). The message that Isaiah shared with the people of his day is echoed in the angel’s announcement to the shepherds outside Bethlehem. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10, 11). Although we should be afraid of God because of our sins we don’t have to be, for our God comes to save us from those sins. Isaiah wasn’t exaggerating when he prophesied that God himself would come to save his people, for isn’t that who Jesus is, the Son of God?
How exactly did Jesus save us? Listen again to Isaiah’s description of that road to heaven. Isaiah wrote: “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness...only the redeemed will walk there” (Isaiah 35:8b, 9b). Jesus saved us by redeeming us, that is, by paying the penalty for our sins. If we were to compare the Way of Holiness on which the redeemed walk to our highways today, we would see some similarities. Most highways today have fences that run along side of them, especially when they run through cities. The only way on to the highway then is with an on-ramp. Did you ever notice how such interchanges look like a cross from the sky? In the same way it’s only by the cross of Christ that we have access to the Way of Holiness (Henry Shellman). For at the cross, Christ redeemed us, that is, he paid for our sins with his blood. So if you feel uneasy about your sins, if the thought of standing before God on Judgment Day makes your knees quake, Isaiah has good news. He says: “…steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…he will come to save you” (Isaiah 35:3b, 4). In Jesus, God has come and he has saved us from our sins. Put your trust in Jesus and you’ll find yourself walking the Way of Holiness to heaven.