It’s a great day to be in New England! God’s handiwork in nature — from the temps to the clear blue sky, to the beautifully turning foliage — are what make us say, “The best things in life are free.” Enjoy God’s gifts — and don’t forget to say thank you.
But on to another great blessing, His word — continuing in Isaiah…
A universal judgment — 34:1-5
Judgment is a rather unpopular subject. Judgment not only implies that one has not just been wrong, but criminal. Judgment is also about unpleasant consequences for our deeds. Both of these topics have been unpopular since the first day of sin in the world (Genesis 3), but unpleasantness doesn’t make something untrue or unimportant. These verses originally applied to the nations surrounding Israel in that day, but like many prophecies in Isaiah they have a secondary fulfillment in the The Judgment, the Last Day, at the end of time.
From where we stand, in this modern day, this prophecy (and others like it) is something to pay attention to. Knowing historically that this prophecy was fulfilled, we must take warning. There are plenty of voices in the world trying to convince us all that there is no “Great Day coming”, no accountability for the deeds done here, or if there is, it will be a big party. But the many times when God has told men in advance that He would judge and then followed through (e.g., Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gommorrah, this prophecy here, and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70), ought to make us all sit up and take notice. These were not idle threats at that time, and God’s promise to judge the world at the end of time is not an idle threat today. There is a “Great Day coming”, we will all be accountable for the deeds done in the flesh, and it will not be a party in any sense of the word.
Edom as an example — 34:6-17
God takes, as one example in this context, the nation of Edom. After His judgment upon them, the nation will become a perpetual wilderness, compared to its former glory. And even today it is a land of nomads, desert, and wilderness. We must take note. God doesn’t tell us these things just to take up a few more pages in His book. He wants us to understand that He means what He says. Does this cause us to fear? It should; but it shouldn’t cause us to stop loving Him, because He has given us the chance to escape judgment through His Son Jesus, who paid the punishment for us.
A radically different destiny for God’s people — 35:1-10
What a contrast the wilderness of Edom is with the reward of the remnant! And once again, the prophecy here about the return of Israel to its Promised Land and its historical fulfillment should give us hope, because it also is a double prophecy. The remnant of Israel would live in a land of abundance, of health and healing, of water and strength, but it wasn’t meant just for the Jews. Jesus Himself, as He spoke of His Kingdom, quoted from parts of this chapter:
“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. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah.” Isaiah 35:5, 6, NAS95.
“the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.” Matthew 11:5, NAS95.
…which makes it apply to the church and (in a third fulfillment) to Heaven.
But my favorite part of this chapter is the “Highway of Holiness” passage (vv. 8-10). This “Highway of Holiness” (in its second fulfillment) is the road that Christians walk. And the emphasis that I’d like to give it is to its holiness. It’s tempting to some to think that simply putting one’s feet on the highway (initial salvation, becoming a Christian) is enough, yet it is not. “The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it” (v. 8). Not all roads lead to Heaven, only this one does. Take it, stay on it, let it lead you to the everlasting Promised Land.
God has the last word — Isaiah 36-37
We’ve read this story twice before (2 Kings 18 and 2 Chronicles 32), so I’ll not repeat too much except to say that false religion really doesn’t understand God. It thinks it does; it speaks authoritatively, as if it does; and it makes great claims on the basis of its misunderstandings. The last word doesn’t belong to men on religion, however; it belongs to God alone. God had the last word regarding the Assyrian claims, and God will have the last word in the religious world today. You can read it right in your Bible.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.