Hope in Troubled Times

“Then blind eyes will open, deaf ears will hear. Then the lame will leap like a deer, the mute tongue will shout for joy; for water will flow in the desert, streams in the wilderness.” (Isaiah 35:5–6, NET)

The days of our Lord’s birth were troubled times for God’s people. A corrupt priesthood and a Roman census made Israel feel the sting of the non-fulfillment of God’s ancient promises.

Isaiah wrote in just such times. The sinfulness of Israel so tainted their future that they suffered confusion at the work of God (Isa. 40:27–31). Even the godly struggled in such times.

John, the Messiah’s forerunner, found himself in prison, awaiting execution at the hands of Herod. In his perplexity he sent messengers to Jesus to ask if He was indeed God’s Messiah. Jesus’ answer (Matt. 11:4–5) came from our passage: “Go tell John what you hear and see: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.” The immediate passage clarifies His reference. In Matthew 8–10 Jesus and His disciples had been doing these very things.

But why should we review such ideas at Christmas? A comparison of Matthew 11 and Isaiah 35 make it clear that Isaiah was not speaking about the miraculous works of Jesus. He was describing the time of fulfillment that his own people, and Mary, and Joseph, and John the Baptizer, were all pining for, the time of the revelation of God’s glory among all nations.

The rationale for our time is the same as that of Jesus’. The beginning of God’s work vouchsafes its completion. If God has begun to save, we may with faith and confidence anticipate the fulfillment of His promises. In the birth of our Savior we have, not the beginning, but one more of the steps in God’s saving work, though to be sure the most critical. In troubled times, we, too, may rejoice in confidence in the plan of God. A baby is born, but the Baby is Himself the greatest in the miracles of God’s plan of salvation.