The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.…
The prophecy before us is one of those in which the so-called secondary meaning is, in truth, the primary. The spiritual takes precedence of the natural.
I. THE SAD CONDITION OF THE LOCALITIES ON WHICH THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST IS INTENDED TO OPERATE. Let us gather into one cluster all that is said of them. "A wilderness," "a solitary place," "parched ground," "thirsty laud," "a habitation of dragons." With the exception of the last-mentioned, all the desolation seems to turn upon the absence of one element — water. What simile could so vividly depict the moral barrenness and desolation, whether of the individual, or of the world at large, apart from the glorious Gospel of the blessed God? What a wilderness the heart is, that has not God dwelling in it! The idea of "solitariness" may seem to disappear when this word "habitation" comes into view. But what a habitation it is! "A habitation of dragons." That, and that only, was wanting to complete the picture — the foul serpent brood, with their huge encircling folds, prepared to crush the life out of every creature that may cross their dreaded path. To a heart which has within it that "well of water springing up into everlasting life," there is no sadder scene than the unutterable desolateness of these moral wastes presented by hearts that are unchanged. What is true of the individual is equally true of the aspect presented by the world at large. It may, perhaps, be imagined that the one element which is wanting to turn all this desolation into smiling fertility is Civilisation. That has been already weighed in the balances and found wanting. What the wilderness, and the solitary place, and the desert, and the parched ground, and the thirsty land require is — the Water of Life, gushing from the smitten rock, Christ Jesus.
II. THE EFFECTS PRODUCED BY THE KINGDOM OF JESUS. Even to us, in a country where water is plentiful, the beauty and appropriateness of the image are at once apparent. What a charm it adds to the landscape, whether in the form of the great ocean, bearing on its bosom the treasures of the world, or of the river winding through the pleasant meadows, which drink in fertility and beauty from the living stream! The like with its mirror-like surface basking in the sun, suggests, too, the theme of the prophet's song. But it was with an appreciation more intense that the inhabitants of these Eastern lands regarded this emblem of the life that is in Jesus Christ. Water spoke to them of deliverance from death. Hence, wherever this glad Gospel is spoken of, we find this emblem employed to bring before the mind the joy-giving results of the kingdom of Christ. Note the results as these are brought before us in our text.
1. Gladness. It requires no great effort of imagination to realise the glad aspect of nature refreshed by copious rains, after a heat that has scorched the grass, and dwarfed the corn. Fitting emblem, this, of the great joy which the Gospel of Jesus brings with it to human hearts.
2. Fertility. "It shall blossom abundantly." This fertility not only stands connected with life, it is the outcome of its existence. The desert is always barren. But the mighty power of the Gospel of Jesus converts this moral wilderness into a fruit-bearing garden of the Lord.
3. Beauty. "It shall blossom as the rose." One has only to picture to himself a part of this earth's surface, parched, desert, and barren, and to think of the marvellous change which would be produced upon it were he, on revisiting the scene, to find it covered with the fairest flowers that our gardens know. The first and most striking impression made upon the mind would be that of surpassing beauty. Even so is it with the marvellous moral transformation which the prophecy before us contemplates. The glorious annals of missionary effort render it unnecessary to draw on the imagination. What a beauty is unfolded in a Christ-like life!
4. Glory and majesty. "The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel." To live under the power of Jesus is the true secret of a noble life. Whatever the sphere of life which the man occupies, he is in closest alliance with the majesty of heaven, and in virtue of that alliance is raised to regal dignity.
5. A vision that extends into the Holy of holies. "They shall see the glory of Jehovah, and the excellency of our God.
Parallel VersesKJV: The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.