“He Comes, We Come” (Isaiah 35:1-10)
“You go, we go.” That’s what the Chicago Cubs told their centerfielder and leadoff man Dexter Fowler the last couple of years. “You go, we go.” In other words, “As you go, Dexter, so we will go. You are the guy who makes this team go. When you get on base and play well, our team will do well.” And that is what happened. Fowler played very well, and the Cubs won the World Series. “You go, we go.” And now that Dexter Fowler has signed with St. Louis, the Cardinals are hoping for the same result.
“You go, we go.” Today I want to modify that saying a bit to reflect our reading from Isaiah 35. And what I’ll change it to is this: “He Comes, We Come.” He comes, we come. And the result will be something far greater than even a World Series championship.
He comes, we come. Let’s start with the “he.” Who is the “he” who is coming? Clearly it is the Lord God himself: “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
Isaiah is writing this prophecy looking ahead to a time when the people of God will need saving. That would be when Judah would be taken captive to Babylon, some years after the time of Isaiah. The Babylonian Captivity would be a great disaster for God’s people. They were defeated by their enemies, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the temple itself was destroyed. The people of Judah were taken off as exiles, living in a strange land, ruled by a pagan emperor. Things couldn’t get much worse.
And it is to a situation like this, when people feel powerless and shaky and worried–to a situation like this, Isaiah speaks a word of hope: “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.”
He comes. The Lord your God is coming. And he is coming to save you. He will come with vengeance, with recompense. He will defeat your enemies for you and deliver you from their hands. And indeed, that is what happened in the case of Judah at the time of the Babylonian Captivity. Eventually Babylon was defeated, by Persia, in the year 539 B.C., and the next year the Persian emperor Cyrus told the Judean exiles they could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. But really it was the Lord, the God of Israel, who made this happen.
He comes, we come. The Lord comes to save his people, and then they come: The people of God come out of exile and come back home where they belong. Isaiah foretells this too. He foresees a highway running through the wilderness, sort of a divine express lane running straight from Babylon back to Jerusalem: “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.”
It is the redeemed who will be traveling on this holy highway, the ones whom the Lord has set free from their captivity. And they will be heading home: “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
He comes, we come. When the Lord comes and redeems his people from their captivity, then they will come: They will come back to Zion, the dwelling place of the Lord in the midst of his people. And Judah did come back to Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and they did rebuild the temple. That did come true for the people of Judah.
But is that all Isaiah is prophesying here? No, it seems like more, much more, that God has in mind. The fulfillment of this prophecy would be something much greater. After all, Isaiah here speaks of “everlasting joy” and that “sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” But that everlasting dimension of the joy did not come to pass for Judah. Eventually the temple would be destroyed again, this time by the Romans, and it has never been rebuilt since.
No, Isaiah has something far greater that he’s prophesying here. And it is the ultimate “He comes, we come” of all time. The enemies are far worse than the Babylonians and the Romans. The captives, the exiles, are far more than just the Judeans. The distress is much deeper. And the outcome is much greater and far more glorious.
He comes, we come. This time the “he” is still the Lord God. But it is the Lord God come in the flesh, in the person of the baby boy Jesus. He comes to save us. Even his name, “Jesus,” means “The Lord saves.” Jesus comes to save us.
And we are the people he comes to save. Not just Judah. Not just the Jews. But us Gentiles too. All sinners, far and near. For ours is a distress that spans the globe. The shroud of death covers all of mankind. For we all have sinned and have earned death by our sins. We are the captives, we are the exiles. We were far off from the Promised Land, exiles driven out of the Garden, cut off from the tree of life. We were strangers, separated from God by our sins.
But God comes, he comes to save us. He comes in the only way possible to save us. He comes as our brother. The Son of God comes as one of us, so he can fulfill all righteousness for us, and so he can die the sinner’s death in place of all of us. Only the Son of God could do that. And he has done so.
Jesus comes with a vengeance, he comes with divine recompense. He defeats our enemies for us, our biggest enemies, sin and Satan and death. All of them defeated, when Jesus stomped on the devil’s head even as he died on the cross. “Devil, take that! Now your accusations are empty! The sins of my people are forgiven, by my blood on the cross. Devil, now your power is broken! Death’s domain is shattered. Resurrection and life, eternal life, have the victory and hold the day!”
“Come, my people,” Jesus says to you and me today. “Come and be forgiven. Come and receive my life. I won it for you. The gift is yours. Take hold of it by faith. Come, follow me on the Highway of Holiness. You are clean, by my blood. I will lead the way. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. Come, follow me, and I will lead you home.”
He comes, we come. Jesus comes to save us. We come home to Zion. And what will we find when we get there? “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. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.”
Ah, the beautiful restoration of creation! Everything that went wrong with the fall into sin, the curse upon the land and upon humanity–all that will be reversed. Paradise restored, and then some. Streams in the desert. Where there was arid wasteland, now there will be beauty and fruitfulness. Even our bodies will be fixed up, better than new. Eyes, seeing sharp and clear again. Ears, hearing like they’re supposed to. Lame lords a-leaping! Mute voices singing for joy in the celestial choir! You know, Jesus did healings like this in his ministry. But that was just a foretaste, a sneak preview, of the ultimate healing that will happen, when Jesus raises our bodies from the dead on the day when he returns.
This calls for celebration! Creation itself will join in the singing: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.”
“You go, we go.” But today we’re talking about far more than a baseball player and his team. Today we’re speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ and about his people–and that’s us. “He comes, we come.” He comes to save us. We come home to Zion, to the place where God is dwelling with his people forever.
“Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” He comes. We come: “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” He comes, we come. Amen.