By Pastor Margaret Clark (Plainsboro, NJ, USA).
Long ago God's prophet Isaiah spoke and wrote about a certain time, the awaited time of Promise when Messiah would come to Israel. The deserts would rejoice and bloom abundantly as streams of water burst forth, even the wilderness will be watered; springs of water will flow throughout the thirsty land, bringing lush vegetation as far as the eye can see! God goes so far as to tell Isaiah that the glory of Lebanon shall be given to it. Lebanon's glory was its forests of cedars, and He promises such forests for Israel's deserts. Can it be? Can it really happen? Can such a promise be kept?
Look at verses 3 and 4 of Isaiah chapter 35. How kind our Father is: how compassionate. He understands how difficult it can be for His people to trust Him when opposition forces surround us spiritually; forces that are expert at manipulating our emotions, reason and will so easily and so often. Father speaks with Isaiah and then has him teach the way we can overcome bewildering doubts and fears - we are to help one another.
“Strengthen the weak, sinking hands. Make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are afraid and fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God, He will come and save you.’”
Then the promise expands to include healing for the body, plus such a place of holiness with Himself, such a high road, that we shall no longer have to fear the activities of fools, or the physical danger of wild beasts. He guarantees the eradication of fear, sorrow and sighing; all the negatives that drain true vitality out of life. Wow! We are encouraged to have such a hope that it lifts the heart of man out of the prisons of helpless unbelief, to dare to really trust God again. But the years and the decades and the centuries pass by: the promise of spiritual emancipation stands yet unfulfilled.
But God finds for Himself a believing remnant of people. What is a remnant? Well, those of us who have sewed clothes for our families or self, know that the sellers of fabric dispense cheaply of the small pieces of material at the end of the roll because they are no longer the required quantity or the desired designs. God had His remnant, believers in Him throughout Israel: devout men and women who still held fast to the Promise in faith and trust. These few, outside the mainstream of unbelief, and overlooked by the opposition forces, were seemingly an invaluable percentage of the population. To this remnant comes the unfolding of the awaited Promise.
In Luke Chapter One, we read of supernatural breakthroughs, of one fast after the other. Gabriel, herald of the Messiah, breaks through the invisible barrier firstly to the elderly Priest Zachariah as he served his two-week course of duty in the temple, revealing to him God's plan to set in motion the fulfilment of the Promise. “You say my elderly wife Elisabeth will have a son named John who will be the forerunner of the Promised One! This can't come to pass through us, never! We are too old!” Luke tells us that this unbelief caused Gabriel to declare a sign to Zachariah. “You will be mute until all these things take place,” in other words, until the eighth day of the child's life when he is named and circumcised. Instantly Zachariah begins almost ten speechless months! Imagine his homecoming to Hebron, the shock of “writing” the revelation down for his wife Elisabeth, followed by the overwhelming joy of being chosen to bear the forerunner. Consider the silent thoughts of Zachariah as his wife bloomed in pregnancy. There is no more doubt concerning God's divine intervention. No more fear that the Promise will not come; only a steadily rising power of love and faith in the One who says that nothing is impossible with God.
There it is, WITHOUT FEAR, because we have been delivered out of the hand of our enemies and those who hate us. We can all agree from personal experience that fear does indeed have torment. Many of us have been deeply troubled by varieties of fear for days, maybe weeks, or months, or years. The outstanding brightness of Isaiah 35 and Luke 1:67-79 is that the glory of God breaks through, overcoming the captors of men, defeating them absolutely, then subjugating them to their former captives, who have been endowed with joy unspeakable, full of glory. All this, Zachariah declared, has been accomplished by the Promised One; the Messiah; Jesus the beloved Son of God.
We will never fully fathom the compassion of Father's heart, or the depth of love that flows from Father, Son and Holy Spirit towards us as we move valiantly forward through testings and temptations. But we must know, in the midst of our trials and besetting temptations, particularly while the opposer threatens to ruin our faith in Father's promise and provision, that he (the opposer) will fail. No matter how difficult the battle of faith becomes, the opposer cannot win unless we yield to fear, and surrender our emotions and will to his lies. Never refuse the encouragement of brethren at such times because it is the plan of the opposition to cut you off from the safety found in relationships with fellow believers.