Thus says the LORD: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense, he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf are cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Isaiah 35:4-6
The reading from Isaiah says that He will come to vindicate those whose hearts are frightened. What does vindicate mean? One of the definitions of vindicating is “to protect from attack or encroachment”. In the scriptures, persons with disabilities were seen as cursed either for their own sin or the sin of a family causing their condition. It is also possible the widows and orphans could have been taken advantage of because of their lack of support or protection. Anyone could have attacked them and encroached on their property. Widows could have been forced to remarry and children deprived of an inheritance from their parents without a male guardian.
The other word mentioned in the first reading is recompense which means “an equivalent or a return for something done, suffered, or given”. Did these vulnerable groups suffer? I am sure they have and in some societies and situations, they still do. Were they frightened in the times that they lived in? Those times, in some ways, may have been scarier than they are now. For the widow and the orphan, no legal support, no women and child rights. For the Deaf and Blind too, no rights for persons with disabilities or language rights.
Why then choose the song ‘Courage’ by Nathanael feat. Udo Ibeleme? It takes courage to not hide yourself away even when you know rejection, disrespect and disregard are a high possibility. The poor man did not stay away from the assembly because he was poor; he attended because it was a place for all to come. Bartimaeus, the blind man, was not at home lying in bed waiting for Jesus to pass in front his house to hail him out. The Deaf man in the story was known in his village he had not been hidden away. The widow came to the temple to put in her mite. These people were present in a society and a situation that were not welcoming. In modern times, persons with disabilities whether congenital or acquired, have been prayed with, anointed, or exorcisms attempted to restore them to ‘wholeness’. I even heard an account of Deaf siblings choosing euthanasia because they would eventually become blind. Even with all our technological advances they had no hope for a good and happy life.
Nathanael sings “Father YOU (emphasis mine) give me courage, guide through on my journeys, pick me up when I’m falling, Yeshua name we calling, you are my strength and my song, without you I cannot go on” We can all be out in the world seemingly involved and aware and free yet in our own minds we are blind not seeing what is happening. We are deaf not opening our ears to others and their needs. Like Saul in the video because of fear or selfishness, we are lame not stirring ourselves to help anyone else. We are mute never having a good or kind word to say to or about anyone. We are widows while still being married; we are orphaned while our parents are alive. We are spiritually poor yet financially rich. Let us all turn to Jesus to touch us and open us. Let us go to God with our fears in our hearts and hear him saying “Be strong, Fear not! I have come to vindicate you and give you recompense.”
Definitions taken from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary