Your God Will Come with Vengeance

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“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you. 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’” (Isaiah 35:3-6).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Today is the Third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete, the Sunday we light the pink candle as a symbol of joy. So why are we talking about God’s vengeance and recompense? Why do we need the pep talk? Even John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of New Testament, seems to need his weak hands strengthened, his shaking knees made firm, his anxious heart stilled. Where is the joy? I suspect that John might have been having the same questions.
Locked in prison, facing imminent death, it seems the forerunner of Christ is having second thoughts. Had he misunderstood? Has his work been in vain? Is Jesus the Messiah whose way John was sent to prepare? I mean, He’s not exactly acting like the Messiah everybody is expecting. So John sends His disciples to Jesus and asks, “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Jesus replies: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” In other words, Isaiah 35 gave some of the signs that the Messiah would do. Jesus is doing all these things. Therefore, John should conclude Jesus is the long-promised Messiah—not just because He performs miracles, but because He perform the miracles that the Old Testament said the Messiah would perform. In other words, Jesus fulfills the Word of God.
This is, first and foremost, the reason that Jesus performs these miracles in the Gospels, to demonstrate that He is, in fact, the promised Messiah. It is important to keep in mind because of a common objection of skeptics today: “If Jesus is truly risen and still powerful, then how come we don’t see a bunch of miracles happening today? How come there are still so many blind and deaf and mute and lame, even within the Christian Church? If Jesus is really a miracle worker, how come He isn’t still working miracles today?”
This challenge isn’t helped by some church bodies and faith healers who teach that Christians should expect a steady stream of such wonders wherever the Holy Spirit is present. They would persuade you that you know you’ve found a truly Christian church when people enter on crutches and leave dancing a polka or schottische. If that is true, which we in no way grant, then this little old church is in a world of hurt. Just look around. We aren’t exactly getting healthier as time goes on. Are we doing something wrong? Are we missing the Holy Spirit?
Not at all. Remember that Jesus performed these miracles primarily to prove He is the Messiah, to prove that He is the fulfillment of the Word of God. Now that He has done so, He’s established His credentials. He’s proven that He’s the Christ. He doesn’t have to do that again. In fact, to demand of Jesus, “You must prove to me that You’re the Messiah by doing some big miracles in my life,” isn’t faith. It’s doubt. It’s saying, “The Scriptures aren’t enough for me. Your Word’s not good enough to give me faith. I’ll only believe if You do some special healing for me.”
To put it more positively, you don’t need miracles to prove that Jesus is the Savior because you have something better. You have the Word of God. Furthermore, faith comes by means of the Word of God, not by miracles. It comes by hearing the Gospel, not by seeing wonders. No one gets to heaven by being healed of blindness in this life. Everyone who gets to heaven does so by having their sins forgiven. By trusting in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for their sins.
So, if someone says, “Why doesn’t Jesus do miracles today?” we need not be left without a proper response. We gladly say, “He certainly still can work miracles; and, in fact, He works far more miracles than you or I will ever be aware of. But He doesn’t have to. He’s not a dog who does tricks at our bidding. He doesn’t have to work miracles on our command. He doesn’t have to prove Himself again. He already has in His Word, and His Word is good enough for us.”
Furthermore, there are greater miracles to speak of in Isaiah 35.
The miracles of Jesus are not just stand alone wonders. They are inseparable from the Gospel, from His work as Messiah.
The wages of sin is death, and every last sickness and affliction and injury is a consequence of sin. This is a world governed by the law of entropy, a fallen world in which everything falls apart, and that “everything” includes everybody, you and me. Even if we are born in good health, time and circumstances take their toll. Accidents and disease will hurt and maim. Age will wear down our mind and our senses. God gives life, and sin works to take it away. Eyes dim, hearing becomes hard, limbs and organs are damaged or even lost. All of this seeks to take you away from your Lord, to fill you with fear and doubt of His grace.
Where the Lord would have you see His blessings, sin works to take sight away. Where the Lord would have you be with Him, sin seeks to keep you separated from God—both now and for eternity. Death hounds you every step of the way. And no matter how hard you try, no matter how careful you may be, you can only avoid disease, injury, and death for so long. Eventually, death wins.
Or, at least, it would—except that Christ has broken into this world and destroyed the power of sin and death. This is what He demonstrates by working these miracles in the Gospels. Where sin leads to the affliction of blindness, Jesus restores sight to the blind. He often heals simply by speaking! He speaks His powerful Word, and sight is restored—blindness has no choice, but must flee. Jesus speaks, and the deaf hear His Word—and then hear everything else, too. He speaks His living Word, and the dead come back to life. All of these healing miracles are a deposit, a down payment, for the day when Jesus will come and heal all sickness, injury, and death for eternity.
This is a far greater miracle than those to which Jesus refers to strengthen John the Baptist’s wavering faith: Jesus sends the wages of sin fleeing simply by speaking His Word. Thus Isaiah 35 declares, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’” In Christ, God comes with vengeance: not to condemn you, but to save you. Not vengeance against you, but against sin and death. By His death, Christ has destroyed the power of sin and death. By His Word, He sets you free from them.
When it comes to sin and death, we’re like the little kid facing the bully on the playground; and even though he’s shaking in his boots, the little one says, “I’m no match for you—I know you can beat me. But you’re no match for my big brother.” Likewise, you might face sin and death with weak hands and feeble knees, but you say” “You’re too big for me to beat, but just wait for my Big Brother, Jesus. He’s come with a vengeance! He’s destroyed your power on the cross! You can rough me up a bit, but Christ is going to raise me from the dead.”
Remember: Jesus sends the wages of sin fleeing away simply by speaking His Word. He speaks His Word to you. He says, “I baptize you,” and your old sinful flesh is drowned on the spot. He says, “I forgive you,” and you’re cleansed and sanctified as sin must flee. He says, “Take and eat, take and drink,” and He gives you His very body and blood and that has already defeated sin and death for the forgiveness of your sins, and strengthens you in body and soul unto eternal life.
Christ forgiving you is a greater miracle than making the blind see or the deaf hear. That healing was only for this life, for the body that would still eventually cease to function. But by forgiveness, Christ tells you that He will use the enemy of death to deliver you to everlasting life.
But as we said before, Jesus’ miracles of healing in the Gospels are inseparable from the forgiveness He has given to you, so here is more good news for you, dear children of God: when Jesus performed those miracles, He was giving you a foretaste of the Last Day. He was demonstrating to you that He has the power to raise you up from the dead, perfect in body and soul, better than you have ever been. In the words of Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
This is not just wishful thinking, but has the certain promise of your Savior. Let me give a few examples of what this means on a practical level. Those with once failing kidneys, will no longer need dialysis. Diabetics will be able to do away with the constant blood sugar testing and insulin shots. Those who suffer chronic, debilitating pain will experience complete relief. Our loved ones whose minds are now trapped in the prison of Alzheimer’s will be raised with clear minds. Those with MS or Parkinson’s or ALS will never again be betrayed by their nervous systems. Those who’ve suffered the ravages of cancer and its treatment will be restored to full health, vitality, and life. Those who have battled depression or other mental illness will see and experience life in a whole new joyous, hopeful way. This life isn’t the end. The Last Day is coming—the Day of Resurrection: then the ears of the deaf will be unstopped and the wheelchair bound will leap for joy. The Lord Jesus will come with a vengeance, with the recompense of God, and He will save you. All disability, disease, and death will be swept away, and our joy will be made complete. It’s certain. God promises, and God always keeps His promises.
Forgiveness and healing of the body are both part of Christ’s victory over sin. The Lord can still work miracles of physical healing right now if He wishes, and He often does. But even if He does not grant you healing in this life, He gives you the assurance that He will perform that miracle when He raises you up on the Last Day. That miracle is sure, because He speaks this greater miracle even now: you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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