Sports fans set aside a major portion of their lives to follow the fortunes of the team of their choice. It is not enough for them just to watch the game. Fully involved fans must give careful attention to the “pregame show,” in which they indulge themselves with speculation and anticipation. Then follows the game itself, in which they involve themselves as if something of significance is taking place. And then, the final whistle is only the signal for the “postgame show” to begin. To this postmortem the fan gives himself with earnest devotion as he analyzes and criticizes the game. The game begins before it starts and continues after it has ended. The fans can’t get enough of it!
Our salvation also began long before we were born, and it will continue far beyond our earthly end. Salvation has three tenses, and history has three phases. Salvation lets us contemplate the past, looking back over what God has done. We can also celebrate the present, savoring what God is doing. And on the basis of God’s promises we can anticipate the future, looking forward to what he will yet do. The three tenses of our own salvation also tie into the three phases in the history of salvation. In the past the prophets predicted that Christ would come again; that we can contemplate. Now Christ has come; this we can celebrate. And in the future, Isaiah reminds us, Christ will come again; that we can anticipate.
We contemplate the beginnings of our salvation because of what Christ did when he came, and we anticipate the conclusion of our salvation, which he will accomplish on his return. When Christ returns in great glory he will consummate all that he has begun. Not a few blind eyes, lame legs, and deaf ears were healed when he came the first time, but these were simply foretastes of what he will do when he comes again (35:5-6). Then he will make all things new.
Armed with anticipation, we should encourage each other. There are tired hands that need to be strengthened, weak knees that need to be encouraged. The fearful need to be told, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God . . . is coming to save you” (35:4). However, unlike sports fans, we can enjoy our postgame show now—we know who wins, and we can savor his victory even while the “game” is still in progress.
For Further Study: Isaiah 35:1-10
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