Summary: Isaiah describes how the desert will bloom at the coming of divine retribution. A picturesque text with a wonderful message for us this Advent.
December 12, 2004 Isaiah 35:1-7
1 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.
Over the years certain Christmas movies have turned into absolute classics within our American Culture. “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “the Christmas Story” can be seen almost non-stop from now until Christmas, and I still love to watch them. There’s a more recent one that I’ve never really cared for however, called “the Grinch that Stole Christmas.” Dr. Seuss’ depiction of this Grinch always seemed to make me nervous. I was afraid that this ugly looking creature was going to hurt someone or get someone in trouble. Yet people seem to find great joy and laughter in his stories for some reason. I guess that’s what he was aiming for - as his name - Seuss - actually is a Hebrew word for “joy.”
That same word for “joy” - seuss - is used in today’s text, when Isaiah predicts that the desert will shout for “joy.” During this Advent season - in preparation for Christmas - we are going to study what exactly makes the desert glad. As we look at this portion of God’s Word we’ll find a much more appropriate Christmas story than that of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch. Hopefully, when we’re all done you’ll agree with me when I say that-
Isaiah’s Christmas Story is Happier than that of Dr. Seuss
Isaiah says, 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. God’s Word was not written in order to make us learn how to manage the desert and turn it into a paradise. It was written to reach to the heart and soul of man. As God’s Word says in John 20:31 These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. Therefore, it would seem obvious to us in reading this that it is not the deserts and the parched lands that God is so concerned with, but the people that inherit those lands. These are, indeed, symbolic words - referring to something other than sands and rocks. Isaiah gets to the heart of the matter in the later verses - Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts. When Isaiah describes deserts and deaf and blind and thirsty and weak kneed people- he is referring not to a PHYSICAL but to a SPIRITUAL condition.
When you look at the surrounding context of this message, you can see why Isaiah’s audience had much to be afraid of. Throughout chapters 28-33 Isaiah had been predicting the downfall of Israel because of their behavior.
• Isaiah 28:3- the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards will be trampled underfoot.
• Isaiah 28:7-10 Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions. All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth. “Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there.”
• Isaiah 30:9-11 - These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction. They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!"