William Kelly Major Works Commentary
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.Isaiah Chapter 35
In singular and striking conjunction with this terrible picture of the vast solitude for man, consigned as it were only to ravenous beasts and birds of prey and reptiles, God thereon shows that the day which beholds this desolation for Edom inaugurates Israel's blessing. Nor is it only Israel rejoicing, but Jehovah will form a large and enlarging scene for His own glory, where erst was misery and barrenness. "The wilderness and the parched land shall be gladdened;* and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose (or, narcissus). 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 Jehovah, and the excellency of our God" (vv. 1, 2). It is not mere fertility, but the restitution of all things when the day is come on earth: every joy, fruitfulness, and beauty. How singularly blinding is the theological prejudice which the pious J. A. Alexander expresses, when he says (Comm. ii. 34) that without any change of its essential meaning, it may be applied to the restoration of the Jews from Babylon, to the vocation of the Gentiles, to the whole Christian dispensation, to the course of every individual believer, and to the blessedness of heaven. As it has been so applied, certainly it may; but the question is, what is its definite meaning? The chapter before gives the awful judgement that awaits the earth in one aspect of it; so does this the deliverance of creation, and especially of Israel that follows, "in that day."
*The ancient versions do not express the final, which the Authorised Version treats as a suffix, and renders "for them." Some refer this to the noxious animals before named others to the judgements threatened, as others again to the returning exiles Many moderns agree with the ancients.
And assuredly man's deeper wants are not forgotten. "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the tottering knees. Say to them [that are] of a fearful (hasty) heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God! vengeance will come, of God the recompense! He will come himself and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf be unstopped. Then shall the lame [man] leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the glowing sand (or, mirage) shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of jackals, where they lay, [shall be] grass with reeds and rushes. And a 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 these. They that go the way, even fools, shall not err [therein]. No lion shall be there, nor shall ravenous beast go up thereon nor be found there; but the redeemed shall walk [there]. And the ransomed of Jehovah 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" (vv. 3-10).
God will then and thus demonstrate that, whatever Satan had brought of sin and woe into this world, goodness and mercy are His own delight. Such is the time that is coming for the earth, though an awful storm ushers it in. While all evil came through sin, and there is not an atom of the lower creation that does not bear some trace of Adam's fall, there will surely come the day of the Lord, the last Adam. It seems plain however, that in the world to come judgement will leave its effectual mark. On the land of Edom the destruction will be unsparing, and that land will be left as a sear upon the face of the earth. It is not said that Edom will be the only one, for Rome also will be proved to he the vile corruptress, as in Paganism so in Christendom and in Antichristendom. But when the proud lie of the "eternal city" is punished for ever, then the poor and despised Jew comes forward, as it is said here. Divine vengeance on the enemies accompanies their salvation. Take all its fullness of meaning: it will be accomplished to the letter. God will prove that not a word of His mercy to Israel and their land can fall to the ground.
Indeed the mighty and blessed transformation which the Lord will then cause for the lower creation is but part of the still grander prospect which the reconciliation of all things opens (Colossians 1:20); when the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, even the universe, shall be headed up in the Christ, the Heir of all things (Ephesians 1:10) and the Head over all to His body the church. But here it was enough to give the earthly side of glory. It is the common point where, we may say, the bright visions of all the prophets meet. How astonishing that any Christian should fail to see what is so fully attested and so plain! It is painful that pious men in our land or any other should be behind Hengstenberg and the like, who own the change in the lower creation that is to accompany and characterise Messiah's reign. The geologic ages do not touch the question. In Romans 8:18-21 is apostolic dogma, which resists all such efforts of unbelief. And Christ's death, so far from being exhausted in reconciling all saints to God will assuredly reconcile all things in heaven and on earth, as Colossians 1:20 affirms. Prophecy, therefore, is in no collision but in perfect harmony with Christian doctrine. It is popular theology which opposes itself to God's word through inattention and prejudice and tradition. It is irrational to talk of a fulfilment gradually growing more complete in life, but perfected only when probation is over. Scripture reserves the mighty change for the appearing of the Lords when we are manifested with Him in glory. Then at once, but not till then, shall the creation be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.
It is equally erroneous to deny heaven for the risen saints "in that day," and to deny the change which God intends for Israel and the nations, and the earth itself and the creatures generally on it. If the fall be believed (and what more unblushing incredulity than to doubt it?), what joy to look onward to the glory of the Lord below as well as above! He is the Heir, as He was Creator, of all things; and were the least and lowest of His creatures excepted from the beneficent reach of His power, so far should He be defrauded of what is due to His name, and to His reconciliation which has no limit. Those only must be banished from the presence of His glory who persistently reject Him, yet even so they shall bitterly and for ever bemoan their rebellious folly. For "in virtue of the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of [beings] heavenly and earthly and infernal, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to God the Father's glory" (Php 2:10-11).
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.