11/20/2015

Salvation (Isaiah 35): A Highway Will Be There


"And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it" (Isa 35:8, NIV).

In Isaiah 28-35 the central issue was the stupid advice of the leaders for Judah to trust Egypt, instead of God. Isaiah 34 poetically expresses that trusting in the nations results in a desert, while Isaiah 35 shows the drastic and dramatic contrast when one trusts God. In brief, God will turn the desert into a garden (Isa 35:1). "The burning sand will become a pool" and the places "where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow" (Isa 35:7). This is in sharp contrast to the desolation that endured from generation to generation (Isa 34:10, 17). Even such desolation can be changed by God if we let him. God will reveal his glory by making them as rich and abundant as the forests on Lebanon and Carmel or the grasslands of the plan of Sharon (Isa 35:2; 33:9). When the rains of God fall, a barren waste springs into splendorous color almost overnight.

Isaiah 35 is the mirror image of Isaiah 34 about the fate of the arrogant nations and all who trusted in them. Isaiah 35 speaks of the destiny of those who turn from that path to a resolute trust in God. Though there is no mention of trust in ch. 34 and 35, yet it is the major theme in the larger context.

Isa 35:3-6a, 8 make it plain that this restoration is a spiritual one. The discouraged and fearful are given courage and strength (Isa 35:3-4). They remained faithful while the nation has gone down and down. They saw evil triumph again and again and wondered when or if God's day would ever come. But the Lord will balance the scales of justice, and they will see the day when both wickedness and righteousness receive their true reward from God (Isa 34:8, 16-17). In contrast to Isa 6:9-10, those who remain faithful--the blind and the deaf, the spiritually lame and mute will be delivered from their afflictions and become full participants in the community of faith (Isa 35:5).

Finally there is the image of a highway (Isa 35:8-10). In each case in Isaiah the occurence of "highway" is either to provide a way for people to come to God or for God to come to his people (Isa 11:16; 19:23; 40:3; 43:19; 49:11; 62:10). In the rugged highlands of Judah and Ephraim as well as in the desert east and south of Judah's central ridge, a straight and level highway would be a wonderful thing. This is what God promises to those who will turn to him in trust. He will make a way through the most difficult circumstances. This is another contrast with Isaiah 34, where Isaiah says that the conditions of the desert would obstruct all passage (Isa 34:10). But that is not the case in God's country. There is ready access to him and to all the blessings of his creation.

This highway is the way to God (Isa 35:8). Negatively, there will be no one "unclean" on it, there will be no "fools" there, nor will there be any devouring animals (Isa 35:8-9). Positively, God's way is a way of purity, obedience and safety. It is the way of holiness on which the redeemed walk. The end result is to come to the city of God, Zion, where gladness and joy will forever displace sorrow and sighing (Isa 35:10; 25:7-8).

Oswalt, John N. Isaiah: The New Application Commentary. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2003. 391-395.