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Salvation in Isaiah 35

A brother asked me yesterday for my opinion about the best way to get to West London – M5 and M4, or the A303 and M3. Which way is the best way? We discussed the merits of both ways.

As we arrived at our holiday destination recently at the airport a young lady was handing out leaflets. “Was this a tract?” I wondered hopefully! No – it was a map of main roads and street maps of principle towns, produced by her company for visitors who would hopefully come to buy some pearls from their visitor centres discreetly highlighted on the map.

Without directions or clear maps, which show us the way, we can quickly become lost.

Isaiah’s message in chapter 35 is about a way – it is about the Way of Holiness, the way of Salvation through Jesus Christ the Messiah! The chapter begins with the wilderness, solitary place and desert – a place of lostness – and it ends with Zion – a picture of the beautiful city of God representing the Church, the whole company of the redeemed sons and daughters of God.

But before we look at the way let us not forget the wrath! What do I mean by this?

One month ago we thought about the previous chapter – Ch 34. It appears that Isaiah knew that his hearers and later his readers would need this 35th chapter to follow the 34th. It was a devastating message wasn’t it – the words of Chapter 34? It was all about God’s indignations within the heathen nations. Edom was a representative of those nations and came in for horrific judgement, anger and punishment from the Lord God to show what He feels about sin and rebellion.

There is a real value in CONTRAST. The setting of one situation against another is a helpful device in literature and Isaiah uses it here in the sacred record. Since Chapter 34 was about the desolation of nations Chapter 35 is about the future glory of Zion, the church.

Springtime is a contrast with winter. Many people dislike the winter months intensely. They detest the deadness, cold, lifelessness, barrenness and emptiness that spells out the season even to the point of making them miserable. But then the contrast of Spring comes – new life bursts onto the scene – daffodils, crocii, catkins appear and we are cheered. A poet has said

“Crocus spearing the snow, Proudly raising her purple or yellow flag, Claiming the world for Spring!”

Isaiah the prophet burst into the sunlight in Chapter 35 – and the desert blossoms as the rose!

The object of Isaiah’s positive message now is Israel’s experiences of passing through a wilderness of trial and desolation, will someday be glorious. There are those who find LITERAL meanings of these predictions and form a range of prophetic systems which they say fits with a glorious future for Israel as a Nation.

But Isaiah has a much deeper and more significant message than a future history that we can only leave with the Lord Himself.

The deeper message is this. Israel’s journey represents the beauty of a soul, which formerly devastated by sin, has now been redeemed. The wilderness through which the redeemed come singing unto Zion is NOT the road from Babylon to Judah, but the spiritual desert which led first of all TO the Babylonian captivity – and eventually to the coming of the Messiah. In between those events there was the oppression of the Medes and the Persians, the conquests and cruelty of Alexander the Great, the Egyptian Ptolomies and the Syrian Seleucids – all had a part in making the way a desert for Israel. After this came the Maccabean wars and the rise of the Sadducees and Pharisees – the religious leaders who corrupted the spiritual life of the nation. During none of these periods could anyone come singing to Zion! And then the Romans came. It is therefore obvious to us that the glorious picture of this 35th chapter was not realised during the period between Babylon and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter 35 is a Messianic Chapter. The promises must all be seen in the light of what the Lord Jesus came to do for His people – to restore them and to set them on the pathway of Holiness via the pathway of salvation.

V1 – The Wilderness describes the religious life of Jews and Gentiles which had become like a desert – dry land, waste and void. But when Jesus Christ comes by grace into a wasted life, then the desert rejoices and begins to blossom! Do we not see this in people who have been in the darkness and desolation of an unsightly, sin dominated life who change when converted and become beautiful people with spiritual characters? They become as sweet as roses!

V2. Isaiah gives a list of familiar places to his people that will indicate to them what He will do in a restoration process.

* Lebanon. This area is magnificent with its snow capped mountains massive cedars and fir trees. * Carmel with its woods * Sharon a verdant place of green, carpeted with flowers.

He says that these beautiful places become as a wilderness and a dry land – Lebanon itself withering away, Carmel barren and treeless, Sharon like a desert and bare of richness, - all under the judgement and wrath of God – will all be restored to their former beauty – they shall see the glory of Jehovah, the excellency of our God.

Can we see again the same figure in this? Spiritual beauty and gladness replaces the desert and barrenness and a life of sin and wickedness. The process is this. Man created in God’s image – glorious and beautiful, has been ruined and laid waste. But God comes to restore – it is all His work.

Do you have a barren desert of a life my friend? Is there any life in you and in your soul? Has sin killed your spiritual vitality rendering you empty and desolate – for sin does that to people? It may seem to be attractive and pleasurable – but it doesn’t last does it. At the end of the day as you lie on your bed trying to sleep, reviewing the day, there is no lasting satisfaction – because you need to go out tomorrow for more of the same – to top up the sensuality and stimulation of a soul that has no hope of a future beyond the grave. You desperately need the hand of God who is able to restore the ruined image of Himself in your soul. Then surely that will be a cause for real rejoicing.

V3 moves us on a little. Though restoration is a cause for rejoicing yet in the early stages of seeking the Lord there is weakness – weak hands figuratively speaking need to be strengthened – and feeble knees need to be made firm. Weak hands and feeble knees are symbols of unbelief and defeat. Isaiah speaks to seekers – those who desire the Divine intervention, but who cannot see beyond the desolation of the way of holiness. In the Lord Jesus Christ and in the new and vibrant life that He gives is to be found the strength needed for victory and triumph. Is this your position my friend? You are yet an unbeliever even though you know the way of salvation – but only in theory. And knowing the Gospel in theory does not save. It is a recipe for struggle – weak hands, feeble knees – unable to go forward until the great transaction is done and Christ comes into your soul by His Holy Spirit.

V4 – Isaiah adds another feature of the human being to hands and knees – the heart. We who are saved have a responsibility to encourage those around us –

4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

The heart is the workshop where all our deeds are worked out. The heart must be bold and courageous, fearless and strong – if the hands are to be strengthened and the knees be made firm. Fear is another sign of unbelief. People have so many fears don’t they. The famous singer, one of the richest men in the world, has so many fears that he cannot stay at home alone for fear of attack or some disaster. Some fear spiritual failure – others fear Satan’s power; economic collapse fills many with anxiety and the fear of moral defeat affect so many. Yet these fears need to be overcome – and how can that be done? The word of God here tells us –

4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

This means that God provides salvation to all who will repent and believe. Will you come to trust Christ tonight my friend? Isn’t it about time that you got off the fence, where you think that you are safe – with the comparative comfort of the people of God around you but yet you know that you are not yet one of the Lord’s people? How many times have you heard the Gospel? How many times do you have to hear God’s word of tender calling and patient seeking of your soul before you will go to Him and tell Him that you are a sinner – and that your only hope is in Him and Him alone! Do it now my friend – speak to the Lord – ask Him to forgive you and pardon you. Oh how your life will begin to blossom and flourish once you are saved. How different things will be and how much real joy there will be in your heart and whole being – Be strong – God will come and save you. Here it is in black and white on the page before you. Will you believe it my friend!

We move on now to the end of the chapter to verse 8 –

Isaiah begins to describe the character of the Way. It is a highway leading to the Zion of God and is a way of holiness for the travellers.

8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

But we notice something very important about this Way of Holiness. It is limited to a select few. Verse 8 clearly tells us that.

The unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those:

Who are THOSE? Verse 9 tells us at the end –

But the redeemed shall walk there:

“The unclean shall not pass over it” – only the redeemed.

This passage bars the morally unclean from the highway leaving only the redeemed to walk on it. Look at Matthew 7

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Here the Lord Jesus Christ describes 2 roads – a broad road and a narrow one. Isaiah refers only to one road – the narrow and straitened road – limited, strict and rigorous. And how many are on that road? The words of the Lord Jesus Christ say

and few there be that find it.

Let us look a little closer at the text. Isaiah says that the wayfaring men, who are fools shall not err (a word that means go astray) therein. There is no possibility of a fool straying from his broad road onto the narrow road of Holiness. Every time the Old Testament uses the term fool it refers to a person who is a deliberate despiser of wisdom.

Proverbs 1 v 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

A fool is described as a person who is always right –

Proverbs 12 v 15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.

When God’s people in unbelief refused to listen to Jeremiah, God himself describes them as fools –

Jeremiah 4 v 22 For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.

The Way of holiness is only for the redeemed. There is no chance that a foolish person, a man who despises wisdom, who is wise in evil, will make the mistake of walking on the Way of Holiness that leads to Zion.

Are you on this Way of Holiness yet my friend? Do you want to know how to get onto it?

1. Admit that you have been a fool. Admit that you have been looking for another way to get onto it. Admit that you have thought that your own wisdom would see you safely in heaven, in Zion one day. Now admit that you have been wrong about that in the light of God’s word tonight.

2. Admit your ignorance of the way to get right with God. Ask Him to forgive your foolishness.

3. Apply to Him for redemption. Go to the Lord Jesus Christ who is God and ask Him for mercy. Confess your sins to Him and submit yourself to His judgment – and plead for salvation for your soul. Be earnest as you go – don’t be half hearted – go with all your desire to be saved. He has promised that

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (John 6 v 37)

This is the only way to get onto the road, this way of Holiness.

Verse 10 describes the experience of those called the redeemed or ransomed, who have passed through the wilderness of affliction – but are now experiencing the delights and joys of redemption. They have exchanged sorrowing and sighing – which have fled away – for gladness and joy. Such things are everlasting and shall never be taken away. These are the glories that Isaiah saw that would come when the Messiah came. The prophets knew that these glories were not for their day – but for ours.

1 Peter 1 v 10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

My friends under the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ the sent One from God, under the rule of His Kingdom of whom all Christians are citizens – we now come to Zion! And we come by this new and this living way – the way of Holiness. We are marching to Zion – we are marching even now to the place that He has prepared for us and gone ahead to occupy. Let us encourage each other on the way. Let us remember where we are going – Let us remember whose we are – we belong to Christ. Let us remember how the redeemed of the Lord are to behave – it is a way of Holiness – but also a way of joy. Let us with joy sing as we go – let us look forward to sorrow and sighing ultimately fleeing away.

And above all let us keep the object of our journey firmly in view along this way of Holiness – Jesus is in Zion. We will see the king in His beauty.

Come we that love the Lord And let our joys be known Join in a song with sweet accord And thus surround the throne.

What throne? The throne of our King the Lord Jesus Christ.

The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets

Before we reach the heavenly fields or walk the golden streets.

Oh doesn’t your heart swell with anticipation as we think of our King in Zion? Let these thoughts thrill us tonight – and cause us each one as we lay our heads to rest with the sweetest and best thoughts of our wondrous glorious saviour the Lord Jesus Christ – the King of Zion!

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