When the desert blooms

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We are now coming to the end of the first part of the book. Isaiah 35 is like the big song at the end of the first half.  There will be a kind of interlude, an interruption to tell some of the story of what is going on in Isaiah’s day through the next few chapters before the curtain raises on part 2. If judgement for Israel meant exile and distance for God’s people away from the place of God’s blessing, then there is a promised return. Exile will be like their time in Egypt and the return will be like a new Exodus.

This means that to get home, the people will; have to go through the desert experience again. What will life be like in the Wilderness? How will they keep faith in God? Oftyen it can seem that our way home to Christ and to heaven takes us through desert or wilderness like experiences. How do we keep faith and keep following?

Read Isaiah 35

The new Exodus out into the desert is portrayed as a reversal of the people’s fortunes. If God had brought death and desolation into their land, now they will take new life and fruitfulness with them out to the desert. The wilderness will bloom with flowers and blossom to welcome them, or more importantly to see and to welcome the Lord as he leads them out in all his glory and majesty (v1-2).

As God’s people wait patiently for this coming day when he will deliver them, they are not to wait idly and passively, rather they are to prepare for that time.  They are to take courage and to trust God’s promise of salvation (v3-4).

The new exodus will mean that judgement of Isaiah 6:9-12 will be reversed, blind eyes will be open, clogged ears unblocked. God will even heal the lame so they can walk again (v5-6a).  The transformation of the desert will mean an end to drought there with new springs, rivers and cooling pools of water to drink from and to irrigate dry ground (v6b-7),

One theme in Isaiah, picked up here is that a highway will be prepared.  The imagery will be picked up later of the way being prepared for the kings; pilgrimage and he leads his people home.  The levelling of mountains and raising of valleys that Isaiah describes later points to a God who will have all obstacles removed from his way.  He will not be opposed or defeated. Other dangers such as fierce animals like lions will also be removed (v8-9).

Finally, the people will arrive back at Zion and it will be like one of those great festivals when the people went up to Jerusalem singing the psalms of ascent.  They are described as a ransomed, or redeemed people. God has bought them back -which of course at this stage raises the question of what cost he has had to pay to do this.  The promise, when they arrive is of everlasting joy, of triumph, delight and happiness, a celebration and a party (v10).

The Now and Not Yet

This passage speaks to us as we live in what has sometimes been described as the now and not yet.  As we observed at the start of today’s meditation, there will be times when we experience what particularly feels like a desert experience. However, there is a sense in which eschatologically, we are currently in the desert place.  God has rescued us from sin and death but we are still travelling, still looking forward to that glorious day when we will arrive home.  However, this life as desert does not have to be all dry and barren. We bring the life of Christ with us wherever we go and so we should expect refreshment, joy, rest and fruitful service here and now.


Meditate on these words

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

  1. Drink them in. How do you feel as you read them?
  2. What are you most looking forward to about being at home with the Lord?

Oh Lord, our Lord, we thank you that we have this wonderful hope, that we look forward to the day when we will arrive home with joy and singing.  Thank you that through your Spirit, you are with us now bringing new life and fruitfulness. Help us to receive refreshment from you. Help us to follow wherever you lead.

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