Monday, October 10, 2011

Bought Back

Strengthen ye the feeble hands, and confirm the weak knees.
    Say to the fainthearted: Take courage, and fear not: behold your God will bring the revenge of recompense: God himself will come and will save you.  -- Isaiah 35:3-4 (Douay-Rheims 1899)
The context for this passage is filled with the hope of God's coming.  Once again famous lines from Handel's Messiah ring from verses 5 and 6 following this passage - "Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped..."   

If you feel weak and shaky, lacking in courage, worrying your head off - fear not.  But in the middle of these two verses is a phrase that sounds quite jarringly scary -- "God will bring revenge of recompense."   We have been so often pelted with the historic bricks of hellfire and damnation that we can immediately get distracted from all the positivity to think, "Ah, there is a catch to all of this upbeat stuff."  Commentators like John Calvin say this refers to the evil doers and that believers have nothing to fear.  Given the context around which the phrase is surrounded, perhaps a slightly different idea is warranted?

Recompense is a means of paying for something.  The suggested state of the human here is that we are weak and frightened.  Largely true, as so often life swamps us with things far bigger than we are!  But, would it not be logical given the surrounding words, that what God is bringing will buy back your fear and weakness with a vengeance?  God so hates what brings you fear and weakens his faithful ones!  God loves us with a vengeance.  God brings us a love in the embodiment of Christ that knows no other!  When Christ touches us the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame dance.  Whatever is causing your heart to be faint is lifted up by God who comes and buys back your weakness and sin and replaces it with Christ's saving grace.  Good news!

Blessed God and Redeemer, come meet us soon with your powerful avenging love for all that causes your children pain or worry.  Through Emmanuel, the Christ.  Amen.

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