God himself will come to save us. 35:1-10
Our passage for study falls within the first part of the book of Isaiah. Chapters 34 and 35, speak of the downfall of Edom and the desolation of their land. Along with this word of condemnation we are told of the future blessings that will be bestowed upon God's people.
v1-2. In the garden of Eden, mankind was blessed with an environment which allowed its inhabitants to serve the Lord. They were free to walk with the Lord in the cool of the evening. This beautiful environment was lost at the fall. Yet, to the children of Abraham a new Eden was promised, a land flowing with milk and honey. This land had withered before their eyes, and was now inhabited by a rebellious and greedy people bereft of God's blessing, a people soon to lose everything. God's word to Isaiah was a promise of a future blessed environment. The land of Judah, so rugged and inhospitable, which is nestled above the desert to the south, will become lush and fertile like the best land in Palestine. Judea will house forests like Lebanon, as well as beautiful farming and pasture land. In Jesus' ministry we get a glimpse of the blessings of such an environment. The draft of fishes and the feeding of the five thousand, display the coming of this age of plenty. "On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month." Rev.22:2.
v3-4. The persecuted, the faint hearted, can take heart, for the Lord is about to deal with the enemy. The oppressing nations will no longer ravage the people of Israel. In Jesus' ministry we see the strong man bound. In the final day, "the Devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur."
v5-6a. The sick and the distressed will be healed also. Here are a people who should be experiencing the blessings of the kingdom, in both health and longevity, yet they have forfeited God's blessings by their rebellion. Isaiah sees these blessings as a future promise, a promise to be realized in the coming age. Jesus powerfully demonstrated the reality of the kingdom in his life by healing the sick, and particularly, by raising the dead. So, we eagerly await the coming day when "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Rev.21:4.
v6b-7. No longer will this dry and parched land be at the mercy of the rains, rather, water will bubble from the ground giving life to the land and its people. No longer will there be shimmering mirages (better than "burning sands"), rather, there will be pools of clear fresh water. Jesus came and offered living water to a parched people; he offered the life-giving Spirit, Jn.7:38-39. We await the day when we will come into the presence of the living God and drink from "the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God." Rev.22:1.
v8-9. The Babylonians and Persians were great road builders. Isaiah sees a highway driven through the rough terrain of Palestine from the countries where the people of Israel have been taken into exile. This road will lead to Zion, the city of the Lord. This is a straight and true way, safe for the returning ones. In Jesus, the Father provides a highway into his presence. Jesus is that highway, he is the way. "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes the Father but by me."
v10. There will be a new Jerusalem and its gates will be opened wide for the returning exiles - those who have been brought out of slavery. They will return by the way and enter the city and they will be overtaken by gladness and joy; sorrow and sighing will flee away. In fulfilment of this prophecy, Jesus has gathered a people to himself. Here then is the new Jerusalem, Zion, the dwelling place of God. Here is God dwelling among his people. Even today our God dwells in the midst of his people, for where two or three gather, Christ is present. Yet, of course, we still await the final realization of Isaiah's prophecy, Rev.21:1-3.
A fertile land
The Christian church in Western societies is increasingly finding itself isolated within the wider secular society. Western democracies have tended to abandon Biblical ethics and adopt the politics of a democratic socialism shaped by secular humanism. The People of the Book, believing Christians, are now viewed with suspicion by the leftist elite as they seek to reshape society in line with their faith-bound isims. Constantly the church is pressured to adapt to the forward-looking, non-discriminatory ethics of the new age. And indeed, in some cases, the church has complied.
The issue of the moment is Gay Marriage. On the ground of non-discriminatory affirmative action Western governments, even those which affirm the separation of church and state, are taking to themselves the right to administer and redefine the religious rite (a sacrament in the Roman church) of marriage - the union of a man and woman under God. The State rightly administers unions / associations / .... for property rights etc., but has no place interfering in religious practice. None-the-less, the pressure is on and those who dare oppose this reform are labeled "ignorant homophobs." The church will lose this debate and it will lose the many debates yet to come. Church institutions, schools, hospitals, .... will be forced to comply with an ethic opposed to divine writ, and confrontation will ensue. Yet, "strengthen feeble hands ...... he will come to save you."
Isaiah sees a vision of hope. He sees the establishment of the kingdom of God, the new Jerusalem, Zion, the city of the Lord's presence. Around the city he sees a beautiful and flourishing land, water flowing in abundance, and a people filled with joy. He sees a highway straight and true, leading to the city gates. It is a safe and secure road and on it will travel the lost ones, captives and slaves, an exiled people now redeemed and able to return to their homeland. They return to the Lord free to serve him, to give him glory, to worship him. Their joy and gladness is unbounded. We are that people, with eyes set on the day of Christ's return. So, "be strong, do not fear."
Verse 10 was a popular Scripture in Song chorus thirty years ago. What is its promise for believers today?
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