Isaiah 35:9
No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) No lion shall be there . . .—We have to remember that the lion had not ceased to haunt the valley of the Jordan, as it had done in the days of Samson (Judges 14:5), and David (1Samuel 17:3-4; 2Samuel 23:20). The recent depopulation of the northern kingdom had probably laid the country more open to their attack (2Kings 17:25), and thus gave a special force to the prophet’s description. For “any ravenous beast,” read the most ravenous.

The redeemed . . . (10) . . . the ransomed.—The Hebrew words express simply the idea of release and freedom, without implying, as the English words do, a payment as its condition.

Isaiah

THE KING’S HIGHWAY

WHAT LIFE’S JOURNEY MAY BE

Isaiah 35:9 - Isaiah 35:10
.

We have here the closing words of Isaiah’s prophecy. It has been steadily rising, and now it has reached the summit. Men restored to all their powers, a supernatural communication of a new life, a pathway for our journey-these have been the visions of the preceding verses, and now the prophet sees the happy pilgrims flocking along the raised way, and hears some faint strains of their glad music, and he marks them, rank after rank, entering the city of their solemnities, and through the gates can behold them invested with joy and gladness, while sorrow and sighing, like some night-loving birds shrinking from the blaze of that better sun which lights the city, spread their black wings and flee away.

The noble rhythm of our English version rises here to a strain of pathetic music, the very cadence of which stirs thoughts that lie too deep for tears, and one shrinks from taking these lofty words of immortal hope-which life’s sorrows have interpreted, I trust, for many of us-as the text of a sermon. But I would fain try whether some of their gracious sweetness and power may not survive even our rude handling of them.

The prophet here is not only speaking of the literal return of his brethren from captivity. The place which this prophecy holds at the very close of the book, the noble loftiness of the language, the entire absence of any details or specific allusions which compel reference to the Captivity, would be sufficient of themselves to make us suspect that there was very much more here. The structure of prophecy is misunderstood unless it be recognised that all the history of Israel was itself a prediction, a great supernatural system of types and shadows, and that all the interventions of the divine hand are one in principle, and all foretell the great intervention of redeeming love, in the person of Jesus Christ. Nor need that be unlikely in the eyes of any who believe that Christ’s coming is the centre of the world’s history, and that there is in prophecy a supernatural element. We are not reading our own fancies into Scripture; we are not using, in allowable freedom, words which had another meaning altogether, to adorn our own theology, but we are apprehending the innermost meaning of prophecy, when we see in it Christ and His salvation {1 Peter 1:10}.

We have then here a picture of what Christ does for us weary journeyers on life’s road,

I. Who are the travellers?

‘Redeemed,’ ‘ransomed of the Lord.’ Israel had in its past history one great act, under the imagery of which all future deliverances were prophesied. The events of the Exodus were the great storehouse from which prophets drew the clothing of their brightest hopes; and that is a lesson for us of how to use the history of God’s past deliverances. They believed that each transitory act was a revelation of an unchanging purpose and an unexhausted power, and that it would be repeated over and over again. Experience supplied the material out of which Hope wove its fairest webs, but Faith drove the shuttle. Here the names which describe the pilgrims come from the old story. They are slaves, purchased or otherwise set free from captivity by a divine act. The epithets are transferred to the New Testament, and become the standing designation for those who have been delivered by Christ.

That designation, ‘ransomed of the Lord,’ opens out into the great evangelical thoughts which are the very life-blood of vital Christianity.

Emancipation from bondage is the first thing that we all need. ‘He that committeth sin is the slave of sin.’ An iron yoke presses on every neck.

The needed emancipation can only be obtained by a ransom price. The question of to whom the ransom is paid is not in the horizon of prophet or apostle or of Jesus Himself, in using this metaphor. What is strongly in their minds is that a great surrender must be greatly made by the Emancipator.

Jesus conceived of Himself as giving ‘His life a ransom for the many.’

The emancipation must be a divine act. It surpasses any created power.

There can be no happy pilgrims unless they are first set free.

II. The end of the journey.

‘They shall come to Zion.’ It is one great distinctive characteristic and blessedness of the Christian conception of the future that it takes away from it all the chilling sense of strangeness, arising from ignorance and lack of experience, and invests it with the attraction of being the mother-city of us all. So the pilgrims are not travelling a dreary road into the common darkness, but are like colonists who visit England for the first time, and are full of happy anticipations of ‘going home,’ though they have never seen its shores.

That conception of the future perfect state as a ‘city’ includes the ideas of happy social life, of a settled polity, of stability and security. The travellers who were often solitary on the march will all be together there. The nomads, who had to leave their camping-place each morning and let the fire that cheered them in the night die down into a little ring of grey ashes, will ‘go no more out,’ but yet make endless progress within the gates. The defenceless travellers, who were fain to make the best ‘laager’ they could, and keep vigilant watch for human and bestial enemies crouching beyond the ring of light from the camp-fires, are safe at last, and they that swallowed them up shall be far away.

Contrast the future outlook of the noblest minds in heathenism with the calm certainty which the gospel has put within the reach of the simplest! ‘Blessed are your eyes, for they see.’

III. The joy of the road.

The pilgrims do not plod wearily in silence, but, like the tribes going up to the feasts, burst out often, as they journey, into song. They are like Jehoshaphat’s soldiers, who marched to the fight with the singers in the van chanting ‘Give thanks unto the Lord, for His mercy endureth for ever.’ The Christian life should be a joyful life, ever echoing with the ‘high praises of God.’ However difficult the march, there is good reason for song, and it helps to overcome the difficulties. ‘A merry heart goes all the day, a sad heart tires in a mile.’ Why should the ransomed pilgrims sing? For present blessings, for deliverance from the burden of self and sin, for communion with God, for light shed on the meaning of life, and for the sure anticipation of future bliss.

‘Everlasting joy on their heads.’ Other joys are transitory. It is not only ‘we poets’ who ‘in our youth begin with gladness,’ whereof ‘cometh in the end despondency and madness’; but, in a measure, these are the outlines of the sequence in all godless lives. The world’s festal wreathes wilt and wither in the hot fumes of the banqueting house, and ‘the crown of pride shall be trodden under foot.’ But joy of Christ’s giving ‘shall remain,’ and even before we sit at the feast, we may have our brows wreathed with a garland ‘that fadeth not away.’

IV. The perfecting of joy at last.

‘They shall obtain joy and gladness’: but had they not had it on their heads as they marched? Yes; but at last they have it in perfect measure and manner. The flame that burned but dimly in the heavy air of earth flashes up into new brightness in the purer atmosphere of the city.

And one part of its perfecting is the removal of all its opposites. Sorrow ends when sin and the discipline that sin needs have ended. ‘The inhabitant shall not say: I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.’ Sighing ends when weariness, loss, physical pain, and all the other ills that flesh is heir to have ceased to vex and weigh upon the spirit. Life purges the dross of imperfection from character. Death purges the alloy of sorrow and sighing from joy, and leaves the perfected spirit possessor of the pure gold of perfect and eternal gladness.Isaiah 35:9. No lion shall be there, &c. — It shall not only be a plain, but a safe way. They that keep close to God in this way, keep out of the reach of Satan, the roaring lion: that wicked one toucheth them not; nor shall any of their other spiritual enemies be suffered to destroy, subdue, or bring them into bondage. They may proceed with a holy security and serenity of mind, and may be quiet from the fear of evil. This is the same promise with that of Isaiah 11:9 : They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.35:5-10 When Christ shall come to set up his kingdom in the world, then wonders, great wonders, shall be wrought on men's souls. By the word and Spirit of Christ, the spiritually blind were enlightened; and those deaf to the calls of God were made to hear them readily. Those unable to do any thing good, by Divine grace were made active therein. Those that knew not how to speak of God or to God, had their lips opened to show forth his praise. When the Holy Ghost came upon the Gentiles that heard the word, then were the fountains of life opened. Most of the earth is still a desert; neither means of grace, spiritual worshippers, nor fruits of holiness, are to be found in it. But the way of religion and godliness shall be laid open. The way of holiness is the way of God's commandment; it is the good old way. And the way to heaven is a plain way. Those knowing but little, and unlearned, shall be kept from missing the road. It shall be a safe way; nothing can do them any real hurt. Christ, the way to God, shall be clearly made known; and the way of a believer's duty shall be plainly marked out. Let us then go forward cheerfully, assured that the end of this way shall be everlasting joy, and rest for the soul. Those who by faith are made citizens of the gospel Zion, rejoice in Christ Jesus; and their sorrows and sighs are made to flee away by Divine consolations. Thus these prophecies conclude. Our joyful hopes and prospects of eternal life should swallow up all the sorrows and all the joys of this present time. But of what avail is it to admire the excellence of God's word, unless we can call its precious promises our own? Do we love God, not only as our Creator, but because he gave his only Son to die for us? And are we walking in the ways of holiness? Let us try ourselves by such plain questions, rather than spend time on things that may be curious and amusing, but are unprofitable.No lion shall be there - Lions abounded in all the countries adjacent to Palestine. They are, therefore, often referred to by the sacred writers, as objects of dread and alarm. The leading idea in the language of Isaiah in this whole passage, is that of a way constructed from Babylon to Judea, so straight and plain that the most simple of the people might find it and walk in it. But such a path would lie through desert sands. It would be in the region infested with lions and other wild beasts. The prophet, therefore, suggests that there should be no cause for such dread and alarm. The sense is, that in that kingdom to which he had made reference all would be safe. They who entered it should find security and defense as they traveled that road. And it is true. They who enter the path that leads to life, find there no cause of alarm. Their fears subside; their apprehensions of punishment on account of their sins die away; and they walk that path with security and confidence. There is nothing in that way to alarm them; and though there may be many foes - fitly represented by lions and wild beasts - lying about the way, yet no one is permitted to 'go up thereon.' This is a most beautiful image of the safety of the people of God, and of their freedom from all enemies that could annoy them.

But the redeemed shall walk there - The language here referred at first doubtless to those who would be rescued from the captivity at Babylon; but the main reference is to those who would be redeemed by the blood of the atonement, or who are properly called 'the redeemed of the Lord.' That Isaiah was acquainted with the doctrine of redemption is apparent from Isaiah 53:1-12. There is not here, indeed, any express mention made of the means by which they would be redeemed, but the language is so general that it may refer either to the deliverance from the captivity at Babylon, or the future more important deliverance of his people from the bondage of sin by the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. On the word rendered 'redeem,' see the note at Isaiah 43:1. The idea is, that the path here referred to is appropriately designed only for the redeemed of Lord. It is not for the profane, the polluted, the hypocrite. It is not for those who live for this world, or for those who love pleasure more than they love God. The church should not be entered except by those who have evidence that they are redeemed. None should make a profession of religion who have no evidence that they belong to 'the redeemed,' and who are not disposed to walk in the way of holiness. But, for all such it is a highway on which they are to travel. It is made by levelling hills and elevating valleys; it is made across the sandy desert and through the wilderness of this world; it is made through a world infested with the enemies of God and his people. It is made straight and plain, so that none need err; it is defended from enemies, so that all may be safe; it is rendered secure, because 'He,' their Leader and Redeemer, shall go with and guard that way.

9. No lion—such as might be feared on the way through the wilderness which abounded in wild beasts, back to Judea. Every danger shall be warded off the returning people (Isa 11:6-9; Eze 34:25; Ho 2:18). Compare spiritually, Pr 3:17. It shall not only be a plain, but a safe way, free from all annoyance or danger from mischievous creatures. This is the same promise, for substance, with that Isaiah 11:9,

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain. No lion shall be there,.... That is, in the way before described; no wicked persons, comparable to lions for their savage and cruel dispositions towards the people of God; for those who have been as such, as Saul before conversion, yet when brought into this way become as tame as lambs. The Targum interprets it of tyrannical kings and princes,

"there shall not be there a king doing evil, nor an oppressive governor;''

and Jarchi applies it to Nebuchadnezzar, as in Jeremiah 4:7 and the sense may be, that when this way shall be more known on earth, in the latter day, there will be no persecutor of the church and people of God: or else Satan, the roaring lion, is here meant, who has no part nor lot in this way of salvation; and all that are in it are out of his reach; and though he may disturb in the paths of duty and ordinances, yet he can never destroy those who are in Christ the way:

nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon; upon the high way; the same may be intended as before:

it shall not be found there; walking, ravaging, and destroying:

but the redeemed shall walk there; without fear, as Kimchi adds, since no lion, or any beast of prey, shall be found upon it: the "redeemed" are the redeemed of the Lord, and by him, and are peculiarly his, being bought with his precious blood, redeemed from among men, and unto God, and from sin, the law, its curse, and condemnation; these "shall walk" in the way of life and salvation by Christ, in consequence of their being redeemed; which supposes life, strength, and wisdom, which are given them, and a proficiency or going forward: they "shall" walk here; though they have been blind, their eyes shall be opened to see this way; and, though weak, they shall have strength to walk in it; and, though foolish, they shall have wisdom to guide their feet with discretion; and, though they may stumble and fall, they shall rise again, and shall keep on walking to the end.

No lion shall be there, nor any {k} ravenous beast shall go up on it, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:

(k) As he threatens the wicked with destruction by this, Isa 30:6.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. the redeemed] cf. ch. Isaiah 51:10, Isaiah 62:12, Isaiah 63:4.Verse 9. - No lion shall be there. No great tyrannical power, like Assyria (Nahum 2:11, 12) or Babylon, shall arrest the energies of the Church, take it captive, or enslave it. No ravenous beast shall make it his prey. In proportion as the Church is holy (ver. 8) it shall be free from the molestation of bloody persecutors (see Isaiah 11:9). The redeemed - those whom God has purchased for his own (Exodus 6:6; Hosea 13:14) - shall be free to walk there, untroubled by cruel enemies. There is an under-current of comparison between the blessedness of the last times and the existing troubles of Israel, still threatened by Sennacherib. The prophet now exclaims to the afflicted church, in language of unmixed consolation, that Jehovah is coming. "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and make the trembling knees strong! Say to those of a terrified heart, Be strong! Fear ye not! Behold, your God will come for vengeance, for a divine retribution: He will come, and bring you salvation." Those who have become weak in faith, hopeless and despairing, are to cheer up; and the stronger are to tell such of their brethren as are perplexed and timid, to be comforted now: for Jehovah is coming nâqâm (i.e., as vengeance), and gemūl 'Elōhı̄m (i.e., as retribution, such as God the highly exalted and Almighty Judge inflicts; the expression is similar to that in Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 13:9, cf., Isaiah 40:10, but a bolder one; the words in apposition stand as abbreviations of final clauses). The infliction of punishment is the immediate object of His coming, but the ultimate object is the salvation of His people (וישעכם a contracted future form, which is generally confined to the aorist).
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