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“You Will See His Glory”

Isaiah 35:1-10
Bob DeGray
March 3, 2013

Key Sentence

God’s creation and God’s redeemed rejoice together in his glory.

Outline

I. Creation blooms in the presence of the Lord’s glory (Isaiah 35:1-2)
II. The weak are strengthened in his presence (Isaiah 35:3-7)
III. They rejoice to walk the way of holiness. (Isaiah 35:8-10)


Message

When you’re in love, the world seems different. Early in the Song of Solomon the beloved says “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, 11for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. 12Flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. 13The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.”

The world is more beautiful through the eyes of love. In The Winds of War, the hero, Pug Henry, on assignment in London, finds himself infatuated with a British girl, Pam. It’s not a good choice, but the author captures these kinds of feelings perfectly: “He felt reborn. He smiled at people on the street and they smiled back. The young girls seemed lovely as movie stars, the older women full of grace. The men were all great good fellows, the slope-shouldered pale clerks with brief cases no less than the passing soldiers. The sunlight dappling the trees in Grovesner square was golden, the leaves were fresh green, and the sky was the blue of a WAAF uniform. All things were washed clean: a shiny automobile, a window-box of red carnations, . He noticed that the sidewalk gave off tiny sparkles in the late sunlight.”

Being in love seems to have a positive effect on sidewalks. Here’s Eponine from Les Mis “On my own, pretending he's beside me. All alone, I walk with him 'til morning. Without him, I feel his arms around me; And when I lose my way I close my eyes and he has found me. In the rain, the pavement shines like silver. All the lights are misty in the river. In the darkness the trees are full of starlight, and all I is see is him and me, forever and forever.”

The world is more beautiful when you’re in the throes of love. Do you agree? What I’d like to propose is that this experience is a foretaste of what we are supposed to experience with God. The world is literally more beautiful in the presence of the God who loves us. Creation will rejoice in that, as will the redeemed, and we can begin even now to rejoice in that beauty, that glory, that victory. Isaiah 35 teaches that God’s creation and God’s redeemed rejoice together in his glory.

I. Creation blooms in the presence of the Lord’s glory (Isaiah 35:1-2)

Isaiah 35 is a short chapter. Let’s begin with the first two verses. The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

Isaiah 34 describes a comprehensive judgment on Edom, a nation which serves as a stand in for all the nations and lands that oppose God’s people. This judgment returns the land to a wilderness, inhabited only by wild animals. The scope of this prophecy, and some of the details, lead many to conclude that the fulfillment will come during the end times, when the seals and bowls and trumpet judgments are poured out on the earth.

Isaiah 35 is rest of the story. Here the desert blooms, the wasteland flowers into a beauty that draws our hearts into praise of the beauty of the glory of God. ‘The desert will bloom.’ What could be a better picture of what God is doing in the world and in our hearts? The background visuals for today illustrate this; the desert, normally dry and brown receives the soothing rains of spring and bursts into bloom, specifically with crocuses. Some of you have lived in the north, and you may remember crocuses as the first sign of spring, often coming up right through the snow - or in the desert, right through the sand.

This is a symbol of life from death. Out of the wilderness of judgment will come the new life of redemption. This is beauty from ashes, a phrase Isaiah will later use of God’s comfort to those who mourn. It is a symbol of the beauty of creation, which will sing and rejoice in that day when God sets all wrong things right and reverses the curse by creating new heavens and new earth.

The image of creation singing is common in Isaiah. 44:23 says “Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.” Isaiah 55: “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Elsewhere in Scripture creation also rejoices. Jesus says that if the children don’t praise him, the stones themselves will start to sing. Paul says “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Creation itself longs for this blossoming and rejoicing, and we long for it too. I believe there is something deep in every heart that longs for creation to be restored and that even now rejoices in seeing the echoes of God’s glory in the world he has created. A few weeks ago I did a Google image search on mountain meadows, and I was astounded by the sheer number of photos of mountains from meadows. I’ve done thousands of image searches, but this stood out. I began to suspect that this image - of a meadow in bloom and a majestic mountain strikes a primal chord in the heart of fallen humanity. We somehow sense this is what we were made for.

This was confirmed when I noticed that no small number of these images were actually paintings; we not only can’t resisting photographing such spots, we can’t resist painting them. And we can’t resist living there. A few years ago in Colorado we ran into some friends and visited the spot where they were building their house. It was a lovely meadow with incredible sunsets over the San Juan Mountains. And Joe and Martha embodied the contentment of soul that seems to come from living in such a place. But its only an echo, a foretaste of the joy of living in the new heavens and the new earth.

II. The weak are strengthened in his presence (Isaiah 35:3-7)

God’s creation and God’s redeemed rejoice together in his glory. The rest of the chapter puts us into this picture. Verses 3-7: Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” 5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

Verses 3 and 4 describe those weighed down by the burdens of life; they may be physically weak in the hands and knees, or they may just feel this way because of their anxious hearts. Is this you today? Do you feel anxious of heart, weak toward your sin, helpless toward your situation, hopeless that anything can change for the better, weary from the struggle? You you’re your struggle: your sin, your need, your financial crisis, your relational anguish, your prodigal child, your illness, your weakness, anger, lust, fear.

Verse 4: Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” In his first coming, Jesus came to save you. He paid the price of your sin, purchased your forgiveness with his blood, shed on the cross, and made a way for all who are weary and heavy laden to come to him and find rest. If you are here today and have taken hold of new life in him through faith, through turning from self and sin to rescue and salvation, then you can be strong and fear not even in the greatest struggle.

But you will not be without struggle, and I believe this verse is principally pointed at a time yet to come, Jesus’ second coming, when he will reign in justice and all sin and oppression and hurt and harm will cease. God will come with vengeance, and all that has made this world a living picture of hell will be defeated and destroyed and vanquished. He will come and save you.

So be strong now; don’t fear now. Trust his promise. Verses 5 and 6 tell us that in that day everything broken in us will be healed: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” George Frederic Handel used this verse to describe the coming of the Messiah: “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened; and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.” He follows this with Isaiah 40:11 “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.” God will come in his glory, judge the oppressors and care for his people.

And like creation itself, we will sing, we will rejoice to see his glory and receive his blessing. Verses 6 and 7 describe this as water in the desert; we were parched and perishing, when suddenly the streams, the water of life burst forth. Now we have enough and more: the burning sands are a pool, a spring of water. One of the best depictions I’ve seen of this is in the second Sarah Plain and Tall movie, Skylark. There was a long, drought in Kansas. Sarah and the kids went to Maine, but Jacob stayed to try to save the farm. The rains never came; the whole crop was lost. But finally: (skylark, one minute)

This is the way it feels when God comes to save; the weak are made strong, the wrong is made right, and there is provision and life. This is the promise of Isaiah - not just in that far distant future, but spiritually, now. Our lives can be a place where God shows up like this, shows his glory by his provision, pours out water for our souls by his Holy Spirit, through His Word. The weak, the lame, the anxious, the fearful, the addicted, the tempted, the one desperately caught in sin can find rest for their souls, beauty, and provision through resting and settling their souls on God. God is still the God who gives water in the desert - you can receive that today, a taste, a glass, a downpour of his beauty and goodness.

III. They rejoice to walk the way of holiness. (Isaiah 35:8-10)

And when the redeemed receive see the beauty of his glory, they walk from beauty to beauty along a road he calls ‘holiness.’ Verses 8 to 10: And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. 9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10And 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.

In the New Heavens and the New Earth the way of holiness will be the way into the presence of God; there will no longer be any unclean thing or person, no lion or ravenous beast. And because this is a highway made not by human righteousness, but by the righteousness of God on our behalf, even those called fools can walk on it. There are several Old Testament words for fools; some imply greater personal evil, some more innocent ignorance. This is that kind of word; even those who are innocent and ignorant of the right way will not be able to stray from this path, because holiness is the way of the Lord and his gift to those who trust, those who are redeemed or ransomed.

In verse 9, translated ‘redeemed’ in the English Standard Version, the underlying Hebrew word is Goel, a kinsman-redeemer, one who pays a price to buy back someone from debt or slavery or to restore what they have lost. The key distinction of this word is the sense of kinship or relationship between the one rescued and the one doing the rescue. In verse 10 the word translated ‘ransomed’ is a similar word, Padah, but characteristically used to indicate a transfer of ownership through payment of a price. This is the word most often used to describe the rescue of God’s people from Egypt in the Exodus.

Put together, as they are here, the two words are very rich. Next week Murry will introduce us to the second half of Isaiah, chapters 40 to 66, where the idea of God as the kinsman who buys back his enslaved people will be prominent. The words are used only four times in the first forty two chapters of Isaiah, but thirteen times in the remaining twenty-four. Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” He’s our redeemer, we are his redeemed. Isaiah 44:22, a wonderful verse: “I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” And the people of Israel were called to hope or trust in this God who redeems: Psalm 130:7-8 “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

So it is the Lord our redeemer who rescues us and puts us on the way of Holiness. And it is in him that we receive full and complete joy. Verse 10 “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.” Don’t you love the image? God’s redeemed people - and that certainly includes us - walk up the way of holiness, into the presence of God as a festive throng, filled with joy and gladness; all sorrow, all sighing are left behind.

Maybe we’ll sing the song the people of Israel sang when they were redeemed from slavery in Egypt: Ashira l'adonai; ki gaoh ga-ah; Ashira l'adonai ki gaoh ga-ah; Mi chamocha baelim adonai; Mi kamocha nedar bakodesh; Nachita v'chas-d'cha am zu ga-alta; Nachita v'chas-d'cha am zu ga-alta; Ashira ashira ashira. I will sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously; who is like you in the heavens, O Lord? Who is like you, glorious in holiness? In your mercy you lead the children you have redeemed. I will sing, I will sing, I will sing.

The most significant word is ‘redeemed’ or ‘ransomed,’ because this is what the Lord does: the singing, the everlasting joy and the gladness are a result of what he has done; the expulsion from his presence of sorrow and sighing are a result of what he has done; it’s all about him, and the first and foremost foundation of your joy is God and God alone!

God’s creation and God’s redeemed rejoice together in his victory: the deserts bloom, waters break forth, pools appear, the wilderness rejoices. And God’s people rejoice before him in festive throng, walking in the way of holiness that he has created for them through Jesus.

And don’t forget that this is joy is not for some special breed of people who are inherently strong, joyful and holy; it’s for those with weak hands, and feeble knees and anxious hearts. It’s for the spiritually or physically blind and deaf, lame and mute. This rejoicing in God’s glory and God’s victory is for you and me. We are the redeemed, the rescued, and that makes all the difference.

I have often said that if I die before Jesus comes and if someone has to put something on a gravestone for me, I just want one word ‘redeemed.’ I’ve been bought back, I’ve been bought with a price. This is the most important fact of my life. And it is the source of my joy. My weak hands are strengthened, my feeble knees are made firm, my anxious heart rejoices because I get to be among those whom the Lord has redeemed by grace. I get to be among those who will go up before him in joyful song.

And that changes everything. I began the message by giving a few examples of how the world is seen differently by those in love. And it is. But this is more than that. Though the initial fulfillment of this prophecy may have been Israel’s return from Babylonian exile, the great fulfillment is yet to come, in the millennial kingdom and ultimately in New Heavens and a New Earth.

And in that day the world will not just seem different because we are in love with the king - the world will be different, it will be what it was always meant to be, what we have always longed for in every mountain meadow, in every blooming desert.

It will be different, and we will be different; fully and finally redeemed, heart, soul and body. Paul says in Romans that creation groans in the pains of childbirth as it waits for that day, and that we ourselves groan inwardly as we wait eagerly, even joyfully; rejoicing even now, for the redemption of our bodies.

And in that day we will be changed and creation will be changed and together we will rejoice in the redeemer and in perfect redemption, in the bridegroom and in the perfect joy of the bride, in overflowing provision, and in the perfect provider, in the death of death and in the one who defeated it, in the fleeing of sorrow and sighing and in the one who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, to redeem us. The one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. In that day all of creation and all of the redeemed will rejoice in the glory of God in the face of Christ.