The Blessings of the Gospel
Isaiah 35:1-10
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.…

The thirty-fourth and the thirty-fifth chapters of Isaiah are by the best scholars supposed to constitute one entire and complete prophecy, not connected specially, or at least organically, with what goes before or follows. It is a masterpiece of poetry. A single poem divided into two parts; in the first part, the prophet sets forth in lurid colours the universal judgments of God upon all the nations of the earth which have arrayed themselves against Him and oppressed His people. As an instance of what shall come upon all, he selects a single nation, that of the Edomites, and shows forth in them what shall come upon all. This awful storm of wrath passes away; and we see in the "clear shining after rain" the beautiful prospect which is opened up to both earth and man, when God's enemies cease from troubling and His people are gathered unto Himself. The almost universal habit of spiritualising this, and all like prophecies, and allegorising them into an exclusive application to present Gospel blessings, has served to hide the chief significance of the passage from the eyes of the ordinary reader. The promise of this glorious chapter is without doubt primarily and chiefly to the Jews, referring to their final restoration to their own land in the last days. That it has a preliminary reference to the return from the Babylonian captivity is possible, but it looks far beyond that time to the return from the dispersion which the Jews are now suffering. Even the joy of that first return did not fulfil the glorious promises of this vision. God's day of vengeance, and the year of His redeemed, are thus set side by side. (Compare with Isaiah 61:2; and Isaiah 63:4, with Matthew 24:27-31; Luke 21:25-28.)

I. THE REJOICING CREATION. It is almost impossible not to associate the magnificent opening words of this chapter with the hope held out to the "whole creation which groaneth and travalleth in pain together until now, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, when it shall also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:19-23). "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them." This is a beautiful picture of the sympathy of the earth with man. Not only do the beautiful parts of the earth rejoice with the home-coming of man from his wanderings from God, but the very wilderness and solitary places rejoice and are glad for them, because also in man's redemption the creation which was cursed for man's sake is set free from that curse. The gladness which is here ascribed to the inanimate creation corresponds with the songs and everlasting joy which crown the redeemed of the Lord on their return. The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto them and the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. Two other things are ascribed to the creation. They are represented as consciously participating in the great goodness of God to man. They rejoice even with joy and singing; and they see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God. It is the habit of our prophet thus to invest nature with consciousness and intelligence. It is the habit of-all scriptural writers to put man and nature into close sympathy with each other, declaring that God is the maker of both. There is a great spiritual as well as poetic truth in this. How powerfully are we affected by plastic nature! How responsive the soil, the fruits of earth, and trees of the forest to the loving touch and sympathy of man! Who does not know how wonderfully different all nature seemed to us when we were first converted to God. What a world of beauty this will be when the curse is removed and man and nature, so manifestly made for each other, shall rejoice and be glad together!

II. THE BLESSINGS OF SALVATION. The outline of blessing which the prophet sets before us is not complete, but simply consists of a few bold strokes, serving to fill us with the hope of perfect and complete recovery to God.

1. Men shall see God. The vision of God has already been ascribed in a metaphorical sense to the inanimate creation. It is certainly true that, among the chiefest blessings of salvation, is the vision of God When Jesus came into the world, we are told that in Him we beheld the glory of God, full of grace and truth We are also told that the first effect of the new birth is the ability of the sinner to see God. The purification of the heart which comes with the new life of God in the soul, carries with it the promise of seeing God (John 1:14; John 3:3; Matthew 5:8; 2 Corinthians 3:18). But there is manifestly something more than this meant. "They shall see the glory of Jehovah and the excellency of our God." This can refer to nothing else than that beatific vision of God spoken of by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12; by John in the Revelation 22:4. Yet again, if we are to include the saints of the Church in this prophecy, then we shall also have to look for a more literal fulfilment still. When the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven in power and great glory (Matthew 26:64; Daniel 7:13; John 1:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 1:7), then the scattered Jews shall see their long-rejected Lord, as Saul of Tarsus saw Him on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:3), and be instantly converted, and start on their homeward way, greeted by all the smiling and rejoicing flowers and trees and pools and newly fertilised wildernesses and waste places of the earth. During all these dark centuries the veil has been over the eyes of the Jews, but in this time the veil shall be taken away and they shall see the face, the glory, the excellency of Jehovah-God.

2. They shall strengthen and encourage each other. This is most probably a retrospective exhortation. In view of this promise and the certain coming of Jehovah and their restoration, they are exhorted to strengthen and encourage each other. There are those whose hands are weak, whose knees are feeble. They cannot fight the good fight of faith with courage, they cannot run with patience the race that is set before them. The long delays and afflictions experienced during the time of waiting has taken not only the courage out of many, but has filled them with despair. Therefore they were to say to those of a fearful heart or of a hasty tendency to unbelief: "Be strong, fear not; behold your God will come with vengeance; even God with a recompense; He will come and save you. Thus the prophet calls upon the strong to impart theft strength to the weak and their faith and courage to the faint-hearted. The new Testament writers transfer the spirit, and in part, the very words of this exhortation to the saints of the Church of God. "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak" (Romans 15:1).

3. Infirmities shall be removed. Not only shall the earth be restored to primitive beauty, clothed with redemption glory, and tided with an almost conscious sympathy and joy, but all the infirmities which sin has entailed on our poor sinful human nature shall be removed. In view of this entire deliverance from all the consequences of sin, along with the people of Jehovah, the sore spots of earth shad be healed too. Waters in the wilderness, streams in the desert, pools covering the parched sand, and springs bursting out of thirsty lands; no longer a mirage thrown up from a few turfs of dried herbage, but veritable grass with reeds and rushes shall greet the returning and healed pilgrims. The beginning of this marvel of redemption came when Jesus was first here, opening blind eyes, healing lame limbs, unlocking deaf ears, and loosing silent tongues. Surely, if we have the will to do the will of God, we shall know of this doctrine whether it be of God.

III. THE WAY HOME. Now follows a wondrous picture of the way of the return for the long absent wanderer. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the world away from God is a barren and thirsty land; but so soon as the face is set toward God and heaven, heaven's God makes the way of return easy and sure. The dispersion of the Jews was a way of misery. In the return of the Jews to God and their own land we behold the truth of the spiritual way which God has prepared for every sinner to return to Him, and by Him to heaven.

1. It is a highway. "An highway shall be there." A broad and open way, cast up and distinguished from all ether roads and tracks. It has both breadth and narrowness. Broad enough for all the world to travel over, — and He will have all men to be saved, — and yet m the highway there is a "narrow way," in which every man must walk for himself, alone and yet not alone — alone in that he must believe for himself; not alone, in that others are walking with him on the same terms and surrounded by the same conditions.

2. It is a way of holiness. That is, it is a way clean in itself, and only for the clean to traverse. "The unclean shall not pass over it." Drunkards, liars, adulterers, fornicators, covetous, idolaters, and extortioners may not walk in that way. For none of these sins shall see or enter into the kingdom of heaven. When the scoffer points to such characters in the "visible" Church, the sufficient answer is that the Church is not the way, but Jesus Himself is the Way, and all that are in Christ Jesus are new creatures, old things having passed away .and all things having become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

3. God is with them in the way. For such is the meaning of the expression. "It shall be for those." God's children have in a sense to walk alone, and entering this way, they have to break with many who in the days of their flesh were their companions, but the presence and companionship of God with them in the way will more than compensate. No man who knows the fellowship of God and the saints ever misses the company of the world.

4. It is a way of perfect plainness. No one need fear getting lost in this way. It is so simple and straightforward, so guarded and marked, that the simple and unlearned need not err therein. "He that followeth Me," said Jesus, "shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Besides, God has promised to hold us by our right hand, and to keep us from falling (Isaiah 41:13; Jude 1:24).

5. It is a safe way. No lion or any ravenous beast shall be there, nor be permitted to go up thereon. God has cleared the way of enemies, so far as their ability to harm us is concerned. It was only when" Christian" turned out of the way that he met the devil and had to fight him, and even when the lions fiercely growled at him, he discovered that, by keeping in the middle of the path, they could not approach him, being chained.

IV. SAFE AT HOME. What a picture is here presented to the poor outcasts of Israel! There had been a dispersion and a home-coming from Babylon. There was to be yet another far wider and more prolonged dispersion, and then at last a final homecoming. In view of this the prophet bursts out with a triumphant exclamation of victory, in which he sets all the redeemed singing for joy. He sees the wanderers and outcasts gathering from every quarter of the earth (Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 51:3). They come with songs of everlasting joy on their lips, bursting from their glad and happy hearts. It has been a long night to them, but joy has at last come with this thriceblessed morning. Is not this a blessed picture, too, of the triumphant entrance into the presence of God of those who have fought a good fight, kept the faith, and finished their course?

(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

WEB: The wilderness and the dry land will be glad. The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.

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