Friday, September 30, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 94

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 94

Today's chapter is titled "The Joy Of The Redeemed". The people and the earth itself break into a hallelujah chorus here in Chapter 35. The King has come and is making all things new.

"The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God." (Isaiah 35:1-2) We have been studying the downfall of all that opposes God and the final battle known as Armageddon. Today's beautiful blossoming of the desert takes place after that, when the Lord reigns over the world and the earth is restored to Eden-like conditions. Even the very ground breaks into bloom at the arrival of the King. The creation rejoices at the approach of the Creator.

In Isaiah's day the northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria and the southern kingdom of Judah believed they would fall next. The coalition of nations with which King Hezekiah had so unwisely made an alliance was not able to help them, for Assyria was too powerful against these nations in battle. Meanwhile, the people of Israel were sitting captive in a foreign land, longing for home. It is into these conditions that Isaiah speaks words of comfort, "Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, 'Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you.'" (Isaiah 35:3-4) Their chastening will not last forever. Though the Israelites are captive in Assyria, God will bring Assyria down. And though a day is coming when He will discipline Judah with Babylon, Babylon's downfall is foretold as well. So it will be throughout the ages, with God avenging His people, right up to the final earthly battle. Just thinking about the judgment of the Day of the Lord is enough to make knees tremble and hands shake, but that judgment is for the ungodly. The people of God are to take heart in knowing a better day is ahead for them following man's last rebellion. The battle may look fierce but the Lord will be victorious and as He stands at last as King of kings and Lord of lords, all creation shouts praises. 

"Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like the deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy." (Isaiah 35:5-6a) Glory to the name of our God! Sickness and injuries and death will be no more! While He walked the earth, the Lord Jesus did many miracles in which He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute. He made the lame walk and brought the dead back to life. Momentous and awe-inspiring as that was, these things were just a little taste of what the kingdom will be like under Christ. They were simply the appetizer, intended to make us want more of Him, The main course is coming and it will satisfy us all the way down to our souls. 

"Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow." (Isaiah 35:6b-7) The wasteland will be an oasis. Every speck of dust on the planet will become useful to man. None of the ground will be too poor or too dry to grow anything. 

"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." (Isaiah 35:8) A major highway will evidently exist for people of the earth to come to Jerusalem and see the Lord on David's throne. According to Revelation 21:1, there will be no more oceans, so it will be possible for a wide highway to stretch all the way around the earth. But more importantly than the specifics of this highway, and whether or not it is intended to be literal or symbolic, the entire purpose of it is so the redeemed can behold the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) When Isaiah tells us the highway is only for those who "walk on that Way", he means it's only for those who have trusted in the Lord for salvation. The final rebellion is over by this time and there are no "unclean" or "wicked fools" to wander onto this highway. Nothing depraved or ungodly exists anymore. Since the word "fool" in the Bible indicates a person who is a reprobate, morally and spiritually bankrupt, Isaiah is telling us this type of spiritual attitude is gone from the world. Only those who trust in the Lord are in His kingdom and to them He has given the right to come into His presence.

There is nothing to fear in the kingdom of Christ. No wicked persons exist in it and the animal kingdom is at peace with man. "No lion will be there nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there." (Isaiah 35:9a) This is the day in which Isaiah's predictions of Chapter 11 come true, when the wolf will lie down with the lamb. The creatures will return to the diet of their Eden days. The lion will eat straw like the ox. The baby lamb can snooze safely with the wolf. There is nothing to fear in Christ's kingdom.

"But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return." (Isaiah 35:9b) Some versions of the Bible translate this verse as the ones the Lord has "ransomed" which comes from the Hebrew goel meaning "kinsman redeemer". The definition of a kinsman redeemer is "A male relative who, according to the various laws of the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. The Hebrew term goel designates one who delivers or rescues." The Lord Jesus Christ is our kinsman redeemer. We were in trouble because of our fallen condition. We were in danger because we were lost in sin. We were in need because we could not help ourselves. We needed a Deliverer, a Rescuer. And as if all He has done to redeem is was not already enough, He counts it a privilege! The Lord Jesus is proud to be called our Savior! Just as Boaz felt privileged to be Ruth's kinsman redeemer and to make her his, the Lord Jesus Christ is thrilled that those He has redeemed belong to Him forever.

"They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isaiah 35:10) The word "overtake" means something that catches up with us and moves on out in front, or something that affects us in an unexpected way. When we live forever in the Lord's kingdom, we will walk on the highway of the redeemed, entering Zion with singing. Gladness and joy will overwhelm us, catching up with us, and even flowing on ahead of us into the presence of the Lord. Sorrow and sighing will be gone forever. Never again will we stand at the bedside of the sick or weep beside a grave. No wonder we will be consumed by overwhelming joy! Even the dust of the ground will break forth in blooming gladness. The animal kingdom will be at peace and bask in the light of the Lord. In that day this verse will find its ultimate fulfillment, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!" (Psalm 150:6)

Our worship song today might seem like an odd choice, since it's generally used as a Christmas song, but "Joy To The World" was actually written about the kingdom of Christ on earth. It was written about His second advent, not His first. The author of that song was speaking of the very days we are studying in this morning's passage. Let's listen to the words and think of them in those terms.

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