Today’s Passage: Isaiah 35
Here Isaiah describes a restored future for his homeland. He begins with a prediction that the wilderness will rejoice and blossom like a crocus. Don’t know what a crocus is? Neither did I. Fortunately, we live in a world with the internet.
What’s got the wilderness so happy and flourishing? Isaiah tells us: “They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God” (35:2). God’s presence is at the heart of this restoration.
Or, more accurately, it will be. In the present, Isaiah instructs those around him: “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble” (35:3). His message is that even as God’s vengeance unfolds around his people, God will preserve, save, and restore the nation. As we’ve seen in past chapters, the process won’t be free from suffering, and those who’ve dived overboard into drunkenness or abused their authority against the helpless or counted on Egypt instead of God for protection aren’t off the hook. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
What can Isaiah see in the light? First, there’s physical restoration of infirmities. He prophesies, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy” (35:5-6). Couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t walk or talk? In the restored world, you can! Second, there’s water: “For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah” (35:6). God himself irrigates the desert, turning dry scrubland into a home for reeds and rushes. Plants, animals, and people can actually live here, without the desert’s dangers of dehydration or heat stroke. Finally, there’s a road. Isaiah declares, “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness” (35:8). He lists what you won’t see on the highway: the unclean, fools, lions, vicious beasts (8-9). All the things that kept Israel from prospering, the people who polluted themselves and their world with violence against God’s laws, God’s world, and the humans made in God’s image? None of that on this highway.
So who’s the highway for? The folks who’ve kept themselves clean, right? Not quite. Isaiah tells us, “[T]he redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion” (35:9-10). You don’t get to walk on the highway because you’re “good enough.” You get to walk on the highway because God paid the price for you, paid your ransom like some kidnappers cut letters out of a magazine and demanded cash money for you. God paid it! God bought your freedom so you can walk on the highway in your homeland of Zion!
And all this restoration? It’s worth celebrating. It’s worth getting loud about.