Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.The Mirage and the Pool
'The mirage shall become a pool.' The illusory shall become the substantial. The life of disappointments shall become a life of satisfaction.
I. What some men have experienced in the sandy desert others have suffered in the common life. Humanity is mocked by a mirage more inviting and enticing than the semblance of the desert. There is the illusory in life, the mirage which allures with its promise of satisfying pools, and then mocks us with its leagues of desolating sand.
Disappointments abound: is it possible for us to attain to satisfaction? Is it possible to get away from semblance to realities? Can life become satisfying, and not a cruel procession of bitter chagrins? A disappointing life means an undiscovered God! The world presents the mirage: God offers the pool. 'The mirage shall become a pool.' The life of disappointments shall become the life of satisfaction.
II. It is a heartening thing for the preacher to be able to say to himself and to his hearers that these pools of God have been found. Some of the pools have been named, and their very names are full of soft and cool refreshment. Here is one of the pools of the Lord, around which the pilgrims are gathered. What is its name? The 'wells of salvation '!
But here is another band of pilgrims gathered round about another of the waters of the Lord. What do they call it? 'The river of God's pleasures.' And the real import is even sweeter than the phrase conveys, for its inner meaning bears this suggestion, 'God's delicacies'. The pilgrims appear to lack the multitudinous and riotous revelries of life; but they have its finest distillations of joy. It is not always the man who owns the countryside who owns the landscape. He owns the estate; his almost penniless cottager, with the refined and purified spirit, owns the glory of the landscape. Which of them drinks of the river of 'God's delicacies'?
Here is yet another band of desert pilgrims gathered round about the refreshing waters of the Lord. They call it 'the river of peace'.
III. What is the testimony of the pilgrims who have been to the Lord's pools? Here is a strain from the pilgrim's song: 'My soul is satisfied as with marrow'. Here is another pilgrim witness: 'He satisfieth the longing soul'.
—J. H. Jowett, Apostolic Optimism, p. 144.
Reference.—XXXV. 7, 8.—J. Wordsworth, The One Religion, Bampton Lectures, 1881, p. 181.
The Highway of Holiness
Consider some of the characteristics of the life of holiness to which the Prophet here calls our attention, and the conditions which are attached to the right of way.
I. 'The unclean shall not pass over it.' Until we are washed and cleansed from our 'old sins' we are not in a position to pass over the King's highway of holiness. We must pass through the gate before we can pass along the way, and that gate is the Cross, where the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses from all sin.
II. The highway of holiness is the path of 'fellowship with the Divine'. When Christ was here on earth He ever moved along this way, and He is still to be found there by those who pass it. We may put it thus: Fellowship with Christ is the privilege of those who are wholly consecrated to the Lord, whose supreme desire is to be holy as He is holy; and just in so far as this privilege is actually realized, the soul is more and more completely sanctified by contact with the Divine.
III. 'It is the way of right direction.' How often in life it seems as if we scarcely know which way to turn; we want to do the right thing, but we hardly know which is the right thing to do. But here is the promise if we are on the King's highway of holiness, 'Though we are fools we shall not err'. The reason why we make such great mistakes as we sometimes do is surely that we get off the King's highway of holiness. We allow ourselves to aim at some other object, and to be guided by some lower desire.
IV. It is the only way of right direction to those who are 'wayfaring men'. 'The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.' Do we not sometimes err because we have so little of the wayfaring man about us? We are called to use the world as not abusing it; surely it is the abuse of the world when we allow it to take the place of heaven.
There is a quaint old Latin proverb which tells us 'The penniless travellers shall sing before the robbers'. No wonder; for what can the robbers take from them? And many a Christian might sing defiance of all enemies—even of the great robber himself—if only we made over our all to its proper Owner, and regarded it as a sacred trust to be used for Him.
V. It is also 'the way of safety'. 'No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon. It shall not be found there.' If you ask for an explanation of this mysterious safety, I point you to the words which follow. It is the way of the redeemed. 'The redeemed shall walk there.' Why has Satan no power to do us harm? Because we have been redeemed out of his power. Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity And now that He has redeemed us, we are in a position to claim exemption and immunity, not from Satan's attacks, but from his tyrannous power over us.
VI. It is 'a way of joy'. There is no real happiness out of the highway of holiness. Who are the happy Christians? They who follow the Lord fully. Who are the miserable Christians? Those who aim at compromise, who lead a halfhearted life; for the lion can tear and wound them, if not utterly destroy them, as they stray from time to time from the highway of holiness; nor can they enjoy fellowship, for they do not walk in the light; nor can they be sure of right direction, for 'he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth'.
VII. 'It is the way that leads home.' We are on the King's highway, and every step brings us a little nearer to that home where our own Father lives, and where we shall receive such a welcome as only a Father can give.
—W. Hay M. H. Aitken, The Highway of Holiness, p. 1.
References.—XXXV. 8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1912. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 63. J. E. Cumming, The Blessed Life, p. 34. XXXV. 9, 10.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 229. XXXV. 10.—J. Parker, Studies in Texts, vol. i. p. 191. XXXVI. 5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 646. XXXVII. 14.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah, p. 242. XXXVII. 14-21; 33-38.—Ibid. p. 235. XXXVII. 23.—Newman Smyth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 168. XXXVII. 31.—J. H. Newman, Sermons Bearing on Subjects of the Day, p. 203. XXXVII. 36.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii. p. 301. XXXVIII. 1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. liii. No. 3021. H. Grey Graham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p. 136. J. W. Colenso, Village Sermons, p. 1. H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 311. J. Hamilton Thom, Laws of Life (2nd Series), p. 16. J. Fraser, The Relations of Religion and Science Considered and the Principles of Voluntaryism and Endowment Compared, p. 18. XXXVIII. 1, 2.—W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches (2nd Series), p. 30. XXXVIII. 1, 2-4.—W. D. Ross, The Sword Bathed in Heaven, p. 57. XXXVIII. 1-5.—E. M. Goulburn, Occasional Sermons, p. 403.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.
Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
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:
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.