First United Presbyterian Church

Isaiah 35:1-10

Isaiah 35:1-10

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert hall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it 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. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for Gods people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.No 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. 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 joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad …” Isaiah 35 begins in the King James Version. “And the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”

If it ended there, this would be a wonderful promise. For the arid wasteland to be filled with the opulent beauty of the rose is a prophesy beyond human expectations. But Isaiah goes on to talk about vengeance and retribution, jackals, and ravenous beasts. The whole thing gets out of hand.

The deserts where I grew up are beautiful, scented with sage and manzanita. Visitors don’t have to be fearful of jackals or lions. The first people to read Isaiah experienced a different kind of desert. Even if they found it beautiful, it wasn’t a place they could visit and enjoy before returning to homes with running water. When they ventured out, they needed to watch for ravenous beasts. Their relationships with their neighbors might have moved them to desire vengeance.

We live in a different time. But we can still feel fear and anger. We may be frightened of violence, hard times, or a challenging diagnosis. We could feel helpless in the face of climate change, injustice, or someone bullying our child. We might meet difficult people at work, hard choices in relationships, or disappointment in ourselves. We may struggle with limitations that make us feel blind, deaf, or lame, figuratively if not literally.

Whatever the nature of the jackals or lions we fear, we can take comfort in the knowledge that in the end, “the ransomed of the Lord … will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Lord, during this Advent season, may we look forward to the everlasting joy your Son can bring us. 

Contributed by Rebecca Haden

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