Dear Radio Friends,
Continuing today our series of messages on the blessing of Immanuel’s reign, we return to Isaiah 35, and we look at verses 3-6. We read: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.”
We saw last week that this beautiful chapter in Isaiah (35) speaks of the rich and priceless blessings of Messiah’s appearance. It speaks of what it means for us that God’s Son came to earth, through the virgin birth. An unimaginable and inconceivable transformation will be brought to pass, we read in verses 1 and 2—more marvelous than anything we could imagine. A barren wilderness is portrayed to us. A solitary, scorched desert. Suddenly this is changed before the presence of the Lord. The desert blossoms as a rose. The burning desert (vv. 1, 2 of Isaiah 35) is now clothed with flowers. The towering cedars and the glory of Lebanon are given unto it. The excellency of Carmel and Sharon, rich pastures and meadows, now describe the landscape where before all was bleak and barren.
We saw a picture of the spiritual renewal and change that comes to God’s children as a result of the gift of God’s Son in our flesh. It is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent for us depraved-in-sin, barren and guilty enemies of God. He came first of all to change us, to take away that awful guilt. And then to renew us by the Holy Spirit, implanting in our hearts His life.
Jesus Christ, then, came to save sinners. That is why He was born in Bethlehem. Jesus Christ did not come into the world to make this present world a nicer place, from which men can go to hell. He did not come to redeem society. He came to transform His children from children of wrath unto children of God. Do you know this because this marvelous transformation by the Holy Spirit has been wrought in you? Grace makes the great difference, when it enters into a man or a woman, a boy or a girl. Marvelous transformation of grace!
But now, as we continue in the chapter, we see that an equally powerful picture of the blessings of Jesus’ birth is given to us in verses 3-5. Now we read, not of a transformation of land and soil and climate, of a desert to a meadow, but of the inhabitants of the land. They are pictured to us as a people who are distraught and hopeless, weak hands and feeble knees. They are commanded to be strong and to fear not, for their God will come to save them. And then, when He comes, what shall happen? The eyes of the blind shall be opened. The ears of the deaf unstopped. The lame shall leap as an hart. And the tongue of the dumb shall sing. Here we read of a spiritual transformation of our soul, of our being, of our life. We, who are corrupt and depraved in sin, cannot see, cannot hear, cannot speak—but we are changed to see the wonder of God’s saving grace, to hear the voice of our Savior, to leap in cheerful service of God, and to sing to show forth His praises. And all of this is brought to us in the coming of Jesus Christ.
Do you know this personally? Is this the joy of the season for you, the joy of your life, the reason of your joy? When God’s eye of love saw us and sent His Son for us, He brought about a change so great in us—not a reformation of character, but an entire change, a spiritual change of will, being, desire. If ‘grace’ permits you to sin and to live as one who does not know Jesus Christ, then you have no grace. Grace changes us. The lame shall leap as an hart.
We see here, first of all, a word of encouragement that is being spoken by the prophet. The prophet is commissioned to speak a word of encouragement to those who are weak and at the point of despair, whofeel overwhelmed, who are ready to lie down and quit. And the encouragement centers in the fact that God will come and save us. We read: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.”
Weak hands, in the Bible, are a picture of a person who lacks courage, courage to go on. He has been busy. But obstacles have become too much. And now he sees no way out and no purpose for living. Feeble knees are a picture of a person who has lost all assurance and confidence. He feels that strength and hope have leaped out of his soul, and he cannot lay hold of the promises of God. And the result will be a fearful heart, dread of the future.
Hebrews 12:3, 12 explains what is meant by weak hands, feeble knees, and fearful heart. In verse 3 we are told that we must consider Him, that is, Jesus Christ, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds. And then, in verse 12, we read, “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.” There the passage is speaking of the fact that God brings His chastisements. Chastisements are God’s corrections for our sin, and they can be very grievous. He forgives us. But He chooses in His wisdom sometimes to chastise us in order that we might learn obedience. And so, when our inmost thought is that God’s way is too hard and that He does not realize the effect His chastisement is having upon us, and when our soul is not satisfied with God’s way and purpose, then comes the word of God: “Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.”
Are your hands weak and your knees feeble today? Do you know the promises of God but cannot take hold of them? They do not seen to support you? Your sin—have you ever seen your sin this way, so that all breath goes out of you, you’ve repented, God has forgiven you, and yet you bear the consequences of that sin. And it hurts. And you are filled with remorse over the memory and the folly of your sin. Or afflictions. Your own afflictions, or afflictions of others. These afflictions that come upon you and your loved ones wear you down. Or you say, “The way of the Lord is impossible. There is no hope for me.” Or depression, as a black rider, pursues you and you have no place to go.
The word of the Lord comes to you as a child of God and says, “Strengthen the weak hands. Confirm (or assure) the feeble knees. Say, Be strong, fear not. Behold, your God will come.” His voice infuses courage into our souls. He promises us that He will come as the God of our salvation. And the encouragement that God brings to us focuses on one thing: the birth of our Savior, the coming of Messiah, the appearance of the Lord of glory in the flesh.
We must get that. The gospel of Christ’s birth is the word of divine encouragement. It is the word of strengthening for you and me and all the children of God in whatever way the Lord leads us. We must think about that. We must meditate upon that. We must not rush on. We say, “Oh, yes, we know that Jesus Christ was born in that stable. What little child doesn’t know about that?” Yet, we get so rattled. We become so anxious. We are overwhelmed. It is as if we do not know the fact that we have been given a Savior. The birth of our Savior, the coming of God’s Son into our flesh, is our strength and encouragement. It is the message that God has descended from His throne, broke through the darkness, come among us to bear us up and to deliver us from our sin.
To the world of unbelief, the coming of Jesus is terror. Christmas-terror! For, we read, the Lord will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense upon His enemies.
But Jesus Christ appears as the light of God, the salvation of the church. And, therefore, be strong, fear not. Christ is born. Your sin, your chastisements—you say, “There is no hope”? Listen. God has come to save us. And now those chastisements are directed by His eternal love. Your sickness and your affliction? Your Savior bore all of these things and they are in His hands. They are being used of Him to mold and prepare you. You say, “The way of the Lord is too much”? Do not judge God with your eyes. But look upon Bethlehem and see that He has cherished us, He has given His own Son for us.
The birth of Jesus Christ is a word of marvelous and divine encouragement. And the birth of Jesus Christ is a word to us of a gracious change. God will come. For Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. And when God comes, then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. When God comes to save, it will be a glorious change worked in the children of God.
The world cannot see this. The world says, “You say a powerful change came into the world in Bethlehem of Judea, more powerful than the creative voice of God by which, you say, all things were made? We have gone there to Bethlehem. But there are still birth defects and disease and death and crime and poverty and war, and perversions are getting worse. Where is the change? Do you mean to say that we are to redeem the world for Jesus, that hope lies in legislation of men, social renewal, acceptance of every religion, the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall? He came,” says the world, “where is the change? Where is that dynamic, marvelous, victorious change? Where?”
The answer of the gospel is: It is in the heart of His children. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (II Cor. 5:17). It is the powerful, living change within the child of God, from a dead, hell-deserving, hate-filled sinner to one who bows his knee in love and reverence before Jesus Christ.
God says the marvelous change is the one that the grace of Christ brings to us. “I once was blind, but now I see; I was deaf but now I hear; lame from the neck down but not I leap; I was dumb but now I sing.” Then, says the text, that is, when Jesus comes, this marvelous change reflecting the glory of God shall be accomplished. A marvelous power more amazing than when the Red Sea was parted or when the sun stood still in the days of Joshua or when God spoke the whole world into being in the beginning. The marvelous power of grace is seen when God’s Son in the flesh comes and when God’s Son takes to Himself all the curse and the hell of our sin and when His Spirit comes to renew our hearts that we, who are dead sinners, might now know Him and confess Him. Do you know this change from a corrupt sinner to a repentant child of God—this marvelous, creative, gracious change that God alone can perform within our hearts, and that He does through Jesus Christ?
It is a four-fold change. Then shall the eye of the blind be opened. To be blind is to be unable to see the beauty of God. To be blind is to be enthralled with the darkness of sin. To be blind is to live in conceit and pride. It is to imagine that lust gives pleasure, that things bring peace, that applause and acceptance bring satisfaction. That is to be blind. To see is to know God in love, God in all His majesty, goodness, and grace—to stand in awe of God. It is to see your sin, to see your nature as proud, hateful, and arrogant. And it is to see God’s word, God’s will, as alone the way of wisdom and power. It is to see Christ by faith—your Savior—and to love Him. The blind are made to see.
Then shall the ear of the deaf be unstopped. To be deaf is to be unable to hear the sounds of the creation. It is to be unable to hear the voice of God. It is not to hear God speaking. It is rather to be deaf, hard. It is to listen to sin. To hear is to hear God in His word. It is to hear the Savior speak the gospel to you personally, calling you by name.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart. To be lame means there is no impulse, no strength, to walk in the truth of Christ. It is to be unable to move toward God. To walk means to be given the new man of Christ that feels exuberant, unquenchable joy in Christ, and to be made willing, in Christ, cheerfully to walk the way of His will.
Then shall the tongue of the dumb sing. To speak is to be able to say, “My God, how wonderful Thou art.” But we are dumb of ourselves to God’s praise. Our tongues are quick, sharp, dirty in sin, gossip, criticism, cursing, and blasphemy. The language of God’s praises cannot be found in sinners. The syllables and the consonants just do not come. But when grace touches the heart, it reaches the tongue. We feel that we must thank Him. And we want our tongue to be an instrument of His grace, not a weapon to destroy. We sing—not just talk. We gather at the foot of the cross and we sing even while we are in trials and in death and in sickness. The voice of joy and thanksgiving is in the tabernacles of the righteous ( Ps. 118).
And all of this, this marvelous change: to see, to hear, to walk and to leap, to sing and to speak—all of this change, this marvelous spiritual change is of grace. There is only one difference between those who rest in heaven and those who anguish in hell. There is one difference between those who walk in the robes of white and righteousness in Jesus Christ and those who gnash their teach. The difference is grace,and grace alone.
Can the blind make themselves see? Can the deaf make themselves hear? Can the paralyzed leap? Can the dumb sing? It is all of grace. God would build for Himself a people in heaven to behold Him, to hearken to Him, to walk with Him, to sing to Him, to hear Him, and to talk to Him. And where did He get these people? He got them, by His grace, from those who were dead, dumb, blind, unable to move.
When Solomon built a place for himself and for God, he did so out of cedar and out of gold. But when God built His palace in glory, He sent His grace and mercy into the pit of sin, into a desert land among the blind, deaf, lame, and dumb. He sent His Son Jesus Christ into Bethlehem. “Go, go, My Son. Gather the outcasts, gather the unworthy into My house. Reveal the marvel of My grace.”
I am commissioned to proclaim the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. God says, “Say to them that are of a fearful heart.” The message that I bring is God’s message. God has sent the One, Jesus Christ, who gives sight to blind men, hearing to deaf men, strength to lame men, and a voice to the dumb. The call of the gospel, by His grace, is: “Believe on Him, trust in Him, repent. Bow before Him.” Grace working within our hearts produces a change, a profound change—a realization of our own sin and depravity and the wonder of Jesus Christ.
God commissions me to say to all who, by His grace, know this marvelous change: Are you hopeless? Have you come to a place where you are going to give up? Are you ready to despair? Say unto them, Be strong. Fear not. For behold, your God has come in a manger, in Jesus Christ, to save you with a marvelous and powerful grace.
To God, then, and to God alone, be all praise and thanksgiving.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. We ask again that the Holy Spirit may bless this word unto our hearts and lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.