Isaiah 35:1
This is a picture of the happy and glorious condition of Israel after the return from Captivity. Nature is beheld rejoicing with man; and the whole scene is suffused with the light of a universal spiritual joy.

I. THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE NATURAL WORLD. The desert will rejoice "like the narcissus," the beautiful white flower found in abundance in spring-time in the Plain of Sharon. A ringing musical cry shall break out from those solitudes. The beauty of the most favored spots, of Carmel and Sharon, shall be diffused over the whole. In poetic pathos a feeling is lent to nature, which does not really exist in her. There is a deep truth, not of the reason, but of the heart, in this mood. Inanimate Nature is incapable either of joy or of sorrow, of exultation or depression. This our reason tells us. But we are all something more than cold rationalists in this matter. We take back from Nature impressions which we have first lent to her, and suppose we have borrowed them. This has been called the "pathetic fallacy," and there is a truth in the fallacy better than that of syllogistic reasoning. To the lover Nature looks love, and whispers of love; to the desponding temper her expression is a frown, her tones are inspirations of lament; she wears a nuptial robe for the happy bridegroom, and a pall for the mourner; silent and morose to the eyes of him who is cast down in the sense of Divine wrath, it breaks forth into jubilant song for the ears of him whose heart overflows with the sense of the redeeming mercy of God. "There is not the least flower but seems to hold up its head, and look pleasantly, in the secret sense of the goodness of its heavenly Maker. This silent rhetoric, though we cannot hear, but only see it, {s so full and expressive, that David thought he spoke neither impropriety nor nonsense, in a strong line, when he said,' even the valleys break forth into singing.'" It is a song of praise and thanksgiving, a song of joy and triumph in the "glory of Jehovah," the manifestations of his creative and renewing powers, the liberal effusions of his goodness, even upon the lowest parts of the creation.

II. THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE HUMAN WORLD.

1. Weakness made strong - under the figure of the nerving up of languid hands and of tottering knees. Languor, dullness, the privation of power, are symptomatic of the absence of vital energy, alike in the physical and the moral sphere. People may be seemingly weak and impotent, not because they want the organs for action, but because the inspiration to action is wanting. A life without defined activity is hardly worth the name. In the fixed light of the eye, the prompt hand, the willing foot, we see signs of the Divine afflatus upon a man. The sails have caught the favoring breeze, while others lie becalmed. But there is always some part for the will. To him that hath shall be given; and the paradox is true, power comes to those who exert it.

2. Despair exchanged for confidence. Despair unfits alike for human and Divine service. Men are moved to duty by the hope of good or by the fear of evil. These motives cannot avail one who does not believe that his state can be either bettered or worsened. The man becomes careless of his happiness, indifferent to salvation. The biblical medicine for despair is the firm insistence on the message of salvation. God is coming - is on the way, to requite, to redeem, to deliver. How careful should preachers be not to force men into a "preternatural melancholy," by an unskillful handling of the Word of truth, by indiscreet severity, by dwelling too much on the dark themes of human depravity and predestination!

3. The removal of human infirmities and limitations. Blindness, deafness, lameness, dumbness, are symbolic of all obstructions in the soul to the entrance of light, and music, and power, and fluency. One great outflow of the Spirit sweeps all these hindrances to enjoyment and to activity away. Near to us is a God of infinite fullness; all about us is a world of beauty, strength, and joy; but we are "straitened in ourselves." Life is full of illusions, which tempt us forward with all the power and promise of reality. These are like the mirage of the desert - a seeming sheet of water in the distance, with its offer of refreshment to the pilgrim; in fact, an optical deception. But these illusions bear a certain relation to truth. For we cannot believe that the Almighty has planted a spring of error in the very mechanism of our fancy. Our minds were made for truth and tend towards truth, even through hallucinations. "The mirage shall become a lake."

III. THE REFORMATION OF RELIGION. There will be a "raised way," called "The Holy Way." It will be exempt from all that is unclean; it will be so clear and straight, that even the simple-minded cannot go astray; a secure and peaceful way, undisturbed by the furious beasts of ravening and destruction. Its every stage will be marked with joy, as singing pilgrims pass along it; and the sighs of sorrow will die away in the distance. It is a picture of true evangelical religion, as it is revived among the peoples, from epoch to epoch, and of its blessed effects. True religion is an elevating thing; nobility of manner and refinement of taste go hand-in-hand with it. It is a holy thing; and distinction of characters and classes, of tastes and pursuits, must appear wherever it comes. Its doctrine is simple, intelligible, yet sublime. "Justification by faith" can be understood and received by the humblest mind, while the most powerful intellect must exert itself to rise to the serene height of the truth. It is a way of gentleness and peace, unvexed by the furious storms of controversy, sheltering timid souls. It is a way of freedom and of joy, and it leads to a fixed destination - a celestial place, an eternal kingdom, a city that cannot be removed, whose Builder and Maker is God. - J.







My sword shall be bathed in heaven.
The text draws back the curtain which separates the visible world from the invisible. It reveals celestial regions, in which there are also great struggles going on. It lifts up our eyes to the grander movements of the world of spirits; and then it declares that the sword which is to be used in fighting what seem to be the petty wars of the Hebrews and the Edomites, is the same sword which has been used in these celestial conflicts; that the means and instruments of righteousness upon the earth must be the same with the means and instruments of righteousness in the heavens.

I. ALL GOOD STRUGGLE IN THE WORLD IS REALLY GOD'S BATTLE, and ought to recognise itself as such. Every special victory of human progress — the victory over slavery, superstition, social wrong, nay, even the victory over tough matter, the subduing of the hard stuff of nature to spiritual uses, — each of these is but a step in the great onward march of God taking possession of His own. Fight your battle with the sword bathed in heaven; so you shall make it victorious, and grow strong and great yourself in fighting it.

II. One of the most marvellous things about Jesus is the UNION OF FIRE AND PATIENCE. He saw His Father's house turned into a place of merchandise, and instantly the whip of small cords was in His hands, and He was cleansing the sacred place with His impassioned indignation. And yet He walked day after day through the streets of Jerusalem, and saw the sin, and let the sinners sin on with only the remonstrance of His pure presence and His pitying gaze. Only in God's own time and in God's own way can the battles of the Lord be fought. There is no self-will in Jesus. He is one with His Father, and lives by His Father's will. His sword was always bathed in heaven.

III. THE BATTLE WHICH GOES ON WITHIN OURSELVES IS GOD'S BATTLE, and is of supreme importance. If the battle be God's, it must be fought only with God's weapons. You want to get rid of your selfishness. You must not kill it with the sword of another selfishness, which thenceforth shall rule in its place. Selfishness can only be cast out by self-forget-fulness and consecration. To count sin God's enemy, and to fight it with all His purity and strength, that is what it means for us that our sword should be bathed m heaven.

(Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

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