Isaiah 35:5
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
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(5, 6) Then the eyes of the blind shall . . .—The words are obviously to be interpreted, like those that precede them, and Isaiah 29:18, of spiritual infirmities. If they seem to find a literal fulfilment in the miracles of the Christ, it is, as it were, ex abundante, and as a pledge and earnest of something beyond themselves.



Isaiah 35:5 - Isaiah 35:6

‘Then’-when? The previous verse answers, ‘Behold, your God will come, He will come and save you.’ And what or when is that ‘coming’? A glance at the place which this grand hymn occupies in the series of Isaiah’s prophecies answers that question. It stands at the close of the first part of these, and is the limit of the prophet’s vision. He has been setting forth the Lord’s judgments upon all heathen, and His deliverance of Israel from its oppressors; and the ‘coming’ is His manifestation for that double purpose. Before its flashing brightness, barrenness is changed into verdure, diseases that lame men’s powers vanish, the dry and thirsty land gleams with the shining light of sudden streams. Across the wilderness stretches a broad path, raised high above the bewildering monotony of pathless sand, too plain to be missed, too lofty for wild beasts’ suppleness to spring upon it: along it troop with song and gladness the returning exiles, with hope in their hearts as they journey to Zion, where they find a joyful home undimmed by sorrow, and in which sighing and sorrow are heard and felt no more.

Now this is poetry, no doubt; the golden light of imagination suffuses it all, but it is poetry with a solid meaning in it. It is not a mere play of fancy exalting the ‘coming of the Lord’ by heaping together all images that suggest the vanishing of evil and the coming of good. If there is a basis of facts in it, what are they? What is the period of that emphatic ‘then’ at the beginning of our text? The return of the Jews from exile? Yes, certainly; but some greater event shines through the words. Some future restoration of that undying race to their own land? Yes, possibly, again we answer, but that does not exhaust the prophecy. The great coming of God to save in the gift of His Son? Yes, that in an eminent degree. The second coming of Christ? Yes, that too. All the events in which God has come for men’s deliverance are shadowed here; for in them all, the same principles are at work, and in all, similar effects have followed. But mainly the mission and work of Jesus Christ is pointed at here-whether in its first stage of Incarnation and Passion, or in its second stage of Coming in glory, ‘the second time without sin, unto salvation.’

And the bodily diseases here enumerated are symbols, just as Christ’s miracles were symbolical, just as every language has used the body as a parable of the soul, and has felt that there is such a harmony between them that the outward and visible does correspond to and shadow the inward and spiritual.

I think, then, that we may fairly take these four promises as bringing out very distinctly the main characteristics of the blessed effects of Christ’s work in the world. The great subject of these words is the power of Christ in restoring to men the spiritual capacities which are all but destroyed. We have here three classes of bodily infirmities represented as cured at the date of that blessed ‘Then.’ Blindness and deafness are defects in perception, and stand for incapacities affecting the powers of knowledge. Lameness affects powers of motion, and stands for incapacity of activity. Dumbness prevents speech, and stands for incapacity of utterance.

I. Christ as the restorer of the powers of knowing.

Bodily diseases are taken to symbolise spiritual infirmities.

Mark the peculiarities of Scripture anthropology as brought out in this view of humanity:-

Its gloomy views of man’s actual condition.

Its emphatic declaration that that condition is abnormal.

Its confidence of effecting a cure.

Its transcendentally glorious conception of what man may become.

Men are blind and deaf; that is to say, their powers of perception are destroyed by reason of disease. What a picture! The great spiritual realities are all unseen, as Elisha’s young servant was blind to the fiery chariots that girdled the prophet. Men are blind to the starry truths that shine as silver in the firmament. They are deaf to the Voice which is gone out to the ends of the earth, and yet they have eyes and ears, conscience, intuitions. They possess organs, but these are powerless.

And while the blindness is primarily in regard to spiritual and religious truths, it is not confined to these, but wherever spiritual blindness has fallen, the whole of a man’s knowledge will suffer. There will be blindness to the highest philosophy, to the true basis and motive of morals, to true psychology, to the noblest poetry. All will be of the earth, earthy. You cannot strike religion out of men’s thoughts, as you might take a stone out of a wall and leave the wall standing; you take out foundation and mortar, and make a ruinous heap.

I know, of course, that there may be much mental activity without any perception of spiritual realities, but all knowledge which is not purely mathematical or physical suffers by the absence of such perception. All this blindness is caused by sin.

Christ is the giver of spiritual sight. He restores the faculty by taking away the hindrance to its exercise. Further, He gives sight because He gives light.

But turn to facts of experience, and consider the mental apathy of heathenism as contrasted with the energy of mind within the limits of Christendom. Greece, of course, is a brilliant exception, but even there {1} what of the conceptions of God? {2} what of the effect of the wise on the mass of the nation? Think of the languid intellectual life of the East. Think of the energy of thought which has been working within the limits of Christianity. Think of Christian theology compared with the mythologies of idolatry. And the contrast holds not only in the religious field but all over the field of thought.

There is no such sure way of diffusing a culture which will refine and strengthen all the powers of mind as to diffuse the knowledge of Jesus, and to make men love Him. In His light they will see light.

To know Him and to keep company with Him is ‘a liberal education,’ as is seen in many a lowly life, all uninfluenced by what is called learning, but enriched with the finest flowers of ‘culture,’ and having gathered them all in Christ’s garden.

Christ is the true light; in Him do we see. Without Him, what is all other knowledge? He is central to all, like genial heat about the roots of a plant. There is other knowledge than that of sense; and for the highest of all our knowledge we depend on Him who is the Word. In that region we can neither observe nor experiment. In that region facts must be brought by some other means than we can command, and we can but draw more or less accurate deductions from them. Logic without revelation is like a spinning-machine without any cotton, busy drawing out nothing. Here we have to listen. ‘The entrance of Thy words giveth light.’ Your God shall come and save you; then, by that divine coming and saving, ‘the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.’

II. Christ as the Restorer of the Powers of Action.

Again turn to heathenism, see the apathetic indolence, the unprogressive torpor, ‘Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.’ Sin lames for service of God; it leaves the lower nature free to act, and that freedom paralyses all noble activity.

Christianity brings the Energising of the Soul-

{a} By its reference of everything to God-our powers and our circumstances and our activities.

{b} By its prominence given to Retribution. It speaks not merely of vita brevis-but of vita brevis and an Eternity which grows out of it.

{c} By its great motive for work-love.

{d} By the freedom It brings from the weight that paralysed.

It takes away sin. Lifting that dreary load from our backs, it makes us joyful, strong, and agile.

The true view of Christianity is not, as some of its friends, and some of its foes, mistakenly concur in supposing, that it weakens interest in, and energy on, the Present, but that it heightens the power of action. A life plunged in that jar of oxygen will glow with redoubled brilliance.

III. Christ as the Restorer of Powers of Utterance.

The silence that broods over the world. It is dumb for all holy, thankful words; with no voice to sing, no utterance of joyful praise.

Think of the effect of Christianity on human speech, giving it new themes, refining words and crowding them with new meanings. Translate the Bible into any language, and that language is elevated and enriched.

Think of the effect on human praise. That great treasure of Christian poetry.

Think of the effect on human gladness. Christ fills the heart with such reasons for praise, and makes life one song of joy.

Thus Christ is the Healer.

To men seeking for knowledge, He offers a higher gift-healing. And as for true knowledge and culture, in Christ, and in Christ alone, will you find it.

Let your culture be rooted in Him. Let your Religion influence all your nature.

The effects of Christianity are its best evidence. What else does the like of that which it does? Let Jannes and Jambres ‘do the same with their enchantments.’ We may answer the question, ‘Art Thou He that should come?’ as Christ did, ‘The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear.’

The perfect Restoration will be in heaven. Then, indeed, when our souls are freed from mortal grossness, and the thin veils of sense are rent and we behold Him as He is, then when they rest not day nor night, but with ever renewed strength run to His commandments, then when He has put into their lips a new song-’then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf be unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.’Isaiah 35:5-7. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened — The poor Gentiles, who before were blind and deaf, shall now have the eyes and ears of their minds opened to see God’s works, and to hear and receive his word. And, in token hereof, many persons who are literally and corporally blind and deaf, shall have sight and hearing miraculously conferred upon them; all which things being so fully accomplished in Christ, and, as has been just observed, applied by him to himself, it is plain that this prophecy belongs primarily to the times of the gospel. Then shall the lame leap as a hart — For joy, or shall proceed readily and nimbly in the way of duty. And the tongue of the dumb shall sing — The praises of his Redeemer and Saviour. For in the wilderness shall waters break out — The most dry and barren places shall be made moist and fruitful: which is principally meant of the plentiful effusion of God’s grace upon such persons and nations as had been wholly destitute of it. In the habitation of dragons shall be grass, &c. — Those dry and parched deserts, in which dragons have their abode, shall yield abundance of grass, and reeds, and rushes, which grow only in moist ground. Thus it was when Christian churches were planted and flourished in the cities of the Gentiles, which for many ages had been habitations of dragons, or rather of devils, Revelation 18:2. When the property of the idols’ temples was altered, and they were converted to the service of Christianity, then the habitations of dragons became fruitful fields.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.Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened - The images in this verse and the following are those of joy and exultation. They describe the times of happiness when God would come to save them from their foes. This passage is so accurate a description of what the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, did, that it doubtless refers to the miracles which he would perform. In not a few instances did he in fact restore the blind to sight, giving thus the most unequivocal proof that he was the Messiah sent from God Matthew 9:27; Matthew 20:30; Mark 8:23; Mark 10:46; Luke 7:21. It is a full confirmation of the opinion that this passage refers to Christ, that the Saviour himself appeals to the fact that he restored the blind to sight, as demonstration that he was the Messiah, implying that it was predicted that this would be a part of his appropriate work (Matthew 11:5; compare Luke 4:18).

And the ears of the deaf be unstopped - Another demonstration of divine power, and another proof that would be furnished that the Messiah was from God The Lord Jesus often gave this demonstration that he was invested with divine power Matthew 11:5; Mark 7:32, Mark 7:37; Mark 9:25.

5, 6. Language figuratively, descriptive of the joy felt at the deliverance from Assyria and Babylon; literally, true of the antitypical times of Messiah and His miracles (see Margin references, Mt 11:5; Lu 7:2; 2Jo 5, 8; Ac 3:2). The most ignorant and stupid creatures shall be forced to acknowledge the wonderful works of God. Or rather thus, The poor Gentiles, who before were blind and deaf, shall now have the eyes and ears of their minds opened to see God’s works, and to hear and receive his word. And in token hereof, many persons who are corporally blind and deaf shall have sight miraculously conferred upon them; all which being so fully and literally accomplished in Christ, and applied by Christ to himself, it is a plain proof that this prophecy belongs to the times of the gospel. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,.... Which was literally fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, Matthew 9:27, John 9:1 and spiritually, both among Jews and Gentiles; especially the latter, under the ministry of the apostles, when those who were blind as to spiritual things had no knowledge of God in Christ; nor of the way of salvation by him; nor of the plague of their own hearts; nor of the work of the Spirit of God upon the soul; nor of the truths of the Gospel; through the power of divine grace had the eyes of their understanding opened, so as to see their sinfulness and vileness; their emptiness of all that is good, and their impotency to do anything that is spiritual; their want of righteousness; their need of Christ, and the fulness and suitableness of him as a Saviour; and to have some light into the truths of the Gospel, and a glimpse of heaven and eternal glory: and this will still have a greater accomplishment in the latter day, when the blind Jews are converted, and the fulness of the Gentiles brought in:

and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; which was literally true of some when Christ came in the flesh, Matthew 11:5 and spiritually of many who had not ears to hear in a spiritual sense; stopped what ears they had to the charming voice of the Gospel; and, though they might externally hear, did not understand it: yet these having ears given them to hear, and their ears and hearts opened by the Spirit of God, heard the Gospel spiritually, profitably, pleasantly, comfortably, and with wonder and astonishment; and a multitude of such instances there will be in the latter day glory. Jarchi interprets it of such who were blind as to the knowledge of the fear of God, and deaf to the voice of the prophets.

Then the eyes of the {f} blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

(f) When the knowledge of Christ is revealed.

Verses 5, 6. - Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened. In the literal sense, our Lord claims these prophecies to himself and his earthly career, when he says to the disciples of John the Baptist, "Go and show John those things which ye do hear and see, the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear" (Matthew 11:4, 5); but they have doubtless a further spiritual sense, in which they belong to the whole period of his mediatorial kingdom, and are correlative to former utterances of the prophet, in which the blinded eyes and deaf ears and stammering tongues of God's people had been spoken of and made the subject of complaint (see Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 29:10, etc.). Our Lord's miracles of bodily healing, performed during the three years of his earthly ministry, were types and foreshadowings of those far more precious miracles of spiritual healing, which the great Physician is ever performing on the sick and infirm of his Church, by opening the eyes of their understandings, and unstopping the deaf ears of their hearts, and loosening the strings of their tongues to hymn his praise, and stirring their paralyzed spiritual natures to active exertions in his service. Doubtless Isaiah, or the Spirit which guided him, intended to point to both these classes of miracles, and not to one of them only, as characteristic of the Messiah's kingdom. This transition from words of Jehovah concerning Himself to words relating to Him, may also be removed by adopting the following rendering: "For my mouth, it has commanded it, and its (my mouth's) breath, it has brought it together" (rūchō equals rūăch pı̄, Psalm 30:6; Job 15:30).

Isaiah 34:16Whenever any one compared the prophecy with the fulfilment, they would be found to coincide. "Search in the book of Jehovah, and read! Not one of the creatures fails, not one misses the other: for my mouth - it has commanded it; and His breath - it has brought them together. And He has cast the lot for them, and His hand has assigned it (this land) to them by measure: they will possess it for ever; to generation and generation they will dwell therein." The phrase על כּתב is used for entering in a book, inasmuch as what is written there is placed upon the page; and מעל דּרשׁ for searching in a book, inasmuch as a person leans over the book when searching in it, and gets the object of his search out of it. The prophet applied the title "The Book of Jehovah" to his collection of the prophecies with which Jehovah had inspired him, and which He had commanded him to write down. Whoever lived to see the time when the judgment should come upon Edom, would have only to look inquiringly into this holy scripture; and if he compared what was predicted there with what had been actually realized, he would find the most exact agreement between them. The creatures named, which loved to frequent the marshes and solitary places, and ruins, would all really make their homes in what had once been Edom. But the satyrs and the lı̄lı̄th, which were only the offspring of the popular belief - what of them? They, too, would be there; for in the sense intended by the prophet they were actual devils, which he merely calls by well-known popular names to produce a spectral impression. Edom would really become a rendezvous for all the animals mentioned, as well as for such unearthly spirits as those which he refers to here. The prophet, or rather Jehovah, whose temporary organ he was, still further confirms this by saying, "My mouth hath commanded it, and His breath has brought them (all these creatures) together." As the first creating word proceeded from the mouth of Jehovah, so also does the word of prophecy, which resembles such a word; and the breath of the mouth of Jehovah, i.e., His Spirit, is the power which accomplishes the fiat of prophecy, as it did that of creation, and moulds all creatures and their history according to the will and counsel of God (Psalm 33:6). In the second part of Isaiah 34:16 the prophet is speaking of Jehovah; whereas in the first Jehovah speaks through him - a variation which vanishes indeed if we read פּיו (Olshausen on Job 9:2), or, what would be better, פּיהוּ, but which may be sustained by a hundred cases of a similar kind. There is a shadow, as it were, of this change in the להם, which alternates with להן in connection with the animals named. The suffix of chilleqattâh (without mappik, as in 1 Samuel 1:6) refers to the land of Edom. Edom is, as it were, given up by a divine lot, and measured off with a divine measure, to be for ever the horrible abode of beasts and demons such as those described. A prelude of the fulfilment of this swept over the mountainous land of Edom immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem (see Khler on Malachi 1:2-5); and it has never risen to its previous state of cultivation again. It swarms with snakes, and the desolate mountain heights and barren table-lands are only inhabited by wild crows and eagles, and great flocks of birds. But the ultimate fulfilment, to which the appeal in Isaiah 34:16 refers, is still in the future, and will eventually fall upon the abodes of those who spiritually belong to that circle of hostility to Jehovah (Jesus) and His church, of which ancient Edom was merely the centre fixed by the prophet.

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