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The joyful flourishing of Christ's kingdom. The weak are encouraged by the virtues and privileges of the gospel.
Before Christ 713.
THE prophet in this chapter, containing the 2nd section of his 3rd discourse, sets forth the jubilee of the church, upon the downfall of its enemies, together with its flourishing state. The section is three-fold; containing, first, a proposition concerning the consolation which the church should receive on account of the judgment upon Edom, together with its most flourishing state after that time, and the divine presence with it, Isaiah 35:1-2. Secondly, an exhortation directed to the faithful ministers of the church, that they should comfort the infirm, the weak, the afflicted people of God, from the certain hope of this benefit. Thirdly, an enarration of the privileges of the state of the church at this time; such as,—the grace of illumination, Isaiah 35:5.—alacrity in spiritual duty, Isaiah 35:6.—a diffusion of divine grace among men of every order, and in places heretofore subject to Satan,—middle Isaiah 35:6-7.—the purity and holiness of the church, Isaiah 35:8.—the preservation of the people of God, in a state of peace and security, against the temptations of Satan, or public persecutions, Isaiah 35:9.—the unity of the church, and its joy and consolation in this flourishing state, Isaiah 35:10.
Isaiah 35:1-2. The wilderness, &c.— There can be no doubt of the connection of this chapter with that preceding. Comp. Isa 35:4 with Isa 35:8 in that chapter. The most joyful, prosperous, and glorious things are here predicted, concerning the state of the church after the judgment upon Edom, in such figurative terms as are familiar with our prophet, and are easily understood. We have had occasion heretofore to observe, that by the wilderness is generally meant the Gentile church; the present prophesy, therefore, is a full and clear prediction of the effects of evangelical grace upon the unfruitful desart of the Gentile world. Vitringa is of opinion, that some future and very glorious state of the church is here foretold. See Bishop Lowth's 20th Prelection, a fine critique on this and the preceding chapter.
Isaiah 35:3-4. Strengthen ye the weak hands— These words seem rightly to be understood as an address of the prophet to the teachers of the church of that time whereof he speaks, exhorting them, from the promise of the certain deliverance and glorious restoration of the oppressed and afflicted church, to comfort the dejected minds of the pious, and raise their drooping spirits. See Hebrews 12:12.
Isaiah 35:5-6. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened— After a parenthesis in the two preceding verses, the prophet continues his discourse, and more particularly sets forth those privileges of the church which should constitute its dignity and felicity. These privileges undoubtedly are spiritual; and though they may in some measure be applied to the unexpected vicissitude of the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies, yet were they even literally fulfilled in the times of the Messiah, by the miracles which he performed, by the preaching of the Gospel, and by the effusion of his enlightening Spirit. The blind, the deaf, the lame, the dumb, signify persons spiritually so, to whom by God's grace were given, through the Gospel of Christ, eyes to see, and ears to hear, feet to walk, [power to perform] and tongues to speak the things which concern their salvation.
Isaiah 35:6-7. For in the wilderness, &c.— The prophet here gives us another specimen of the wonderful change in the nature of things with respect to their spiritual state; not only the weak, those who were devoid of comfort, and thirsting for grace among the people of God—who were like a desart, shall at this time satisfy their thirst, and be largely enriched with the blessings of grace; but also nations, and those the most barbarous, heretofore strangers to all spiritual grace and comfort, possessed and inhabited of Satan and his legions, should at this time be abundantly endued with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, in order to their spiritual instruction and life; nay, among those very nations, formerly dry, barren, and void of the knowledge of God, learned and wise teachers, exercised in the word of righteousness, should spring up, who should plenteously produce the salutary waters of divine truth, for the instruction and consolation of others. Vitringa renders the last clause, In the habitation of dragons, in the places where they used to lie, shall reeds and rushes plentifully spring up. The meaning is, that the dens of dragons, formerly sandy and burning with heat, should be turned into pools, where reeds and rushes should grow luxuriously. The idea is kept up of a sandy thirsty desart changed into a fruitful and well-watered plain; for we should remember that it is the want of water which renders the vast desarts of the eastern world so intolerable and uninhabitable.
Isaiah 35:8. And an highway, &c.— According to Vitringa the meaning of this verse is, that the rule of faith and morals, according to which the Israel of God must walk, shall be so clearly and fully shewn at this time from the word of God, that men of the most simple and uncultivated understandings, lovers of the truth, and desirous of the communion of the church, shall not be able to stray from it; and he thinks the meaning of the clause, למו והוא vehu lamo, But it shall be for those, is, "It shall be for those holy persons before mentioned, those ransomed of the Lord, Isaiah 35:10. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be the way of the clean or holy:" Bishop Lowth, however, is of opinion that the passage is ill understood, from a wrong punctuation. He would read it thus:
No unclean person shall pass through it: But He himself shall be with them, walking in the way, And the foolish shall not err therein.
He, i.e. our GOD, mentioned Isaiah 35:4. "He who dwelt among us, for whom a way was prepared in the desart; who came in and went out before us." The ancient Jews themselves understood these passages of the Messiah. Dr. Chandler observes, that if you take wilderness in the prophet literally for the place of the converse of Jesus, or figuratively for the poor and illiterate that he was to converse with, Jesus fully answered the prophet's description, by doing his wonderful cures both in the desart and upon the diseased of the poor; and manifested himself in a remarkable manner, by the specific nature of his miracles, and by the scene or theatre on which they were performed. See Chandler's Defence, Bishop Lowth's 20th Prelection, and Vitringa.
Isaiah 35:9-10. No lion shall be there, &c.— The prophet in these verses continues the figure, expressing, first, that this way for the ransomed should not only be plain, but free from all kinds of danger; the meaning whereof is, that they who at that time professed and possessed the true religion should be safe under the protection of God, from affliction, persecution, and tyranny; which naturally leads our ideas to some future state of the church, for the full completion of this prophet. Isaiah adds, secondly, that the ransomed of JEHOVAH should walk along this way, and return to Zion. The meaning is, that they should seek for the communion of God in the communion of the true church, which, both with respect to its original, and mystically, is called Zion. See chap. Isaiah 60:14. The words in this verse are very strong and expressive, and seem to have a much further reference than to the first conversion of the Gentiles. Indeed we may well say of this prophesy with Bishop Lowth, that it seems to be of the number of those which have not yet obtained their full completion. "Plane enim videtur hoc vaticinium ex eorum numero esse, quae ad ultimam prae-nuntiatorum eventuum metaim nandum pervenerunt in arcanis Dei decretis adhuc repsosita." For this prophesy evidently appears to be of the number of those, which have not yet arrived at the last goal [the final accomplishment] of the foretold events hitherto reposited in the secret counsels of God.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, This prophesy chiefly regards,
1. The flourishing state of the church, when the Gentile world, before a barren wilderness, by the preaching of the Gospel puts on a new face, blossoming with the joys of divine consolations, bringing forth the most excellent fruits of grace, and with such abundance as to be compared to Lebanon, where the choicest cedars grew; and to Carmel and Sharon, the richest spots of Judaea for corn and pasturage; such strength, beauty, and fruitfulness, should eminently unite in the Gospel church, and they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, his person and offices, wherein God is so transcendantly magnified, and appears so amiable and glorious in the eyes of the faithful. Note; A believing view of the Redeemer's grace and glory brings joy to the heart, and is the effectual means of quickening it to bring forth much fruit.
2. By the ministry of the word, they are encouraged and supported to bear up under the temptations and sufferings to which, for the sake of Christ, they would be exposed. Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees, those who from an awakened sense of guilt and wrath were ready to sink down in despair, unable to lift up the hands of prayer, must be encouraged; and those, whose knees trembled under the load of their trials, from corruption or persecution, the ministers of God must confirm, by pointing them to the great and precious promises. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not; though you are weak, your enemies mighty, and in your own strength you feel yourselves utterly unable to cope with them, yet help is laid for you on one mighty to save; therefore, be strong in the Lord, look to him, and then your fears will vanish, behold, see your deliverance near and sure; your God, your reconciled God and Saviour, will come with vengeance, to cover your enemies with confusion, even God with a recompence, or, the God of recompence, to give a reward to his saints, and tribulation to them that trouble them; he will come and save you; as sure as ever he once appeared in the flesh, victorious over the powers of darkness, so surely will he, in every time of our distress, appear for our succour; and, when the appointed hour arrives, be revealed the second time from heaven to consummate in the faithful soul the salvation he has begun.
2nd, We have,
1. The wonders which shall be wrought of Christ's coming, on the bodies and souls of men. The blind shall see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dumb speak, which we see literally fulfilled, Matthew 9:27; Matthew 9:38. Mark 7:34-35.Acts 3:6-8; Acts 3:6-8. Matthew 9:32-33; Matthew 9:38.; but greater works than these shall he do, enlightening the blindness of the fallen mind, causing the spiritually deaf to hear and receive the Gospel; strengthening those who were helpless, to walk in the ways of truth and righteousness, and teaching those to sing his praise whose lips before had been sealed up in silence. Lord, continue still to make thy glorious power to appear!
2. The remarkable out-pouring of the Spirit in the days of Christ, and the blessed effects thereby produced. In the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert; such a copious effusion of divine gifts, graces, and consolations shall then be made on the Gentile world, that the parched ground and thirsty land, the sinner's soul, barren or scorched up with the sense of divine wrath, shall become a pool and springs of water, refreshed and fertilized: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, the places where Satan, the great dragon, has fixed his abode, and men resembling him in fierceness and cruelty, such as the Pagan emperors, or Papal powers, shall be grass with reeds and rushes, a number of converts to the Gospel, thick as grass, and flourishing as the reeds in the brook: and this was fulfilled when the Pagan temples were changed into places for Christian worship; and shall be farther accomplished when Babylon mystical is fallen, and the saints of God triumphant over her.
3. The way which then will be opened for all nations, Jew and Gentile, to draw nigh unto God; and that way is Christ, emphatically so called, because no man cometh to the Father but by him; nor can there be any access to an offended God, but through his blood and intercession. He is a high way ordained by the King of heaven, free and open to all, and where every obstruction from sin and Satan is removed; a way of holiness, or holy way, where the grace of sanctification, as well as the gift of justification, is bestowed, and strength communicated to the soul, enabling those who are in Christ to walk and please God; where all holy means and ordinances are found; where all the travellers are in temper and conduct in a gracious measure holy, and which will infallibly conduct the faithful to the perfection of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, those being justly excluded who persist in the love and service of their sins; but it shall be for those justified and renewed souls above described; or he shall be with them, Christ their companion, guide, and support: the way-faring men, though fools, shall not err therein; counted such of the world, after their conversion to God, and spiritually indeed such before they were taught of him, these travellers to Zion shall not err, the way is plain before them, the Bible is their sure directory, and the Spirit of truth their guide; not that the faithful believer is infallible, but he shall not err in essential points. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; no fierce or turbulent dispositions; none to disturb the peace of the happy traveller; and especially the old lion, who goeth about seeking whom he may devour, shall not be able to approach to destroy any soul that is found in this holy way: but the redeemed shall walk there; these faithful ones shall in safety travel without being weary, and reach at last their blessed journey's end, which will be,
4. Their everlasting joy. For the ransomed of the Lord, those who have been faithful unto death, shall return from the state of sin and darkness, in which, like others, they lay, to the shepherd and bishop of their souls, Christ Jesus, and, under his guidance, come to Zion, that mount of God in glory, appointed for their eternal residence; and, while with grateful songs they celebrate redeeming love, and ascribe to Divine grace their whole salvation, everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; joy which shall never again be interrupted by sin, temptation, or suffering, but be permanent as God himself, the source thereof. They shall obtain joy and gladness, unspeakable and full of glory, as much exceeding all that they tasted here below, as the boundless ocean exceeds the drop of the bucket; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away, when every cause which could produce them is for ever removed, and the most perfect holiness and most perfect happiness flow from the uninterrupted beatific vision of the triune God. O may my soul possess this everlasting joy!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 35". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20