Encouragement from the Word; January 20, 2018

Isaiah 35:3-4 Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”

Some prophecies aren’t much fun to deliver, but I’m sure Isaiah delighted to give this one! I’m not even sure how many songs have been written to the 10 verses of this chapter, but there are a lot, and I know quite a few of them. As is almost always the case, there are a number of ways this content can be/has been translated, and I particularly like the Japanese for verse four. It starts with, “Say to those whose hearts are in turmoil.” Sometimes we don’t exactly feel fearful, but our minds won’t stop running “what ifs” over and over. Then, after saying “Be strong, do not fear,” just like the NIV, it says, “Look at your God.” Most of the time when our hearts are in turmoil it’s because we’ve lost sight of God. This is exactly the problem addressed in Hebrews 12. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3) We have an advantage over those to whom Isaiah was speaking directly, because we not only have the Father to look at, we have the clear example of Jesus Christ the Son. That can be a lot easier to understand in terms of knowing how we are to respond to our own circumstances. We too can endure the “crosses” we experience if we have a firm grasp of the joy that is set before us. Paul put it this way: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) When we get that through our minds and hearts we have the perfect peace that not only Paul (Philippians 4:7) but Isaiah talked about. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Well! If I don’t feel encouraged at this point it’s my own fault! This is an example of the joy and blessing it is to have a lot of the Bible in my mind and heart. I did check references for all the Scriptures I’ve just mentioned, but they were already there for the Holy Spirit to pull them up in my memory. I am deeply grateful to have been raised in a home that was steeped in faith and the Word, so that I first read through the Bible by the time I was 10. I received an RSV full Bible after I was baptized at age seven, and my father’s long sermons in Japanese were a great time for me to read it! I have learned the hard way that there’s a big difference between knowing the words of the Bible and having it in your heart to do it, just like James talked about, (James 1:22) but when it is in your memory the Holy Spirit has an easy time of calling it up to guide and encourage you. As a pastor, I deeply desire that each of my flock “hide the Word in their hearts” (Psalm 119:11) through daily devotional Bible reading, and it is a heartache that so few do. Given modern culture, they’d probably do much better at it in electronic form on their phones, so I need to check what apps to recommend. I create a Scripture reading list each month, and I need to start sending it to the believers in electronic form, rather than just printed out. I need to change my methods with the times, without changing the content of God’s truth. God’s Word is never out of date, if people will only realize that.

Father, thank You for this encouragement on several levels right now. Thank You that one of my “wandering sheep” will be coming to help me this morning. I pray that I would be fully available to You in ministering to him as he needs, so that the lies of the devil may be destroyed by Your truth in love, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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