Sermon on Isaiah 35:1-10
Text: The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 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.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 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.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. 7 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.
8 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. 9 No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, 10 and those the LORD has rescued will return. 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.
In an attempt to get settlers to move west, cities and railroads would, at times, exaggerate how good the land was. Local governments would clam that, if farmers would move into their area, they would be able to grow pumpkins as big as barns and that the corn would grow as tall as telegraph poles. An artist, by the name of Henry Worrall, painted a picture to combat the idea that there were droughts in Kansas. In this painting, he depicted farmers harvesting huge grapes, melons, corn, pumpkins, and parsnips. Each one of the plants that were being harvested was well-above normal size. There were some who took these images as the absolute truth and moved west. However, when they got there, they found that the land was not quite the Garden of Eden they had been promised. There were droughts. The farming was still difficult. The land they had hoped for was not what they found. This morning, we are going to talk about a land that is everything that has been promised. It is ours because Jesus Christ came into the world at Christmas. It is ours because Jesus continues to come to us. CHRIST COMES TO GIVE US A BEAUTIFUL NEW HOMELAND. It Is A Land Of Life. 2. It Is A Land Of Singing.
In the chapter preceding our text, God speaks of complete and total destruction. For example, it says in Isaiah 34:2, “The LORD is angry with all nations; his wrath is on all their armies. He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter.” There would be judgement coming on the world. However, in chapter 35, he announces coming deliverance for the people. To show them what he would do for them, God speaks of “the desert and the parched land . . . the wilderness.” This is a picture of complete desolation. There was no life here. For the people of Israel, this was a very appropriate picture. In the future, their land would be invaded by the Babylonians. Many of them would be taken into exile. To the naked eye, it would appear that the nation of Judah was completely lifeless.
However, there is more to this than just national disaster for Judah. It is a picture of the state of all people by nature. All people are completely lifeless. They are a spiritual desert and parched land. This is because we are all born in sin. There are still evidences of that sinful state in our daily lives. For example, how often don’t we see the love that God wants us to have for all people completely dried up. We see someone in need and we find ourselves thinking, ‘Better them than me.’ We could be more loving and caring to the people around us, but we find that the selfishness in us gets the upper hand. We find that we are willing to be nice to someone else, provided that they are nice to us, or we can benefit from being nice to them. By nature, there is no life in us, that is eternal life. We are, by nature, barren wastelands. We would never have had any life in us, at all.
There is an old Arabic proverb, which speaks of something being more deceitful than a mirage. We know what a mirage is. In the middle of the desert, there appears to be a great sheet of water just on the horizon. The traveler hurries to it, hoping to get some relief from their burning thirst. However, when they get to that place, they find out it isn’t there and now find themselves thirstier than they were before.
There are many spiritual mirages, as well. They claim that if you follow them, you will find life. On the one hand, there is the mirage that if you do enough good, you can counterbalance the bad things that you do. If you feel bad about what you have done to someone, you do something nice for them. You try to assuage your guilt by giving to charities. The fact is, no matter, how much good you do, you still have the original bad thing that you did. Another way to try to deal with your guilt is to completely ignore it. You pretend that it didn’t happen. You say what you do is your own business. However, you never completely get rid of that little voice that tells you what you did was wrong. Both of these are spiritual mirages. Not only don’t they satisfy your spiritual thirst, they make things worse.
Going on in our text, we see these deserts completely transformed. It says in verses 1&2, “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.” Lebanon was well-known for its fragrant cedars. Carmel was noted for its mighty oak trees. Sharon was celebrated for its flowers and rich pastureland. Later on, in verses 6&7, we read, “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.” What a complete difference! What made the difference is that now there was water. Because there was water, there was life.
This is a picture of what has happened because Jesus came into the world. He came to bring life to all. This was achieved by the way that he lived his life. Where our love for many is often bone dry, Jesus showed love to those he came into contact with. He helped them with their problems. He had compassion on those who were suffering. This was all done on our behalf. Then, so that we might have life, Jesus chose death. He suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins. He came to life on Easter morning and has given us life. Jesus says in John 14:4, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The way that we receive this life-giving water is through the faith that is created in our hearts.
Now we are truly alive. Now we have been completely transformed from dead deserts to fruit-bearing fertile ground. We have the opportunities to show our love and thankfulness to Jesus. We continue to receive this life giving water through the gospel. As we hear God’s Word and partake of the sacraments, we drink deeply of this water and remain alive. Where all of those other spiritual mirages leave us desperate and disappointed, this water that Jesus gives does not disappoint. It has given us life. It continues to give us life. Jesus leads us into this land of life.
Isaiah also speaks about a highway in our text. We are on a journey. The end of the journey is spoken of in verse 10, “They will enter Zion with singing.” The ultimate goal is Zion. Mount Zion was in Jerusalem. Again, think of the original readers. They were about a thousand miles away from Jerusalem. God gave them these words of comfort and encouragement to let them know that they would, one day, return to their homeland. Obviously, there would be great joy when they finally returned to their homeland.
This is also a wonderful picture for us as we travel life’s road on our way to Zion, that is, heaven. That is what we are longing for. We cannot wait to get to this land that Jesus has promised us. Every day we get closer and closer to our goal. How we long to enter Zion with singing.
However, do you always feel like singing? It is easy to sing praises to God when things are going well for us. But, what about those days when we hit a rough patch on that road? There is an illness or a financial setback or some other trouble. Often, it seems as though we go from one rough patch to another. It’s hard, at those times, to feel like singing praises. It’s easy for us to identify with the “feeble hands,” the hands that hang limply at our sides. We understand those “knees that give way.” We’re just too exhausted to take one step further. We have “fearful hearts.” There is so much uncertainty in front of us that we don’t know which way to go. How can we go forward singing?
The answer is that Jesus is right there beside us on the journey. He promises in Hebrews 13:4, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” He encourages us by telling us in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Furthermore, we have the assurance found in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Jesus comes to us again and again as we travel on, assuring us and comforting us and strengthening us for the journey that lies ahead of us. Jesus does this through his gospel that shows us in such unmistakable terms that he loves us with a love that goes far beyond our understanding. It is this gospel message that calls out, “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.’” (Verses 3&4) We travel on to our homeland, singing our praises to God, because he loved us so much that he sent his Son to be our Savior. We sing the praises of him who has prepared this eternal home for us.
The glories and joy of Zion, that is heaven, overtake and overwhelm those who enter the blessed city of God. The wearisome journey will become only a faint memory. The trouble and sadness believers experience in this life are incompatible with the joys that wait for all believers in the eternal city of God. Singing will take the place of sorrow. The joy will be everlasting.
This is the reason we celebrate this time of year. We wait expectantly to celebrate Jesus’ first coming as the world’s Savior. He has come and has given us life. We have life now as we follow him. We, also, know that we will have eternal life. We will receive this when Jesus comes again in all of his glory at the end of time. We will be led by him into this beautiful new homeland that he has prepared for us, where we will praise him for all eternity. We eagerly await this blessed event. Amen.
St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches ©2023 All rights reserved.