Summary: A place for the redeemed to walk free.
A HAPPY HOMECOMING
Isaiah foresees a time ahead of time, when Israel would again be released from captivity, and would undertake another journey through the wilderness. Unlike when they left Egypt, on this occasion they would not be left wandering for forty years, but would make the journey home from Babylon in record time, by a route already prepared by the LORD (Isaiah 35:8). Seen through the prism of prophecy, this becomes a portal for a deeper meaning (cf. Matthew 7:13-14) - foreshadowing Messiah; anticipating the gathering of the nations; announcing restoration for all of Creation; and informing the spiritual journey of every Christian.
Romans 8:22 speaks of the groaning of Creation, and yet Isaiah sees the same Creation in celebration with the people of God. The wilderness is no longer a threatening place, a barrier to progress, but a garden of rejoicing (Isaiah 35:1). [Fast forwarding to the present, some modern irrigation schemes are virtually reclaiming the desert, causing it to blossom (Isaiah 35:2).]
The returning exiles would relish the sight of Lebanon’s snow-capped hills, and the luxuriant growth on the mountain ridges of the Mediterranean coast. Such happy homecoming views reminded them anew of “the glory of the LORD, the excellency of our God” (Isaiah 35:2). This is not the only time when Creation joins in the singing of God’s people (cf. Isaiah 55:12-13).
The expectation of the homecoming is an occasion for celebration, for renewing strength and taking courage (Isaiah 35:3). For those who are afflicted, who have waited, who have prayed and longed for deliverance: take heart, God will avenge, God will recompense, God will save you (Isaiah 35:4). The restoration of sight and hearing (Isaiah 35:5) is Messiah’s work (cf. Isaiah 42:18; Isaiah 43:8), and identifies Jesus as the Christ (Luke 7:22).
The lame leaping (Isaiah 35:6) also sees the continuing work of Jesus through the Apostles (Acts 3:6-8). As for the dumb singing – this is best illustrated by the plight of the man whose tongue was quite literally tied up in knots (Mark 7:32 uses the same rare word for ‘dumb’ as the Greek translation of Isaiah 35:6). Jesus touched Him, spoke words over him, and healed him (Mark 7:33-35).
All these physical healings anticipate a spiritual reality, also relating to Messiah’s reign (cf. Isaiah 32:3-4).
Waters breaking out in the wilderness (Isaiah 35:6-7) remind us of the water from the Rock of the earlier journey of Israel (Psalm 78:15-16). ‘That Rock was Christ,’ tells Paul (1 Corinthians 10:4). It also points forward to the abundance of the age of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 44:3-4; John 4:14; John 7:37-39).
The highway (Isaiah 35:8) points to Jesus (cf. Isaiah 40:3-4). It would also be true to say that the highway IS Jesus (John 14:6). His is the way of holiness (cf. Hebrews 12:14), the only way to God (Acts 4:12).
We have our attention drawn again to the peaceable kingdom, where ‘they shall no more hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain’ (Isaiah 11:9). No more ravenous beasts there, but a place for the redeemed to walk free (Isaiah 35:9). [‘The redeemed’ are ultimately Jesus’ people (1 Peter 1:18-19).]
Isaiah 35:10 speaks of Zion, but also of the new Jerusalem. It is to here that we journey, with songs and everlasting joy: to a place of joy and gladness. To a place where sorrow and sighing flee away forever (Revelation 21:4).