“He Will Come and Save You” . . . With a Vengeance

Bob Fitts, in 1995, wrote a very fine and moving song, entitled, “He Will Come and Save You.”  It has beautiful lyrics, and is married to a wonderful, very singable, and very catchy tune.  Sometimes, after hearing this song sung in church, I have had the chorus of the song running through my head for days.  Here are the song’s lyrics:

Say to those who are fearful hearted
Do not be afraid
The Lord your God is strong
And with His mighty arms
When you call on His name
He will come and save

Oh, He will come and save you
He will come and save you
Say to the weary one
Your God will surely come
He will come and save you

Yes, He will come and save you
He will come and save you
Lift up your eyes to Him
You will arise again
He will come and save you

Say to those who are broken hearted
Do not lose your faith
The Lord your God is strong
With His loving arms
When you call on His name
He will come and save you

He is our refuge in our day of trouble
He is our shelter in the time of storm
Oh, He’s our tower in the day of sorrow
Our fortress in the time of war

This morning, as I was reading in the book of Isaiah, I came across this passage in the 35th chapter:

Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”

Fitts has composed this song from various phrases found, primarily, in the book of Isaiah.  And more so than any other passage, the song is built on Isaiah 35:4.  Notice how the song dances around two lines of this verse.  The song capitalizes on the first three lines and then jumps to the last line,

say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come . . .

he will come to save you.”

leaving out these two lines:

he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution

Now, I do not at all fault the author of the song for doing this.  It is very common in hymns, songs, and liturgies, to create lyrics that are essentially pastiches of Scripture, with lines taken from here and there, and, of course, various lines left out.  Whenever I preach a sermon and quote from Scripture, I will often rearrange things just a bit or leave out lines that are tangential to the point that I am trying to make.  Indeed, even the authors of the New Testament do this when they quote from the Old Testament.  So, I am not at all criticizing Fitts for doing this.  Again, it is a very fine song.

However, my point in this article is that, while we may sometimes leave out particular lines for liturgical or homiletical or other reasons, we must not do so in the construction of our theology.  So here is the full story:

All you who are fearful and weary-hearted. All you who have feeble hands and weak knees. Be strong. Do not be afraid. Your God will surely come. He will come and save you. And when he comes to save you, he will do so with a vengeance, with divine retribution.

When the Lord rescued the Israelites, he did so with a vengeance, as he plagued the Egyptians with dreadful plagues.

When the Lord brought the Israelites through the Red Sea, he did so with a vengeance, as he destroyed Pharaoh and his army in that same Red Sea.

When the Lord gave Israel their homeland, he did so with a vengeance, driving out the Canaanites before them.

When the Lord rescued the Israelites from their many oppressors throughout their history, he did so with a vengeance, destroying the oppressors.

When the Lord delivered the Israelites from exile, as Isaiah prophesied in chapter 35, he did so with a vengeance, destroying their captors and taunters.

When the Lord came to save us from our sins, he did so with a vengeance, destroying the power of the devil, disarming the powers and authorities, making them a public spectacle, and triumphing over them by the cross.

And when the Lord will come to complete our salvation, he will do so with a vengeance, destroying Babylon, slaying the dragon, that ancient serpent the devil, killing all the kings and mighty ones of the earth who have oppressed the saints.  The one who is called Faithful and True will bring justice by waging war on all the wicked.  He will avenge the blood of his servants.

It is quite common today to hear someone say that violence must never be used to fight violence, that war can never result in the establishment of peace, that salvation can never be accomplished by military means.  And I agree with this to a certain extent as far as human endeavors are concerned.  But the overwhelming and unequivocal testimony of Scripture is otherwise when it comes to God’s actions.  I am a Christian pacifist.  I do not believe that Christians should engage in violence or warfare.  I believe we have received this command from our Lord.  But I also believe this: the reason that I can be a pacifist is that God is not one (Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30).  He is an avenging, passionate, and fiery God, one who will surely save and vindicate his people.

The Light of Israel will become a fire,
their Holy One a flame;
in a single day it will burn and consume
his thorns and his briers. (Isaiah 10:17)

See, the Lord is coming with fire,
and his chariots are like a whirlwind;
he will bring down his anger with fury,
and his rebuke with flames of fire. (Isaiah 66:15)

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch. (Isaiah 62:1)

Brothers and sisters, look up, your redemption is near.  Your God will surely come.  He will come and save you—with a vengeance.

Jerry Shepherd
August 17, 2015

4 thoughts on ““He Will Come and Save You” . . . With a Vengeance

  1. Thanks, Dr. Shepherd. I’m preparing a sermon on Obadiah and this post is a big help as I wrestle with the themes of salvation and vengeance.

  2. In Luke 4 V16-21 after His 40 days in the wilderness (as we in the Church Age have now spent 40 Jubilees in the wilderness)
    “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day, and He stood up to read. And the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah was given to Him. He unrolled the scrolland found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(from Is61:1-2)
    And He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all I. The synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

    Notice where He finished His reading from Isaiah 61:2. The rest of the verse says,”and the Day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”

    When our Saviour came the first time it was for peace, and to fulfill all the religious requirements for our salvation. He is our Passover Lamb, He is the Unleavened Bread(without sin), He conquered death by His resurrection. And 50 days later He sent the Holy Spirit.
    When He comes again He fulfills the two important roles of the Kinsman Redeemer. To take His Bride (Ruth), and ensure that Elimilech(my God is King) line is not cut off, and to have vengeance on His enemies.

  3. Pingback: Do Not Be Afraid – MTC Lectionary

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