The Third Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 29:1-24: Luke 1:1-25, 57-80

He Is the Lord Who Heals Us

Our passage from Isaiah is a beautiful passage that speaks of redemption after judgment.  That’s the way it is with God much of the time – redemption comes only after judgment; for the Lord must judge His people, “and if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner” (1 Peter 4:18)?”  So here in Isaiah 29, “Ariel,” another word for Jerusalem, is judged.  She will be brought down to the dust for her sins, as indeed she was in 586 B.C.  But the Lord refuses to leave her there.  He judges the nations that He used to punish her as well.

But what was this sin that the people of Jerusalem committed?  “Blind yourselves and be blind! Be drunk but not with wine; stagger but not with strong drink.”  The people had hardened their hearts so that they had blinded themselves from seeing the Lord and had so intoxicated themselves with sin that they could only stagger around in their lives.  They “honor [the Lord] with their lips while their hearts are far from [Him]” (also see Mark 7:6).  And for their sin, the Lord sends upon them “a spirit of deep sleep,” closing the eyes of the prophets and covering the heads of the seers.  You may read of this in Romans 1:18-32 where the Lord turns people over to themselves when they turn from Him, or 2 Thessalonians 2:11 where God punishes the wicked by sending upon them delusions that they may believe a lie.  It is a fearful thing to turn away from the living God.

But the good news is that He refuses to leave His people there.  The latter part of the chapter speaks of the redemption of the Lord: “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.  The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.”  And even better, “Those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmur will accept instruction.”  This is a wonderful promise to people who were so blind and stupid.  And this was exactly the task of John the Baptist, “to go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people.”  And what is the purpose of all of this – this chastening of God’s people, followed by the opening of eyes and ears, and understanding, and redemption?  In short, “That we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies (sin, death, and hell), might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”  That’s God’s will for us – our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3) – our growing in holiness in grace before Him, till the day we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

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