Isaiah 35 – The Highway of Holiness
A. The restoration of the land and of the people.
1. (1-2) The land is restored.
The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,
Even with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
The excellence of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
The excellency of our God.
a. The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose: After the judgment on the nations described in Isaiah 34, God will bring a beautiful restoration.
b. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice: This promise was proved true in many ways, and in some sense will yet be fulfilled.
This promise was true in the immediate term when Judah was restored after the invasion of the Assyrians was turned back.
This promise is true in the longer term as modern-day Israel has turned the wilderness and the wasteland into productive farms, and truly has made the desert…blossom as the rose.
This promise will be true in the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy when God restores the ecology of the world after the end of the great tribulation and the battle of Armageddon (Isaiah 11:6-9).
i. Romans 8:19-22 says: The earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Nature is waiting for the transformation that will come when the Messiah reigns and believers are glorified.
2. (3-4) Weak people are strengthened.
Strengthen the weak hands,
And make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are fearful-hearted,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance,
With the recompense of God;
He will come and save you.”
a. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees: The coming judgment would be enough to make the hands of anyone weak, and knees of anyone feeble. But in light of the glorious restoration God will bring from that time, it would be no time to have weak hands or feeble knees. God wanted His people to get strong and get going.
i. We use our hands to work with; those with weak hands are not working for the LORD as they should. We use our knees both to progress with and to pray with. Those with feeble knees are not progressing with the LORD and praying as they should.
ii. Hebrews 12:12 quotes this verse from Isaiah to make the point that even in a time of chastening from the LORD, we should take strength and courage in the LORD, knowing that it is His Fatherly love and care that has allowed and directed the chastening. It’s time to get strong in the LORD and move on.
iii. But the passage both here in Isaiah and Hebrews 12 indicates that there are some among God’s people who indeed have weak hands and feeble knees. What is the cause of it? If we are not making progress in our walk with Jesus, fault can surely be found with weak hands and feeble knees.
b. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear…. He will come and save you”: In our present trials, we need the strong hope of the LORD to overcome our fearful hearts. Our fearful hearts are not helped by a vain, vague optimism; they are helped by the assured confidence that He will come and save.
3. (5-6a) The sick and the diseased are healed.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb sing.
a. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened: When God’s salvation comes, miraculous power comes with it. It is a miracle for the blind to see, for the deaf to hear, for the lame to run, and for the mute to speak. But when He will come and save you, He does it with miraculous power.
b. Shall be opened: When John the Baptist was in prison, he became discouraged, and began to wonder if Jesus really was the Messiah he had proclaimed Him to be. When John’s disciples brought this question to Jesus, He replied: Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see 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. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me. (Matthew 11:4-6). If Jesus didn’t use the exact words of Isaiah 35, He certainly used the idea. Jesus, the Messiah, had come to bring God’s salvation, and that would be accompanied by miraculous power.
4. (6b-7) Abundance replaces lack.
For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,
And streams in the desert.
The parched ground shall become a pool,
And the thirsty land springs of water;
In the habitation of jackals, where each lay,
There shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
a. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert: When God’s salvation comes, miraculous provision comes with it. What was dry and useless before becomes well-watered and fruitful.
b. Streams in the desert: Jesus said He would bring this kind of beautiful provision in the lives of His people: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive (John 7:38-39). There is no reason for a Christian to endure a “dry time,” not when the miraculous power of Jesus Christ to provide is present.
i. The parched ground shall become a pool: “The word translated parched ground actually means mirage, air reflection, an atmospheric phenomenon frequently seen in Eastern deserts which is caused by the reflection of the hot rays of the sun…. Now the prophet brings the glad tiding that what used to be a mere semblance and an illusion will one day become a glorious reality.” (Bultema)
B. The Highway of Holiness.
1. (8) A Highway of Holiness is made for God’s people.
A highway shall be there, and a road,
And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean shall not pass over it,
But it shall be for others.
Whoever walks the road, although a fool,
Shall not go astray.
a. A Highway of Holiness: Today, we take good roads for granted. But in the ancient world, a good road – a highway – was an amazing blessing for travel, progress, and business. Isaiah announces that in the ministry of the Messiah, there will be a wonderful highway, a road, known as the Highway of Holiness.
i. The Hebrew word for highway indicates what our English word literally says: “a high-way.” It speaks of a raised road, lifted above the ground. It is a high, glorious road to travel on.
ii. The construction of this Highway of Holiness was the greatest engineering feat ever accomplished. “Engineering has done much to tunnel mountains, and bridge abysses; but the greatest triumph of engineering is that which made a way from sin to holiness, from death to life, from condemnation to perfection. Who could make a road over the mountains of our iniquities but Almighty God? None but the Lord of love would have wished it; none but the God of wisdom could have devised it; none but the God of power could have carried it out.” (Spurgeon)
b. The unclean shall not pass over it: This highway isn’t for everyone. It has a “toll booth,” but you can’t make it on this highway by paying your way. You are only allowed on this highway if you are cleansed by the great work of the Messiah.
c. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray: When we stick on God’s Highway of Holiness, even though His work in us isn’t complete yet – we may still be in some ways a fool – yet we are safe because we are on His highway! There are guardrails on the dangerous curves, and He keeps us from falling off as He develops the wisdom and maturity in us that will also keep us on the highway.
2. (9) The safety of the Highway of Holiness.
No lion shall be there,
Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it;
It shall not be found there.
But the redeemed shall walk there.
a. No lion shall be there: As we stay on God’s Highway of Holiness, we are protected from the attacks of the lion. Though your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), that lion has never yet devoured anyone who stayed on the road. The promise is sure, no lion shall be there! It shall not be found there.
3. (10) The travelers on the Highway of Holiness.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
a. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing: We use this Highway of Holiness to come to where God lives and reigns – Zion – and we come there with singing. God can put a song in our hearts as we travel on His Highway of Holiness.
i. The ransomed of the LORD: The word ransomed is related to the word goel and refers to the one who has been rescued by the goel – the kinsman-redeemer.
b. With everlasting joy on their heads…. And sorrow and sighing shall flee away: We can know some of this now, but we aren’t at our destination on the Highway of Holiness yet. But when we arrive there, God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
i. Using the pictures of this chapter, it is as if we come to God barren, dry, blind, deaf, weak, and crippled. Then the miraculous power of Jesus comes to change us, heal us, and provide for us. That isn’t the end of God’s work though; He then goes on to make a Highway of Holiness that the transformed man can walk on. The highway would be helpful to one who was barren, dry, blind, deaf, weak, and crippled; but when the highway is provided for the one who is healed and provided for as we are in Jesus, the blessing is even more amazing.
Are you on that Highway?
Are you making progress on it?
Are you enjoying the travel?
Are you inviting others to join you?
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org