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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Isaiah 35

 

 

Verses 1-10

EXPOSITION

Isaiah 35:1-10

THE GLORY OF THE LAST TIMES. On the punishment of God's enemies will follow the peace, prosperity, and glory of his Church. Previously, the Church is in affliction, waste, and desolate. Its enemies once removed, destroyed, swept out of the way, it rises instantly in all its beauty to a condition which words are poor to paint. The highest resources of the poetic art are called in to give some idea of the glory and happiness of the final Church of the redeemed.

Isaiah 35:1

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; rather, the wilderness, and the dry place, shall be glad. The Church, that has been long wasted and kept under by the wicked, shall, at their destruction, feel a sense of relief, and so of joy. The desert shall rejoice, and blossom. The first result of the joy shall be a putting forth of lovely products. Blossoms, beautiful as the rose or the narcissus (Kay), shall spring up all over the parched ground, and make it a parterre of flowers. The blossoms are either graces unknown in the time of affliction, or saintly characters of a new and high type.

Isaiah 35:2

It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; rather, with dancing and singing. Dancing and singing were the ordinary manifestations of religions joy (Exodus 15:1, Exodus 15:20, Exodus 15:21; 11:34; 21:19-21; 2 Samuel 6:5, 2 Samuel 6:14, 2 Samuel 6:15; Psalms 30:11, etc.), and would naturally follow the great deliverance of the Church from the power of its enemies. The clause is a touch of realism intruded into a prolonged metaphor or allegory, and is quite in the manner of Isaiah (comp. Isaiah 14:7; Isaiah 26:1; Isaiah 30:32, etc.). The glory of Lebanon … the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; i.e. productiveness of all kinds, of abundant harvests, fruits, and flowers, and forest trees (comp. Isaiah 10:18, Isaiah 10:19, Isaiah 10:33, Isaiah 10:34; Isaiah 32:15)a resumption and prolongation of the metaphor in verse 1. They shall see the glory of the Lord. The culminating joy and delight and blessedness of the Church shall be the vision of God—either the spiritual perception of his presence (Matthew 5:8; Romans 1:20) or the actual beatific vision (1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 21:11, Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:4), the first during the probation period, the second in the state of final bliss.

Isaiah 35:3

Strengthen ye the weak hands. In the Church of the redeemed there will be "weak" brethren as well as strong, "feeble" as well as healthful (see 1 Corinthians 3:1; Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 5:12-14). God, by the mouth of his prophet, calls on the strong to impart of their strength to their weaker brethren, uplifting their "weak hands," as Aaron and Hur did those of Moses (Exodus 17:12), and "confirming" or sustaining their "feeble knees." So St. Paul: "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1).

Isaiah 35:4

Say to them that are of a fearful heart. There will be fearful and trembling hearts always, even among the saints of God. These are to be encouraged and assured that God Will come to their aid, will avenge them of their spiritual enemies, reward their efforts to serve him, and in the end "save" them. He will come and save you; rather, he will come himself to save yon. There is One alone who can save, and he must do it himself, and, to do it, he must "come" to us. The words were at once an announcement of the Incarnation, and a promise to every trembling, doubting heart—a promise of direct Divine assistance, of the presence of God within us, of help potent to save. The predominant thought of the prophet appears to have been Messianic, and hence the burst of glorious prophecy which follows—a burst of prophecy most inadequately expounded of the time of the return from the Captivity.

Isaiah 35:5, Isaiah 35:6

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened. In the literal sense, our Lord claims these prophecies to himself and his earthly career, when he says to the disciples of John the Baptist, "Go and show John those things which ye do hear and see, the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear" (Matthew 11:4, Matthew 11:5); but they have doubtless a further spiritual sense, in which they belong to the whole period of his mediatorial kingdom, and are correlative to former utterances of the prophet, in which the blinded eyes and deaf ears and stammering tongues of God's people had been spoken of and made the subject of complaint (see Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 29:10, etc.). Our Lord's miracles of bodily healing, performed during the three years of his earthly ministry, were types and foreshadowings of those far more precious miracles of spiritual healing, which the great Physician is ever performing on the sick and infirm of his Church, by opening the eyes of their understandings, and unstopping the deaf ears of their hearts, and loosening the strings of their tongues to hymn his praise, and stirring their paralyzed spiritual natures to active exertions in his service. Doubtless Isaiah, or the Spirit which guided him, intended to point to both these classes of miracles, and not to one of them only, as characteristic of the Messiah's kingdom.

Isaiah 35:6

For in the wilderness shall waters break out. The wilderness of humanity shall be renovated by a large effluence of God's grace (comp. Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 32:2; Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 43:19; John 7:37, John 7:38).

Isaiah 35:7

The parched ground shall become, etc.; rather, the glistening sand. That hot glow of the parched desert soil, which produces the mirage, shall be replaced by a real lake of cool water. Illusive imitations of goodness shall give way to the display of genuine virtues and excellences. In the habitation of dragons; or, according to some, of jackals—the driest and most desolate of all places. Shall be grass with reeds and rushes; i.e. "shall be a luxuriant vegetation, like that on the banks of the Nile" (comp. Isaiah 35:1, Isaiah 35:2).

Isaiah 35:8

And an highway shall be there, and a way (comp. Isaiah 30:21). There shall be a clear "way" marked out in which all shall be bound to walk—a "strait and narrow way" doubtless (Matthew 7:14), but one not readily missed. The way shall be called The way of holiness. It shall be that path through the dangers and difficulties of life which holiness points out and requires. The unclean shall not pass over it. It is tempting to imagine that there is here a reference to the famous chinvat peretu of the Zoroastrians—the "bridge of the gatherer"—along which all souls had to pass in order to reach the abode of the blessed, but which the souls of the wicked never succeeded in passing. The 'bridge of the gatherer" is, however, in the other world, not in this world; but Isaiah's "highway" is here. It is that right course of life, which "the unclean" do not follow, though they might do so if they chose, but which the righteous follow to their great gain and advantage. But it shall be for those; rather, as in the margin, but he shall be with them; God, i.e. shall be with those who seek to walk in the way, and not to err from it. He shall direct them, support them, sustain their footsteps. The wayfaring men; rather, they that walk in the way—that make up their minds to try to walk in it. Though fools; i.e. however simple and unlearned they may be—"Ne simplicissimi quidem" (Rosenmüller). Shall not err therein; shall not wander from the way through mere simplicity. It shall be easy to find, difficult to miss.

Isaiah 35:9

No lion shall be there. No great tyrannical power, like Assyria (Nahum 2:11, Nahum 2:12) or Babylon, shall arrest the energies of the Church, take it captive, or enslave it. No ravenous beast shall make it his prey. In proportion as the Church is holy (Isaiah 35:8) it shall be free from the molestation of bloody persecutors (see Isaiah 11:9). The redeemed—those whom God has purchased for his own (Exodus 6:6; Hosea 13:14)—shall be free to walk there, untroubled by cruel enemies. There is an under-current of comparison between the blessedness of the last times and the existing troubles of Israel, still threatened by Sennacherib.

Isaiah 35:10

The ransomed of the Lord shall return. The blessedness of the last times would be incomplete to Jewish ideas without this crowning feature. There had already been a great dispersion of the faithful (Isaiah 1:7-9); there was to be a still greater one (Isaiah 11:11); Israel could not be content or happy until her "outcasts" were recalled, "the dispersed of Judah gathered together from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12). The return here prophesied is again announced, in almost the same words, in Isaiah 51:11. With songs (see the comment on Isaiah 51:2). Everlasting joy upon their heads. Anointed, as it were, with "the oil of gladness" (Psalms 45:7) forever and ever. Sorrow and sighing shall rise away (comp. Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4).

HOMILETICS

Isaiah 35:1-10

The glory of the Church not temporal greatness, but spiritual perfection

Amid the wealth of metaphor which Isaiah employs to depict the final prosperity, glory, and happiness of the Church, it is remarkable how little use is made of any images drawn from the conditions or circumstances of earthly grandeur. Images of natural beauty are principally employed—the shady forest, the spreading cedar tree, the rich luxuriance of arable and pasture land, the choice beauty of the most lovely among flowers, the placid lake, the pellucid rill, the gushing fountain. These raise no ideas of earthly greatness or temporal dominion. They point, by what may be called the laws of prophetic language, to two main features of spiritual life,

HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON

Isaiah 35:1-10

Glories of the Messianic age.

This is a picture of the happy and glorious condition of Israel after the return from Captivity. Nature is beheld rejoicing with man; and the whole scene is suffused with the light of a universal spiritual joy.

I. THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE NATURAL WORLD. The desert will rejoice "like the narcissus," the beautiful white flower found in abundance in spring-time in the Plain of Sharon. A ringing musical cry shall break out from those solitudes. The beauty of the most favored spots, of Carmel and Sharon, shall be diffused over the whole. In poetic pathos a feeling is lent to nature, which does not really exist in her. There is a deep truth, not of the reason, but of the heart, in this mood. Inanimate Nature is incapable either of joy or of sorrow, of exultation or depression. This our reason tells us. But we are all something more than cold rationalists in this matter. We take back from Nature impressions which we have first lent to her, and suppose we have borrowed them. This has been called the "pathetic fallacy," and there is a truth in the fallacy better than that of syllogistic reasoning. To the lover Nature looks love, and whispers of love; to the desponding temper her expression is a frown, her tones are inspirations of lament; she wears a nuptial robe for the happy bridegroom, and a pall for the mourner; silent and morose to the eyes of him who is cast down in the sense of Divine wrath, it breaks forth into jubilant song for the ears of him whose heart overflows with the sense of the redeeming mercy of God. "There is not the least flower but seems to hold up its head, and look pleasantly, in the secret sense of the goodness of its heavenly Maker. This silent rhetoric, though we cannot hear, but only see it, {s so full and expressive, that David thought he spoke neither impropriety nor nonsense, in a strong line, when he said,' even the valleys break forth into singing.'" It is a song of praise and thanksgiving, a song of joy and triumph in the "glory of Jehovah," the manifestations of his creative and renewing powers, the liberal effusions of his goodness, even upon the lowest parts of the creation.

II. THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE HUMAN WORLD.

1. Weakness made strong—under the figure of the nerving up of languid hands and of tottering knees. Languor, dullness, the privation of power, are symptomatic of the absence of vital energy, alike in the physical and the moral sphere. People may be seemingly weak and impotent, not because they want the organs for action, but because the inspiration to action is wanting. A life without defined activity is hardly worth the name. In the fixed light of the eye, the prompt hand, the willing foot, we see signs of the Divine afflatus upon a man. The sails have caught the favoring breeze, while others lie becalmed. But there is always some part for the will. To him that hath shall be given; and the paradox is true, power comes to those who exert it.

2. Despair exchanged for confidence. Despair unfits alike for human and Divine service. Men are moved to duty by the hope of good or by the fear of evil. These motives cannot avail one who does not believe that his state can be either bettered or worsened. The man becomes careless of his happiness, indifferent to salvation. The biblical medicine for despair is the firm insistence on the message of salvation. God is coming—is on the way, to requite, to redeem, to deliver. How careful should preachers be not to force men into a "preternatural melancholy," by an unskillful handling of the Word of truth, by indiscreet severity, by dwelling too much on the dark themes of human depravity and predestination!

3. The removal of human infirmities and limitations. Blindness, deafness, lameness, dumbness, are symbolic of all obstructions in the soul to the entrance of light, and music, and power, and fluency. One great outflow of the Spirit sweeps all these hindrances to enjoyment and to activity away. Near to us is a God of infinite fullness; all about us is a world of beauty, strength, and joy; but we are "straitened in ourselves." Life is full of illusions, which tempt us forward with all the power and promise of reality. These are like the mirage of the desert—a seeming sheet of water in the distance, with its offer of refreshment to the pilgrim; in fact, an optical deception. But these illusions bear a certain relation to truth. For we cannot believe that the Almighty has planted a spring of error in the very mechanism of our fancy. Our minds were made for truth and tend towards truth, even through hallucinations. "The mirage shall become a lake."

III. THE REFORMATION OF RELIGION. There will be a "raised way," called "The Holy Way." It will be exempt from all that is unclean; it will be so clear and straight, that even the simple-minded cannot go astray; a secure and peaceful way, undisturbed by the furious beasts of ravening and destruction. Its every stage will be marked with joy, as singing pilgrims pass along it; and the sighs of sorrow will die away in the distance. It is a picture of true evangelical religion, as it is revived among the peoples, from epoch to epoch, and of its blessed effects. True religion is an elevating thing; nobility of manner and refinement of taste go hand-in-hand with it. It is a holy thing; and distinction of characters and classes, of tastes and pursuits, must appear wherever it comes. Its doctrine is simple, intelligible, yet sublime. "Justification by faith" can be understood and received by the humblest mind, while the most powerful intellect must exert itself to rise to the serene height of the truth. It is a way of gentleness and peace, unvexed by the furious storms of controversy, sheltering timid souls. It is a way of freedom and of joy, and it leads to a fixed destination—a celestial place, an eternal kingdom, a city that cannot be removed, whose Builder and Maker is God.—J.

HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM

Isaiah 35:3

Inspirations to energy.

"Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees." It is not enough to be sorry for the woes of others. Sympathy may be a sort of mental "minor," wherewith we simply soothe ourselves. We must be earnest and inspirational. Pity must be practical. "Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand!" We have plenty of critics and satirists; we want men who will help to save.

I. WE MAY STRENGTHEN BY OUR WORDS. "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not." Tell a sorrow to some persons, and they draw a picture of still darker possibilities, and so feed the already gloomy fancies of the mind. But it is possible to give "cheer," instead—to record God's great deliverances to ourselves, and tell of all his wondrous works. Thus we may put the brightness of hope into the sky, and help to chase the dark clouds away. "Say." We have all the faculty of quickly telling bad news; let us tell the "good news" of God's gracious kingdom.

II. WE CAN CHEER THE HEART. That is the center of life. We may not be able to lift the burden, but we may strengthen our brother's hands by energizing his heart. It is wonderful what a few depressing influences will accomplish. Some are more sensitive than others, and are easily cast down. "Do not my words do good?" says God; for they reach at once to the inner man. Blessed angels of help are words that go to the heart. No man is so great but sympathy can cheer him; no man is so weak but he may be made heroic by holy inspirations!

III. WE CAN HELP THE PILGRIMAGE. The knees are feeble; for it is a "tiring" journey to many. They are very weary. Disappointments have multiplied; fountains have dried up in the desert; friends have died, and, like Naomi, they went out full, and are returning home empty. We are all pilgrims; and the statesman's steps often tire as well as the poor student seeking after his first ideal. In the spiritual pilgrimage, too, we often faint and fail. The way is hard. We are disappointed with ourselves. It may be that some soul was just turning back when we strengthened the feeble knees by our own eager pressing forward, even when tired and faint. How much thus depends on our own Christ-like disposition! We cannot do all this if we are insolent, quarrelsome, or hard. The very duties the gospel enjoins manifest what a lofty ideal of character the gospel requires.—W.M.S.

Isaiah 35:4

Tremor of spirit.

"Say to them that are of a fearful heart." This implies that fear will be a necessary element in our life. All depends on the heart. Fear increases with experience.

I. THY GOD REIGNETH TO SALVATION. His power is in this direction. He is God. He is thy God—the God of thy salvation.

1. It is an empire over sin. All its agencies and influences.

2. It is an empire over hearts. Because it is connected with the cross!

3. It is an empire over enemies. There is no Manichean universe of equally divided forces. The Lord is King.

II. THY GOD REIGNETH TO CONSOLATION. He is human as well as Divine.

1. He is Lord of circumstance.

2. He is Lord of condition. He can and does extend his pity to the weak and the poor.

3. He is Lord of dissolution. For death is in his hands.

III. THY GOD REIGNETH TO GLORIFICATION. All things make manifest:

1. His praise.

2. His perfections.

3. His permanence. "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.'

IV. THY GOD REIGNETH TO SUBJUGATION. All enemies under his feet.

1. Power to control.

2. Power to educe good out of evil.

3. Power to raise and to cast down.

V. THY GOD REIGNETH TO ADORATION. His kingship will evoke the worshipping homage of all creation.

1. Angels adore him.

2. Saints adore him.

Heaven shall ring with the glad acclaim of a great multitude that no man can number. "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever."—W.M.S.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

Isaiah 35:1, Isaiah 35:2, Isaiah 35:5-7

Transformation by the truth.

Accepting these words as Messianic in their scope, we may treat them as descriptive of that most blessed transformation which is effected, in the individual man and in the nation, by the gospel When the truth of Christ is made efficacious by the Spirit of God, and has had time to work out its true results, there will be found—

I. ILLUMINATION OF THE UNDERSTANDING. "The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped." Darkness of mind, deafness of soul, have prevailed; the spirit has been insensible to all that is most beautiful and harmonious, most precious, in the universe. But then shall things appear as they are. Men shall "see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God." In the Father, the Friend, the Sanctifier, the Refuge of the human soul, men will recognize him who is worthy of their trust, their love, their search.

II. GRATITUDE OF HEART. Instead of the "guilty silence," so often and so long maintained by men under the reign of sin, "the tongue of the dumb will sing" psalms of grateful praise to the Divine Author of all being, to the bountiful Giver of every good and perfect gift. The mouth will be full of song because the heart will be full of thankful remembrances.

III. STRENGTH OF SOUL. "Then shall the lame leap as an hart." Instead of the moral feebleness and incapacity which showed itself in painful spiritual inactivity, the soul will go forth, with all its renewed and regenerated powers, to do God's work, to bear witness to his Name, to work in his vineyard.

IV. LOVELINESS AND FRUITFULNESS OF LIFE. "The desert shall … blossom the rose; … the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel," etc.

1. Instead of bareness and unsightliness—the invariable product of sin in its final outworkings—there shall be spiritual beauty. There shall be "the beauty of holiness," "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit;" all that is attractive and entrancing to the changed and cultivated judgment of the good and wise.

2. Instead of fruitlessness there shall be fertility. The desert shall "blossom abundantly." Holy, devoted life will be spent in the service of a present Savior and for a sin-stricken world. We shall abound in help, in healing, in blessing.

V. PREVAILING JOY. The whole strain of the passage is jubilant, and it speaks of the desert "rejoicing with joy and singing." Sin and sadness are most intimately associated; even if they are not so inseparably allied as to be always seen together, they are so essentially connected that when one appears the other is sure to follow. It is a guilty world that knows so much of disappointment, of regret, of grief, of shame. But when the truth of God has wrought its full effect on the human soul, the prevailing note, even of the earthly life, will be that of joy. The near presence of the heavenly Father, the close friendship of the Divine Redeemer, the happy service of love, the blessed work of doing good, the exulting hope of heavenly bliss,—these are sources of joy which quicken and animate the soul, which make a holy human life radiant with a blessedness which anticipates the glory of the skies.—C.

Isaiah 35:3, Isaiah 35:4

The privilege of the strong.

In this strenuous and vigorous appeal we have—

I. THE COMPREHENSIVE CHARACTER OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. In it are the weak as well as the strong. There is nothing whatever that is narrow about the Christian faith. It is not adapted to any particular class or character. In Jesus Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, cultivated nor uncultivated, bond nor free. And in him there is no favor reserved for any special disposition. It is not a gospel for those in particular who are most admired of men—for the strong, for the brave, for the wise, for the winning; it is a refuge for the weak, for the timid, for the unknown and the unbeloved. Those who are of no account at all amongst men, those whom human leaders would gladly leave out of their army as weakening rather than strengthening their forces,—these are all welcome to flock to the standard and to fight under the banner of the heavenly Prince.

II. THE PRIVILEGE OF THE STRONG. Untaught by the truth of Christ, unchanged by his Spirit, it has been considered the privilege of the strong

These have been the uses which the strong have made of their strength. But we have not so learned Christ. So far as we possess his Spirit and have any right to bear his Name, we shall count it our privilege:

1. To show them a genuine sympathy; remembering that often, if not always, their weakness reflects no discredit on them, and our strength no credit on ourselves.

2. To render them effectual succor; to grant them needful protection and guidance, to instill courage into their minds, to impart vigor to their souls, to make them partakers of our own strength. We shall say to them, speaking in more ways than one, "Be strong."

III. THE MAIN SOURCE OF THEIR SUCCOR. The strong will help the weak:

1. By offering them the honor which is their due, instead of the disdain to which they have been accustomed. The former elevates, the latter crushes.

2. By their inspiriting example. Walking with them, working or struggling by their side, the fellowship which they afford imparts a constant access of strength to their soul.

3. By words of wise encouragement. And of these the best and the most effective will be those which bring out the nearness and the salvation of God. "Behold, your God will come … and save you." If we would do our very best to strengthen the weak, we must bring them into conscious relation to the Divine Source of all power. Let men realize that God is with them and for them, and they will be strong to do the bravest deeds and to endure the sharpest sufferings.—C.

Isaiah 35:8, Isaiah 35:9

The way to Zion.

The outward incidents of the Jewish people have a singularly dose correspondence with the inward experiences of human souls in Christian times. The captivity in Egypt and also that in Babylon find their analogue in the state of spiritual bondage which is the constant penalty of sin. The way back to Jerusalem stands for our homeward pilgrimage as we travel to the city of the blessed. As here described, there are several features in which the one answers strikingly and instructively to the other.

I. THE HIGHWAY TO THE HEAVENLY CITY. In all his dealings with man God has been constructing a highway from bondage to spiritual freedom, from sin to holiness, from guilty selfishness to sacred service, from utter ruin to complete salvation, from earth to heaven. He was engaged in this beneficent, Divine procedure when he spake to us through the patriarchs, when he instituted the Law, when he gave to us his prophets. And he completed this "way" when he "sent forth his Son." Jesus Christ had so much to do with preparing for us the highway to the heavenly city that we appropriately speak of him, as indeed he spoke of himself, as actually being the Way itself (John 14:6). He, the Truth, is the Way by which we have a knowledge of God and of his will. He, the Mediator, is the Way by which we ourselves come into close spiritual contact with God himself. He, the Propitiation, is the Way by which we ascend to forgiveness and reconciliation. He, the Life, is the Way by which we rise 'into loving union with, and growing likeness to, and ultimate preparedness for, the Divine Father.

II. THREE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HEAVENWARD WAY.

1. Here is that which is paradoxical, but true withal; for this homeward way is characterized by breadth. It is the broad "highway," the open road, along which all travelers are free to pass. There is no such exclusiveness about it as is often found in the ways we construct. It is for all classes of society, for all nations and races of mankind, for men who have lived all kinds of human lives, for men of all tempers and dispositions; the "King's highway" has ample room for them all.

2. But it is also, strangely though not inconsistently, characterized by narrowness. "And a way," i.e. a path, an elevated and narrow causeway along which only one or two can walk abreast. About this way of life there is a narrowness of its own (see Matthew 7:13, Matthew 7:14; Luke 13:24).

3. It is also characterized by directness. A man, "though a fool, shall not err therein." There is no serious difficulty here. Mysteries there are which are insoluble, but these can be left alone—they will keep for a future time. But what the will of God is in Jesus Christ, how he would have us order our life, what manner of men we ought to be in order to please him,—this is as clear and plain as it could be. The little child, the man who is little better than "a fool," need not miss his way in travelling to the heavenly city.

III. THE IMMUNITY AND THE COMMUNION OF THE WAY.

1. Immunity. "No lion shall be there." Not that there is no adversary to be found in the way to Zion. The evil one himself, as a roaring lion, haunts the path of life. But there will be found no temptation which belongs peculiarly and especially to the heavenward way, as is the case with other paths. In the path of financial success is the lion of covetousness or avarice; in the path of fame is that of vanity; in the way of professional success is that of complacency, etc.; but in the way of holiness is no especial "lion" which frequents that road. It is morally and spiritually safe.

2. Communion. There is

Isaiah 35:10

Within the gates.

If the two preceding verses may be regarded as descriptive of the Christian pilgrimage, the text may appropriately be treated as pictorial of the heavenly city in which that journey ends. The language of this verse suggests to us—

I. THE DISTINGUISHING FEATURE OF THOSE WHO ARE ADMITTED. They are "the ransomed of the Lord." They were in spiritual bondage: they have been redeemed by a Divine Deliverer; they have been ransomed at a great price; they have been rescued from the power of their enemies (outward and inward) and walk in liberty, thankful for what they have escaped from, anticipating the more perfect freedom and the more excellent estate they are travelling toward.

II. THE SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CITY ITSELF. "Shall come to Zion."

1. It is the very home of God. Jerusalem was "the city of God'—it was the place on earth which he chose for his manifested presence. There, in a peculiar sense, he abode; there, as in no other city, be was approached and was worshipped; there, as nowhere else, men felt that they stood in his near presence and rejoiced in fellowship with him. The heavenly Zion is to be to all who shall be received within its gates the place where God is, the home of the living and reigning Savior. There we are to be "at home with the Lord."

2. It is the place of perfect security and of transcendent beauty. The "mountains were round about Jerusalem," and "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, was Mount Zion." The heavenly city, of which it is the earthly type, will prove a home of absolute security, into which no enemy will ever come, from which temptation and sin are safely barred (see Revelation 21:27); and of surpassing beauty and glory (Revelation 21:1, Revelation 21:10, Revelation 21:11, Revelation 21:18, Revelation 21:19, Revelation 21:23). There shall be everything which will give pure and inexhaustible delight to all holy souls, to those in whom has been planted and nourished the appreciation of that which is really beautiful and glorious.

III. THE JOY WHICH WILL ATTEND ADMISSION. They "shall come to Zion with songs." How transcendent must that moment be when the human soul is assured, by actual sight of the heavenly city, that immortal glory is his blest estate!

IV. THE FULL AND ABIDING BLESSEDNESS OF THE CELESTIAL HOME. "Everlasting joy … sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Here are the two grand essentials of perfect blessedness.

1. The absence of all that mars. Here many a "goodly heritage" loses half its value to the possessor of it by reason of some one serious drawback; it is some bodily infirmity, or it is some grave anxiety, or it is some keen disappointment, or it is some irreparable loss which, though everything else be fair and fruitful, makes life seem to have as much of shadow as of sunshine. There, sorrow and sighing shall have fled away.

2. The presence of lasting and ever-growing joy. Here, with the constitution of our mind and with the fading of our faculty, pleasure palls, joys fade and disappear. After a few decades life becomes less and less valuable, until it is felt to be a burden that can ill be borne. There, it is an "everlasting song," and instead of its strain becoming less tuneful or inspiriting, the enlarging and unfolding powers of our immortal manhood will make the heavenly life more musical and rapturous as the years and the centuries are left behind us.—C.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

Isaiah 35:1, Isaiah 35:2

Changed circumstances following the return of Divine favor.

This, which is expressed in the figures of these verses, may be further illustrated by the experience of David. His "bones waxed old through his roaring all the day long," while God hid his face from him. He sang again the old songs when God "restored unto him the joy of his salvation." "In contrast to the ruin of Edom, the prophet now describes Israel's triumphant march home through the blossoming wilderness" (Matthew Arnold). Two points may be dwelt on.

1. God's favor often includes improved circumstances.

2. God's favor brings such cheer as lifts us above circumstances.

I. GOD'S FAVOR OFTEN INCLUDES IMPROVED CIRCUMSTANCES. The actual removal of our difficulties or hindrances; restored relationships; business prosperities, etc.;—all such things being poetically represented by the bare, dry desert becoming a watered, flowery garden. In actual fact, the weariness and danger of the long desert route were graciously mitigated and relieved for the returning exiles. Cheyne resists the reference to the exiles; but the same point may be illustrated if the picture of the text be that of the condition of desolated Judaea when God's favor rested on the remnant that remained there. The contrast may be between desolated Edom on which rested God's frown, and refreshed and revived Judaea on which rested God's favor. So when God's curse is taken off Palestine, the old blossom and beauty will return to her. We cannot always be sure that God's smile on our souls will be followed by improvement of our circumstances; but this great comfort we may take—God oftentimes does in this way seal and complete his mercies to his people.

II. GOD'S FAVOR BRINGS SUCH CHEER AS LIFTS US ABOVE CIRCUMSTANCES. It is very easy to say that we ought to rise above circumstances in our own strength. But we cannot do it; nobody ever really does it, however loud may be their boastings. The bond uniting body and mind, soul and life, is altogether too close and subtle to permit even the holiest man to cease to feel. What alone is possible is that God's favor and grace may be such an inspiration and strength to a man's spirit, or a man's will, that he may be able to control his circumstances, and even change them through the new and masterful relation in which he stands to them. God's favor and acceptance is man's supreme uplifting. There is no cheer, no strength, like that which comes to the man who can say, "The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our Refuge." That man, and that man alone, can do all things, and bear all things, and make life yield to him its best.—R.T.

Isaiah 35:3

Cheer for the faint-hearted.

This term may well be applied either to the small remnant left in Judaea, or to the small company that represented the exiled nation on the return to Jerusalem. The cheer comes through the assurance of God's direct and gracious relations with them. Faint-hearted ones can only be steadied by leaning on the Strong One for strength. The prayer of all such should be this, "O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake thou for me." Introduction may include the reasons for faint-heartedness which these people had who are here addressed; and the corresponding reasons for faint-heartedness which now may press upon us. We have times, like those which Job knew, when everybody and everything seems to be against us; we have to suffer much through the wrong-doing of others; and the frailty of our bodies often makes us write bitter things against ourselves. Our hope is in God. He sends cheering assurances.

I. WE HAVE THIS GOOD CHEERGOD LIVES. Even if we are as nearly shipwrecked as the Apostle Paul, and for days and nights together neither sun nor stars appear, the fact cannot be altered, the sun is there behind those clouds; they cannot blot him out. In our troublous and weary times men may bruise us sorely with their taunts, "Where is now thy God?" But taunts cannot push him from his place, and blot him from our sky. He is there, behind the cloud, if his time is not yet. We shall praise him.

II. WE HAVE THIS GOOD CHEERGOD IS FOR US. He is on our side. "Who shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" "If God be for us, who can be against us?" We have a champion, a "Great Heart" pilgrim's guide. "Greater is he who is with us than all that can be against us." And if we are still placed under disabilities and burdens, we keep this confidence—seeing God is for us, he must know that it is better for us to let the burdens stay than to remove them. He could remove them; it is enough for us that he does not.

III. WE HAVE THIS GOOD CHEERGOD IS WITH US. His is not a grace and help which we may have on appeal merely; it is a grace and strength which are our constant possession. "The Lord of hosts is with us." We are safely defended; we are wisely inspired; we possess all things—"all are ours"—for we have God.

IV. WE HAVE THIS GOOD CHEERGOD IS IN US. This is the deeper Christian view, and opens up the Pauline teaching, "I live, yet not I, Christ liveth in me;" and, we may even say, the teaching of our Lord himself. Cheer for the faint-hearted follows our response to this appeal, "Abide in me, and I in you."—R.T.

Isaiah 35:5, Isaiah 35:6

Pre-visions of the Great Physician.

These may be poetical figures, designed to present, in an impressive way, a time of great national joy; but we cannot fail to recognize in them foreshadowings of the miracles of healing and of grace that were wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ. The first and general meaning of the passage may be that, "so conspicuous and overpowering would be the interference of God on behalf of his people, those of the most obtuse intellect could not fail to perceive it. So joyous would be the event, that persons the most unlikely would participate in the exultation." But, for spiritual readers, there must be a second and further meaning, for the language too well suits that time when "the blind saw, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, and the dead were raised." Reading the mission of Christ from this prophecy as a text, we note—

I. CHRIST REMOVING MEN'S DISABILITIES. All are typified in these failures of the senses of sight, hearing, walking, and speaking. Some of the human disabilities are hereditary, others are brought on by men's own negligences or willfulnesses. But this is to be specially noticed, they are all the direct products and results of sin. And Christ only designed to impress on men the greatness of his work as Redeemer from sin, by showing them how vigorously he would deal with all sin's consequences.

II. CHRIST GIVING LIFE TO THE DEAD. Death is the supreme, anti apparently resistless triumph of sin. Before it man stands utterly hopeless. But Christ does not. He speaks, and Lazarus comes forth, bound with the grave-clothes. He even submits himself to the worst that death can do, and then breaks the bars of his prison-house asunder. There is nothing he cannot do for us.

III. CHRIST REVEALING GOD'S WORK IN SOULS. We only read our Lord's life aright when we see it to be illustration of permanent spiritual facts. God is always coming and saving men. He has always been coming and saving men. Prophets, by their miracles (such as Elisha's), in part illustrated God's soul-saving work; but the "Lord Jesus gives the full, sublime, ever-suggestive illustration." God gives life from the "death of trespasses and sins." God removes the soul-disabilities which sin has brought in its train. This opens up the consideration of our Lord's position as Mediator, doing, for God, his part of this great work in souls; and further of the mission of the Spirit, as Comforter, Inspirer, and Teacher. Verily God works wonders of grace in the souls of men.—R.T.

Isaiah 35:8

The Lord's highway.

Under the figure of deliverance from Assyria and Babylon the times of Messiah are foreshadowed. From the previous verses we get suggestions of his miracles of healing, and assurances that he will supply grace to men like abundant fountains in thirsty places. The figure of a "way" was even used by Christ himself. He said, "I am the Way"—the way to the Father; the way of salvation; the way of holiness; the way to glory, "bringing many sons unto glory." Spiritualizing the way described in this text, we may note—

I. THE HIGHWAY OF SALVATION IS A RAISED WAY. A made way; one actually lifted up, leveled, prepared. This is the idea in the Hebrew word. We must distinguish between the ordinary Eastern path, a mere track in the sand or the soil, and the road carefully made for a royal progress, valleys raised, mountains leveled, stones removed. Such a road is Christ's way of life and salvation for us. All hindrances are taken out of the way, and a plain path is laid before our feet. There are some points of view from which the way of life appears as a "strait gate" opening on to a narrow path. But from other points of view it is a broad, open road, which none can mistake. This may lead to consideration of the work of the Lord Jesus which was, as it were, the making of the way of life.

II. THE HIGHWAY OF SALVATION IS A HOLY WAY. There is no possibility of our treading it with the uncleanness of willful sin, kept sin, upon us. Sinners may tread it, but they must be penitent sinners. And a penitent man, so far as heart and purpose are concerned, is a holy man. Imperfect saints may tread it, but only if their heart is set on holiness. Only if they are "clean every whir," but needing to "wash their feet."

III. THE HIGHWAY OF SALVATION IS A SIMPLE WAY. "The wayfaring men, yea fools, shall not err therein." The difficulties we make; they are not really in the way. The way of salvation seems to wise people full of mystery, yet it is grasped by the wayfaring, the fool, the child. None need miss the way, for it is thoroughly well fitted with directions and guide-posts. We may blind ourselves, and refuse to see them. We may put obstacles in our own path. The one great obstacle takes many forms. What we really want is to keep our willfulness; to make a way of our own; to get God to save us on our own terms. There is the highway open right before us, and we persist in looking this way and that, if so be we may find any way but Christ's way of penitence and faith.—R.T.

Isaiah 35:10

The return of the ransomed.

"Whoever is familiar with the bold and magnificent character of the prophetic style will not deem the liberation from the Captivity an event too trivial to be predicted in the language here employed." "Minor and temporary deliverances are not only emblems of the great salvation, but preparatory to it." "The first volume of Isaiah's prophecy closes fitly with this transcendent picture, carrying the thoughts of men beyond any possible earthly fulfillment. The outward imagery probably had its starting-point in the processions of the pilgrims who came up to the temple singing psalms, like those known as the 'songs of degrees,' at their successive halting-places." Very strange is the fascination which the "future" exercises on men. It is a "Will-o'-the-wisp" which is ever enticing men on.

"At first Time made nought but to-day

With its joys, its successes, and sorrow;

Then, to keep on good terms with the world,

He promised he'd make a to-morrow."

No man is really satisfied. He is always hoping for something to happen in the future. And so he is lifted onwards towards the eternal, and in his very restlessness he reveals his immortality. Illustrate from the romance of the child, the ambition of the apprentice, the outlooking of the man, the persistent hopes of the Jewish race. This onlooking is peculiarly characteristic of the Christian, who has the "promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." The Christian's best is in the eternal.

I. THE PEOPLE. "Ransomed of the Lord." The word reminds us of the prisoner and the slave. It may properly be applied in a religious sense, because the Bible represents men as "in bondage," and as "redeemed." "Sold under sin." "Ye were the servants of sin." "Gave his life a ransom."

1. Observe from what bondage we are ransomed. Describe the wretched condition of the slave. How much worse is the condition of the slaves of sin, drink, lust, evil passions, or selfish worldliness! There is a peculiar degradation and a certain final ruin involved in the supreme service of self. "Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin."

2. By whom were we ransomed? "Of the Lord." It was a glorious day for England when she broke the fetters of the slave, and let the oppressed go free. It would be thought a great thing for a king to bend down and with his own hands release the slave. Yet God's own Son, God himself "manifest," is our Deliverer. When "there was no eye to pity, and no a,'m to save, his eye pitied and his arm brought salvation." We sing, as Moses did, "The Lord is become my Salvation."

3. At what price has the ransom been accomplished? "Not with corruptible things," but with "the precious blood of Christ." Illustrate the supreme efforts that are often made to raise a ransom price; but what is all the wealth in the world compared with Jesus, who was given for us? Surely such a ransom involves that some great blessedness is yet in store for us.

II. THE PLEDGE OF RETURN. "Shall return." It is the word of the living God. Israel, while in captivity, may fully rest upon the Lord's promises. There is a sense in which we may regard ourselves as the "ransomed of the Lord," left for a while in the land of bondage until our home is ready; and while we wait we have comforting assurances in:

1. The work of Jesus: which is represented as being still carried on for us in the heavenly places.

2. The work of the Holy Ghost, who is our Seal, our Earnest, our Sanctifier, unto the day of redemption.

3. The promises of God, which are "exceeding great and precious promises," and which are "yea and amen in Christ Jesus."

III. THE RETURN. Picture the scene of the journey of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. "Songs and everlasting joy 'they know.

1. Theirs is the joy of ransomed ones. Illustrate by the ecstasy of the freed bird, the liberated prisoner, the escaped slave.

2. Theirs is the joy of conquerors. Over sin and self and the world. Illustrate by the triumph of a general returning to his country.

3. Theirs is the joy of those who are going home. Illustrate by the schoolboy, or the traveler, nearing the time for home.

"As when the weary traveler gains

The height of some o'er-looking hill,

The sight his fainting spirit cheers,

He eyes his home, though distant still."

IV. THE HOME. "Zion." Our "Father's house." "Is it a place?" we often ask. We know little about it. God gives us only figures and pictures which appeal to imagination. The text gives two aspects of it.

1. "Sorrow and sighing flee away." Sorrow comes out of

"The pilgrims enter the city like worn sky-birds to their nests."

2. They obtain joy and gladness. This they have through

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 35:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/isaiah-35.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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