Updated: Feb 6
Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water;
This is an optional Old Testament selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 18. If chosen, it will next be read aloud in an Episcopal church by a reader on Sunday September 9, 2018. It is important because Isaiah prophesied that God is the only way to turn one’s life around, from mortal born of death to soul freed to everlasting life.
Verse four, as translated above, makes God seem to come like a white knight in shining armor. Humans then can be imagined as fair damsels held captive in towers by the black knight, screaming in fear, “Somebody save me!” Such an image is misleading and this is because the translation fails to accurately make the wording clear. This is because “elohim” [the Hebrew word that states “gods,” in the lower case and in the plural number] is incorrectly shown as “God.”
The Bible Hub Interlinear translation of Isaiah 35:4 states [with my adjustments]: “Say to those fearful hearted ､ not ､ do fear behold ､ your gods with vengeance ､ will come with recompense — gods this will come and save you .”
In this “’eloheichem” says, “your gods” [my bold] and “elohim hu” says “gods this,” where “hu” can be “this” or “he.” The repetition is complimentary, as each is different from the other, as a parallel balance of opposites. By stating “your gods” [the gods of self], this is the source of one’s fears. One then moves to the opposite of “you” to “he,” where all gods are subservient to Him [“gods he”]. When one then realizes that the word “hu” can additionally translate as “one,” this then can estate how multiple “gods” serve “one” God.
It was at the elohim retirement party that Lucifer got all huffy and took his posse of evil spirits to Hell.
The opposition is then between “you” and God, where “your gods” do not recognize “He” is the Lord of all gods.
It is important to realize the tendency is for human being to become lost because they serve multiple “gods” (“elohim”), rather than Yahweh elohim – the Lord of all gods. These “gods” do not need to be given proper names, such as Venus, Mars, Zeus, or Poseidon, as man kneels before the altars of philosophy, politics, and selfish greed, without even realizing any temple present. Fear is the motivation for those “gods of yours.”
The commandment of Deuteronomy 6:13 says [amended to show “gods”], “Fear the LORD your gods, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.”
There it is written “Yahweh ‘eloheicha,” as “Lord of your gods.” That says (in effect) “Lord of all gods of you.” This then commands all the Israelites to have no fear of any gods; only fear the Lord.” That law recognizes all human beings serve the lords of the material plane, but none of God children are to worship them, much less fear them. That means turning one’s back to God and being on one’s own.
By understanding that starting point that deems one of true faith, as a true priest of Yahweh, it is easy to see how Isaiah was writing about a wayward people that served many “gods” that brought them great “fear.” Instead of the peace and serenity of Yahweh in the hearts of those of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, they had bowed down to all kinds of gods (Baal’s minions that enslave a soul), which filled their hearts with evil doubts. It was to them that Isaiah said (as one with Yahweh in his heart and without fear), “Be made secure,” as opposed to holding onto the weakness they had allowed themselves to become enslaved to.
The separation of the word “al-,” where there is a long pause before this joins to “tirau’ nakam” (“do fear behold”), says “no!” first. Not only does Isaiah say, “Hang in there,” as an implication that help is on the way, he stomps his foot down heavily, saying, “Not” is fear allowed to the children of God of lesser gods.
He was telling them to “Say “no” to fear!”
The pause then allows one to linger longer on “beholding fear.” That becomes like screaming, “SPIDER!” to a woman, when there is a spider on the floor. Seeing one puts a sudden, fresh fear of awareness into their soul, so they stop failing to realize the fear that has become so normal it has become embedded in one’s being. Being made aware of a spider’s presence lets one imagine how close one was to being bitten.
Isaiah was saying, “LOOK at the fear you have gripping you!” It is a call to “WAKE UP!”
After that jolt, Isaiah said, “Your gods have control of you with vengeance.” The spider is threatening to bite, after it finishes spinning its web. It will not be easy on one, as it comes to kill. It brings a violent end that must be understood.
Still, in the sense that one must fight fire with fire, the same statement then says, “You must use vengeance to rid yourself of your gods.” If the spider comes to kill, you need to kill it first.
Because it is you your gods have possessed and it is you who must evict them from your being. This means the wakeup call is saying to stop being you … at least the you that you have become. This means Isaiah said to kill the self-ego that brings forth so many neuroses and fears, which are manifest from trying to bring you everything you want. Those gods come when one is finding out that the self is not a god of anything but generating fears.
This is why verse four continues, to state, “will come with recompense.” This means there will be compensation due to your gods. Amends must be made for damages caused. The Hebrew word “gemul” translates clearly as “recompense,” but implies this means “deeds” will be necessary to remove fears. It states that one will be held responsible for taking the steps that will “benefit” oneself.
This means one must begin doing what is necessary to stop oneself from serving other gods and stop all the self-doubt. One has to show God that one actually wants to change for the better. Once those deeds prove to God one is sincere, then the “Lord of gods will come to save you.”
Pay what you owe and be thankful you saw the truth from the light of day.
Verse four is then the most important of this reading. By understanding one’s need to act first, before God will gallop in and take you out of the tower of imprisonment, salvation awaits one’s deeds. In that imaginary scene, rather than waiting helplessly for God to rescue oneself, it means one’s acts will have oneself standing outside the tower, waiting for a lift from God.
Still, by taking those steps to remove the self that fears other gods, one’s eyes and ears will be opened. All crippling fears will be removed, so one throws away the crutches of excuse for doing nothing. One’s silence is removed and one begins singing praises to Yahweh, as well as preach God’s insight to those seeking the truth. These verses tell of more opposites coming, due to the Christ Mind and the Holy Spirit
The water metaphors then mean that one will be filled with the love of God, as His wife. One has to love God for Him to return with His love. Water is the fluid element that is like life blood, flowing from the heart to all the parts of the body. The symbolism is that all the dryness of sin will be removed [Spiritual Baptism]. Streams will bring forth fertility, making one the fruit in an oasis. Pools will be like wells of living water, for oneself and other to share. The springs are the gush of love for God that had been so missed, when fears made one thirst for salvation.
As an optional Old Testament reading selection for the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s ministry for the LORD should be underway – one has no fear of lesser gods in one’s soul – the message here is to prove you want to save yourself, so God can give you His helping hand. So often it is easier to play Nell in a Dudley Do-right cartoon, and just lay tied by ropes on the railroad tracks.
As Flip Wilson used to say – “The devil made me do it! – it is easier to blame all our shortcomings on Satan, and praise God for all our rescues, when we actually do very little to get ourselves out of danger’s way. Nell’s ropes are of her own doing (in this analogy).
If one’s life is a series of crises, one after another, then there is very little one is doing to elicit God’s help. If God is indeed helping some poor soul, rescuing one from Satan’s grasp, then it is for the purpose of God using that one to teach others not to fear. God wants to use His wives like he used Isaiah. He does not want to litter the world with helpless failures, because they will inevitably blame God for their own mistakes. The saying, “Misery loves company,” was built on the moans and complaints of those who are too in love with fears to ever seek change.
A prophet like Isaiah, who was talking to exilic Jews or those soon to be taken to Babylon, was acting for God by telling them all was not lost. They certainly had lost their way and were being punished for not fearing only Yahweh, but they could retain their souls. One prophet (or a hundred prophets of God) was not going to undo centuries of waywardness. Still, God preserved the words He spoke through His prophet, so we could benefit from them today; just as those in captivity would eventually benefit when their freedom finally came.
In today’s world where the television news has mastered the art of fear mongering, and few Americans are not addicted to hearing the latest fears of the day, the world makes it easy to promote fear.
One cannot help but be heavily influenced to fear the gods of politics, religion, race, poverty, and material gains (et al). Isaiah and the other writers of Scripture stand in our lives as God’s prophets, who are speaking directly to us. They all are telling the same message, given by God, so this reading today is still valid.
The fears Isaiah warned us about are masked and shrouded by bad translations and weak attempts to address an everlasting need to be faithful to God. We are the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute. We struggle mightily to do what we need to do to save ourselves, much less help save anyone else.
Without good shepherds to guide us (Saints), we become emotionally dry towards God; although we might have a moist tear to shed for Jesus to come save us … again. The call this week is the same as every week – deny self, love God, be eternally cleaned of sin by the Holy Spirit, and go out into the world as a resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The only thing that stops anybody from being a Saint is fear.
Can you remember when you were a small child, set on a place that seemed to be way up high; being told by a loved one, “Jump! I’ll catch you”?
Did you hesitate then? Or, did you have enough faith to gleefully leap?