經文﹕ < 以賽亞書 >35 ﹕ 1-10
< 以賽亞書 > 第三十五章描述了以色列人對歸家的渴望。他們背井離鄉﹐在他國的土地上生活了七十年﹐自己的家園早已滿目瘡痍﹐一片廢墟。以色列人期盼著有一天他們的神會降臨並把他們帶回家﹐這位神要恢復他們的土地 、 城市和聖殿。以色列人將能再次看到神的榮耀。同時﹐這一章的經文也談到了彌撒亞 ---- 耶穌基督的來臨。在今天將臨期的第三個主日﹐很適合我們一起來研讀這段經文。
4b 和 4c 兩節是這一章的重點﹕“……看哪！你們的 神，他要來……他必來……”這是一段關於神將要來到他的子民中間﹐把他們帶回家的預言。
神來為要恢復他的創造。 ( 經文 1-2 ﹐ 6-7)
經文 1-2 節﹕“ 1 曠野和乾旱之地必歡喜；沙漠要快樂，又像番紅花一般開花， 2 必茂盛地開花，大大快樂，並且歡呼。黎巴嫩的榮耀、迦密和沙崙的華美也賜給它；人們必看見耶和華的榮耀、我們 神的華美。”經文 6-7 節﹕“ 6 ……曠野必湧出大水，沙漠必流出江河。 7 灼熱的沙地必變為水池，乾旱之地必變成泉源；… .. 必成為青草、蘆葦和蒲草生長的地方。”以色列人期盼著他們的神的來臨﹐因為在他來的時候﹐他將恢復他們的土地。曠野之地將變得美麗﹐被賦予黎巴嫩的榮耀﹐得到有序的耕種 ( 迦密 ) 和沙崙的華美。那也將是一片安全的土地。這與 < 創世紀 > 中人類因犯了罪而背離神並受到的詛咒的復原。被造的萬物將再次表現出他們的華美和榮耀﹐更重要的是﹐通過被造萬物的榮耀﹐我們看到了神的榮耀。
< 羅馬書 >8 ﹕ 22 ﹐“ 22 我們知道被造的萬物直到現在都一同在痛苦呻吟……熱切期待…。”是的﹐基督已經來過﹐但是﹐被造的萬物仍在期盼著他的第二次來臨。在那一天﹐整個的物質世界﹐自然萬物都將得到恢復﹐ < 創世紀 > 的詛咒內容將被完全地反轉。現在﹐我們看到的只是被造萬物的部分榮耀﹐當基督再來的時候﹐我們就能看到他們所有的榮耀。現在﹐被造的萬物彰顯了部分神的榮耀﹐但是當基督再來時﹐我們將通過神的創造看到他完整的榮耀。
神來為要康復他的子民。 ( 經文 3-4)
經文 3-5 節﹕“ 3 你們要堅固無力的手，穩固搖動的膝。 4 又對那些憂心的人說：… 5 那時，瞎子的眼必打開，聾子的耳必暢通。 6 那時，瘸子必像鹿一般跳躍，啞巴的舌頭必大聲歡呼。”神的子民兩手無力﹐雙膝搖動﹐滿懷懮心。這裡所描寫的是那些行動困難﹐站立不穩﹐和無法做決定的人 ( 也就是沒有信念的人 ) 。不僅如此﹐神的子民也是那些在身體和精神上瞎眼的﹐耳聾的﹐瘸腿的和啞巴的。換句話說﹐無論在古代還是現代社會﹐他們都不是英雄﹐只是一些軟弱的人﹐受到世界的輕視。然後﹐我們被反復提醒了兩次﹐那是“我們的” 神﹐“你們” 的神。
我們是否常常會覺得自己的軟弱和無助 ? 我們無法表達自己的思想與感受 , 也不容易明白別人的話語 . 面對別人和自己的問題 , 感覺到自己的無能 . 我們也不容易明白神的話 . ﹔很多情況下﹐我對孰是孰非感到困惑﹐即使當我能夠區分時﹐我也沒有勇氣去說和做﹔我感覺自己是個失敗和無用的器皿﹔是一個微不足道的人 .
可是你知道嗎﹖就是對這些人﹐我們讀到﹐他是“我們的” 神﹐“你們的”神。我們注意到耶穌的整個在世的時間都與那些軟弱的﹐懮心的﹐瘸腿的﹐耳聾的﹐啞巴的和瞎眼的人共同度過。在 < 哥林多前書 >1 ﹕ 28 ﹐保羅寫到﹕“ 28 也揀選了世上卑賤的和被人輕視的，以及算不得甚麼的……” 你們的” 神﹐“我們的” 神就是那些軟弱 , 困惑 , 灰心和失望之人的神 .
竟然如此 , 我們的軟弱又如何呢 ? 當我們在一起的時候 , 是否僅僅互相慶賀和彼此承認自己的軟弱 , 瞎眼 , 瘸腿 , 耳聾和啞巴 ? 神來對他的子民做什麼﹖“ 3 你們要堅固無力的手，穩固搖動的膝。 4 又對那些憂心的人說：“你們要剛強，不要懼怕…… 5 那時，瞎子的眼必打開，聾子的耳必暢通。 6 那時，瘸子必像鹿一般跳躍，啞巴的舌頭必大聲歡呼……”他賜給軟弱的人力量﹐懮心的人勇氣﹐他治癒了瞎眼的﹐瘸腿的﹐耳聾的和啞巴的。這不就是基督在世時的作為嗎﹖ < 馬太福音 >11 ﹕ 4-5 ﹐“ 4 耶穌回答他們：‘你們回去，把聽見和看見的都告訴約翰， 5 就是瞎的可以看見，瘸的可以走路，患痲風的得到潔淨，聾的可以聽見，死人復活，窮人有福音聽。’”
不單如此 , 在第四節經文中還說道﹐“看哪！你們的 神，他要來報仇，來施行報應，他必來拯救你們。”這意味著﹐當主來的時候﹐他要使萬事都恢復公義﹐他將更正一切他的子民所遭受的不公﹐他要去除一切對他的子民所施加的惡行。在 < 羅馬書 >12 ﹕ 19 說道﹕“ 19 親愛的啊，不要為自己伸冤，寧可等候主的忿怒，因為經上記著，主說：伸冤在我，我必報應。”
這就是你們的神﹐也是我們的神。當耶穌基督 2000 年前第一次降臨時﹐他已經開始康復我們的生命。他已經為我們軟弱的雙手和雙膝添加力量﹐他已經為打開我們屬靈的雙眼和雙耳﹐好讓我們看到他的樣子﹐聽到他的說話。他已經張開我們的口﹐好叫我們來讚美他。在我們經歷考驗時﹐他賜給我們力量。他添加我們的勇氣在言行中彰顯公義。他安靜我們的心﹐去除我們的懮愁和焦慮。
在最近一期的 < 當代基督教 > 裡﹐有一片題為“受教會欺騙” 的文章。作者談到了他受到同性戀的誘惑﹐並為此掙扎苦惱不已。他拜訪了一些教會﹐但這些教會肯定他 , 告訴他﹐他是沒有問題的﹐一切正常。但只有在他意識到這是不正常是錯誤時﹐他才開始尋找神的幫助﹐祈求並獲得力量來抵擋這股誘惑。並且開始經驗到真正的自由 . 神將醫治﹐康復帶入了我們殘缺不全的生命。當我看著你的時候﹐我也看到了神是如何將完整和醫治帶給我們當中許多生命破碎不全的人。
但是﹐現在我們經歷的只是部分的康復。通常我們都還是軟弱和搖擺不定﹐我們仍然不能清晰地看見或聽見他的旨意。我們是多麼期待那一天的到來﹐在那時﹐他將按照他的樣子完完全全地改變我們﹐那是完整的康復。今日 , 我們有時能看到神更正了發生在我們身上的錯事﹐但是我們確信在他再來的那一天﹐一切發生在我們身上的錯事都將被改正。
神來為要在他所建造的路上帶他的子民回家。 ( 經文 8-10)
經文 8-10 節﹕“ 8 那裡必有一條大路，要稱為“聖路”；不潔淨的人不能經過，那是為那些行走正路的人預備的 , … . 只有贖回的人在那裡行走 ; 10 只有蒙救贖的人必歸回，必歡呼地來到錫安……”以色列人等候著神的來臨﹐為什麼呢﹖因為他要在曠野中建造一條路。這條路通向哪裡呢﹖它通向錫安。錫安是神的城﹐代表了神的同在。是祂的家 . 神來要建造一條路﹐通向他的同在。在祂的同在裡 , 軟弱的人有力量﹐懮心的人有勇氣﹐生病的人得到醫治 . 家是一個希望的所在。他來為要帶我們回家。讓我們再進一步來看﹕
“ 4 ……他必來拯救你們…… 8 不潔淨的人不能經過，那是為那些行走正路的人預備的……只有贖回的人在那裡行走 ; 10 只有蒙救贖的人必歸回，必歡呼地來到錫安……”是誰行走在通向神的城﹐神的同在的路上﹖是那些潔淨的人 、 得救的人 、 被救贖和重價買回的人。
以上這些詞語都被用來描寫以色列人出埃及時的情景﹕他們從埃及人的奴役中被拯救 、 贖買 、 重價贖回和釋放。以賽亞期盼有一天以色列人能夠從巴比倫的罪惡中被拯救出來﹐但更重要的是﹐他期待著彌撒亞的降臨。 < 馬太福音 >1 ﹕ 20-21 ﹐天使向約瑟顯現﹕“大衛的子孫約瑟，只管放膽把你的妻子馬利亞迎娶過來，因為她懷的孕是從聖靈來的。 21 她必生一個兒子，你要給他起名叫耶穌，因為他要把自己的子民從罪惡中拯救出來。”三十年以後﹐耶穌在 < 馬可福音 >10 ﹕ 45 說道﹕“ 45 因為人子來，不是要受人服事，而是要服事人，並且要捨命，作許多人的贖價。”誰能夠走上這條通向神同在的路﹖只有被救贖和重價買回的人可以。被救贖的人就是那相信神的人 . 他們並不是因為自己的行為成為聖潔﹐而是因為神視他們為公義和聖潔。因為這個原因﹐這條路也被稱作聖潔的路。
我們已經看到當神來把我們帶回他的家時﹐生命將是何等的美好。在那裡﹐有安慰﹐勇氣﹐力量和醫治。誰不想進入神的同在呢﹖誰不想得到神的祝福呢﹖誰不想得到拯救﹐走上這條聖潔的路﹖誰不想去天堂﹐去那個完美的家﹖但是﹐實際上我們每個人不也是都希望用自己的方法到天堂去嗎﹖我們都想建造自己的路﹐定義自己進入天堂的標準。但是﹐這裡我們看到﹐聖經很明確地指出﹕如果我們想進入神的同在﹐只有一條路可以行﹐就是那條他親自建造的路。 35:8, “那裡必有一條大路，要稱為“聖路” .. ” < 約翰福音 >14 ﹕ 6 中﹐耶穌說﹕“ 6 我就是道路、真理、生命，如果不是藉著我，沒有人能到父那裡去。” 回家的路是由神親自建造的。通向神的路是藉著耶穌基督 , 唯一的道路 .
要走上這條回家的路﹐我們必須首先承認自己是軟弱的﹐懮心的﹐是屬靈的瞎子 、 聾子 、 瘸腿和啞巴。我們從人性本質上已經完全被罪所敗壞﹐好像穿著一件破舊不堪的衣服﹐只配神的憤怒。耶穌二千年前道成肉身來到世間﹐他是聖潔的﹐無罪的。他在世間的最後時刻﹐在十字架上﹐神把我們身上的破舊衣服交給了耶穌﹐卻把耶穌那件公義和純潔的衣服為我們穿上。這樣我們才得到純淨﹔耶穌就將神因我們的罪而發出的憤怒除去了﹔也因為這樣我們得到救贖和贖買﹔能走上通向神的路。
還有﹐當我們走上這條路﹐經文第 10 節說道﹕“只有蒙救贖的人必歸回，必歡呼地來到錫安；永遠的喜樂必臨到他們的頭上；他們必得著歡喜和快樂，憂愁和歎息都必逃跑了。”這是一段充滿喜樂的旅程﹐在這條路上有喜樂﹐完美無缺的幸福。
我們可以通過 90 ﹐ 59 或者 6 號公路去 Sugar Land 。但是﹐要進入神的同在﹐我們的家﹐只有通過他親自建造的路才可以到達。我們不可以自己制訂標準﹐隨心所欲地選擇自己想走的路﹐那必須是一條藉著耶穌基督的路。我們要承認自己的完全墮落﹐生命在本質上受到罪的侵蝕﹐能令我們走上這條路的唯一方法就是接受神給我們的公義﹐一生跟隨和順服他。即使現在我們只是剛剛開始這段旅程﹐我們已能經歷他的力量﹐安慰﹐鼓勵和醫治的能力。由於現在和有限的醫治與恢復﹐我們更能確定的是﹕當我們有一天回到家中﹐我們將經受完全的醫治和恢復。現在我們通過週圍的世界看到神的部分榮耀﹐在那一天﹐我們將完全地見到神﹐看到他完整的榮耀。這就是我們的盼望。有了希望在前方﹐我們所走的這條路就充滿了喜樂﹐這份喜樂是完美無缺的。我們的神已經來臨﹐要將我們帶上歸家的旅程。他的聖靈和恩典已經與我們同在﹐使我們開始經歷到一些回家的感覺。將來有一天﹐他還要再來﹐為的是完完全全地將我們帶回家裡。
Text: Isaiah 35:1-10
Title: Behold Your God Will Come
Theme: God comes to restore us and take us on a journey of going home.
Many of you are making plans either to go home and visit your family members or getting your home ready for family members to come back. Christmas is the season when we want to be with our family. There is this longing and desire to be home.
Isaiah 35 is about the Israelites looking forward to going home. They’d had lived in exile in a foreign land for 70 years. Their homeland was deserted and ruined. They looked forward to the day when their God would come and take them home. He would restore their lives, their land, their city and temple. They would see his glory again. Yet at the same time, this chapter is also about the coming of the Messiah; Jesus Christ. It is appropriate for us to read and study this passage on the 3 rd Sunday of Advent.
The key verse in this chapter is found in 4b and 4c, “….Behold, your God will come….He will come…..” This prophecy is about God coming to his people to restore them and take them home.
I. God comes to restore his created world. 1-2
Vs.1-2, “ 1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, t he majesty of Carmel and Sharon . They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. ” Vs.6, “… For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; …. the grass shall become reeds and rushes. ” The Israelites looked forward to the coming of their God. For when He comes, He’d restore their land. Wilderness will now have the beauty and strength of Lebanon ; of ordered cultivation ( Carmel ) and the attractiveness of Sharon . It will be a safe place. This is a reverse of the Genesis curse after man had sinned against God. The creation would once again manifest its beauty and glory. And moreover, in the glory of nature, one sees the glory of God.
In Romans 8:22, “ 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together ……. as we wait eagerly …… .” Yes, Christ has already come; but the entire creation is still waiting for his second coming. On that day, there will be the total restoration of the physical and natural world; a complete reversal of the Genesis curse. Now we see the partial glory of the created world. When Christ comes again, we shall see its full glory. Now the created world reflects a portion of God's glory, but when he comes, we’ll see God's full glory through the glory of his creation..
In this advent season, we look forward to Jesus Christ's first coming, and also with certainty, looking forward to his coming again. We, along with the entire creation, eagerly wait for this day when he will bring full restoration to the physical world.
II. God comes to restore his people.
Yes, when God comes he will restore the natural world. But there is more. Here Isaiah looks forward to the coming of God when he will bring restoration to his people. I would like to make two observations here.
1. God's people are weak and helpless.
Vs.3-6, “ 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. ….. 4 Say to those who have an anxious heart” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. ” God's people are weak in hands, feeble in their knees and with anxious hearts. It is a description of those who have difficulties in actions, who are unstable and cannot make up their minds (that is, with no convictions). Moreover, his people are those who are physically and spiritually blind, deaf, mute, and lame. In other words, in both the ancient and present societies, they are not the winners. They are the weaklings and are despised by the world. Yet two times we are reminded that it is ‘our’ God, ‘your’ God.
Don’t we sometimes feel that we are weak and helpless? We can’t express our thoughts and feeling, and have difficulty understanding others’ words. We feel so inadequate to solve others’ and our own problems. We read but have difficulty understand God's words. Very often we are confused about what is right and wrong. And when we do know, we lack the courage to speak out or act on it. We feel we are defeated and useless vessels. We are the nobodies.
And you know what? It is to such people, we read that he is our God, your God. We notice that Jesus' entire life was spent among those who are weak, anxious, lame, deaf, mute and blind. In 1 Corinthians 1:28, Paul writes, “ 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, ….” Your God, my God, our God is the God of the weak, tired, confused, discouraged and dejected.
2. God will bring strength to his people
Having said this, what do we do with our weaknesses? When we come together, do we just affirm and congratulate one another on our being blind, mute, deaf and lame? What does God do to his people? vs.3-6, ‘ 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “ Be strong; fear not! ……” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy…’ He strengthens the weak, encourages the anxious, he heals the blind, lame, deaf and the mute. Isn’t this what Christ did on earth? Matthew 11;4-5, “ 4 And Jesus answered them, "“Go and tell John what you hear and see:" 5 "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."
Moreover, vs.4, “Behold, Your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.” This means when the Lord comes, he will set things right. He will correct the wrong suffered by his people. He will undo the wrong done to his people. In Romans 12:19, we read, “ 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
This is your God, our God. With the first coming of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago, he began to restore our lives. He has strengthened our weak hands and knees. He has opened our spiritual eyes and ears so we see him and hear his words. He has opened our mouth so we can praise him. He has given us strength in the midst of trials and courage to speak and do what is right and good. He quiets our hearts so it will not be anxious.
In the recent Christianity Today is an article titled, “Cheated by the Church”. The writer shared about his struggle and temptation with his homosexual tendency. He visited some churches and they told him that he was ok and fine. Only after he realized that this was wrong and not ok, he began to seek God's help and gained strength to resist the temptation. In God, he found true freedom. God brings healing and restoration to our broken lives. As I look at you, I also see how God has brought wholeness and healing into many broken lives among us.
However, what we experience now is partial restoration. At times we are still weak and feeble. We still can’t see or hear well his instructions and fail to stand up. And how we look forward to the day when he will change us completely into his likeness; when there is the total restoration. Sometimes we see him correcting the wrong done to us, but we know for certain that there will come a day when all the wrongs done to us will be corrected.
God comes to us to restore us and there is more to this.
III. God comes to bring His people home on the highway he built.
Vs.8-10, “ 8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it………the redeemed shall walk there. 10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; …” The Israelites waited for God to come. What for? He would build a highway through the wilderness. Where would this high way lead to: To Zion. Zion is the city of God , symbolizing his dwell place. It is his home. God comes to build a road that leads into his presence. In his presence, is strength for the weak, encouragement for the anxious and healing for the sick. Home is the place of hope. He comes to bring his people home. Let’s take a closer look at this.
1. Only the redeemed can travel on this highway.
Vs. 4c, “…he will come and save you.” Vs. 8, “ the unclean shall not pass over it.; ….. but the redeemed shall walk there. 10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing ..” Who travels down this highway to God's city, God's presence? They are the clean ones, the saved, the redeemed, the ransomed ones.
This is the language used to describe Israelites’ exodus experience. They were saved, redeemed, and delivered from the bondage in Egypt . Isaiah looked forward to the day when the Israelites will be freed from the Babylonian captivity. But more than this, he is also looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. 500 years later, an angel appeared to Joseph, Matthew 1:20-21, “ Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 30 years later, Jesus said, Mark 10:45, “ 45 "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Who can travel down this highway into God's presence? The redeemed, the ransomed ones are those who have placed their faith in God. They are holy not because of merits, but because God has considered them as righteous, as holy. And as they continue to obey him, they also become more and more holy. And for this reason, this highway is also called the Way of Holiness.
2. This is the only way available.
We have seen what life can be when God comes to his people and bring them home. There is comfort, encouragement, strength and healing. Who doesn’t want to go into his presence? Who doesn’t want the blessing? Who doesn’t want salvation and be delivered? Who doesn’t want to go to heaven, the perfect dwelling place? But isn’t true that we all want to get there in our own ways? We want to build our own highways and rewrite the rules. But here it is very clear that if we want to get into God's presence, there is only one way, it is the way he has built. 35:8, “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness.” Jesus said, John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." The way to go HOME is through the highway built by God. The way to God is through Jesus Christ, the only Way.
To get onto this highway, we have to first acknowledge we are weak, anxious, and spiritually blind, deaf, lame and mute. Every aspect of our being is tainted by sin. We are wearing a filthy rag. We only deserve God's wrath. Jesus came into the world 2K years ago. He was clean, without any sins. At the end of his life, on that cross, God placed our dirty rag on Jesus, put Jesus' righteousness, the clean cloth on us. This is how we are clean. This is how he delivered us from God's wrath. This is how we become the redeemed, the ransomed. This is how we can travel on this highway to God.
Moreover, when we travel on this highway, vs.10, “ 10 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. ” This is a happy and joyous journey. There is joy, unbroken and unbreakable happiness.
Have you ever wondered why there is this longing to go home during this time of the year? It is really a reflection of our longing to go into God's presence, our ultimate home. It is a home full of hope; a place of perfect rest; a place where sin cannot molest. A place where there is total and complete healing of body and soul.
We can go to Sugar Land via 90 or 59, or highway 6. But to get to God's presence, our home, it has to be on the highway he built. We cannot write our own rules or take our own highway; it has to be through Jesus Christ. We have to acknowledge our own total depravity, that every aspect of our life has been tainted by sin. We are to accept the righteousness God has placed on us and to follow and be obedient to him. And you know what, even as we start our journey home, we can begin to experience his strength, comfort, encouragement and healing power. Because of this present and limited healing and restoration, we can know for certain that when we arrive home one day, we’ll experience total healing and restoration. Here we see a part of his glory through the world around us; on that day, we’ll see him as he is; in his total glory. This is our hope. And with this hope before us, we can travel down this highway with unbroken and unbreakable joy.
Our God has come to take us with him on this journey Home. His Holy Spirit and his grace is with us that we can begin to experience what home is like. And one day He will come again to make sure we arrive at his home.
May I invite you to come and take this journey with us?