THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
From a Desert to a Garden
Isaiah 34-35 SCC 9/8/13
God’s judgment is not only to bring justice but also the possibility of happy times when that judgment produces a change of heart in people’s lives.
THE LORD’S DAY OF JUDGMENT 34
1. His judgment will be universal (v 1-4).
Verse 1: Isaiah called everyone in the world to hear what follows. It has universal significance and scope.
Verse 2: The first reason everyone should listen is that the Lord is very angry at the nations. He has determined to devote them to destruction, to put them under the ban. What humankind must hear, then, is a sentence of judgment on the whole earth.
Verse 3: The blood of the slain nations will stink and soak the mountains of the earth in such quantities that they run red. Unburied corpses were, and still are, shameful things.
Verse 4: Evidently the whole universe will be involved in this judgment. The sins of nations, and the necessary divine reaction, affect all creation. The Lord will roll up the heavens like a scroll that He has finished reading. The sun, moon, and stars will wither and fall like grapes or figs.
2. Isaiah particularized it with reference to Edom, a representative nation (v 5-17).
The prophet now introduced Edom, as a case in point, whose end would be typical of the whole earth. If Edom alone had been in view, Isaiah probably would have dealt with it as he did the other nations in the oracles earlier in the book. But why Edom? The Old Testament consistently treats Edom as the antithesis of Israel. Isaac told Esau that he would live in an infertile area.
Verse 5: A second reason for God’s worldwide judgment is that when His sword, a symbol of His judgment, has done all it can do to the heavenly host, it will fall on the nations represented by Edom. Humans must pay. Everyone belongs to God. If human beings do not submit to Him voluntarily, He will force them to do so against their wills. This will be God’s judgment on the world for rebelling against Him.
Verse 6-7: Using sacrificial imagery, the Lord will seek what is peculiarly His in judgment. He will take what He alone has a right to take. Sin is a matter of life and death. All sin must be atoned for with sacrificial blood. Those who repudiate the sacrifice of Christ for their sins will forfeit their own lives as sacrifices to God.
Therefore, a third reason for judgment is a sacrifice is necessary, if the demands of divine holiness are to be met. No rebel would be spared. Bozrah the capital of Edom, stood about 25 miles south southeast of the Dead Sea.
Verse 8: A fourth reason for this slaughter is that the Lord will take vengeance on those who have trodden down Zion. He will act for His people against those who have cursed them. Even though we do not know when this will happen, God has a timetable for this judgment and will keep to it.
Verse 9-10: The prophet described Edom’s overthrow in terms reminiscent of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Edom’s actions brought on this destruction. The world’s end will be total, and its territory will be uninhabitable from then on. The absence of specific references to Edom in verses 9-17 helps us appreciate that a judgment far beyond that one nation’s future is in view. The only reason people will be able to inhabit the earth during the Millennium, following the Tribulation, is because God will renovate it chp 35. Human sin affects humanity’s environment.
Verse 11-13: Human leaders will be no more, and only wild animals and weeds will occupy the land. “Desolation” and “emptiness” point to chaotic conditions that existed before Creation picturing the emptiness again after this devastation to come. Measuring the land indicates that the Lord has a standard by which He evaluates its inhabitants and judges them and the earth.
Verse 14-15: So devoid of human population will the earth be, that animals that people have tried to control in the past will be safe enough to multiply. Even the goat demon and the night monster, representing the most detestable animals, will roam the land.
Verse 16-17: In closing, Isaiah’s thought turned back to verse 1. Those summoned to listen to this remarkable revelation in that verse might need to assure themselves of its certainty by referring to the written record of it in this prophecy and elsewhere. The Lord’s mouth commanded this judgment, and His Spirit will execute it. God sovereignly gave Canaan to His people v 17b, and in the future He will give the Edom’s of this world to the desert creatures v 14-15.
How does this picture of devastation so thorough that no human beings remain alive harmonize with other revelation concerning the Tribulation? According to Rev 6:8 and 9:18 half of the world’s population will have perished by the end of the sixth trumpet judgment. Many more devastating judgments will fall on earth-dwellers after the sixth trumpet judgment, specifically the seven bowl judgments, the worst ones of all in the Tribulation. Therefore what Isaiah pictured may be what the earth will look like at the very end of the Tribulation, just before Jesus Christ returns to the earth. There will be some people left alive on the earth then, but Isaiah’s description here is to make the point that God will judge all the earth’s inhabitants then.
THE LORD’S DAY OF BLESSING 35
In contrast to the preceding chapter, this one is full of joy and rejoicing. There God turned the world into a desert; here He transforms that desert into a garden.
1. Blessing for the Land 1-7
Verse 1-2: References to the wilderness and desert tie this chapter to the preceding one. The wilderness that God so thoroughly judged, personified here, will eventually rejoice because it will blossom profusely. The beauty and glory that formerly marked Lebanon and Carmel, before the devastation of chapter 34, will mark these places again, but more so. Their transformation, at God’s hand, will enable them to appreciate the inherent value and majestic dignity of Israel’s sovereign Lord.
Verse 3-4: Those who are alive at the end of the Tribulation will be a small remnant of believers and some unbelievers. Isaiah called the reader to encourage the exhausted and feeble believers of his or her time. They would need to keep their eyes on God. God would come to take vengeance for them and to deliver them. He would reward them; they will enter Messiah’s millennial kingdom.
Verse 5-6a: The former limitations of these believers will end, and they will rejoice. The Israelites’ blindness and deafness was in reference to God’s call to participate in His work. Now they will.
Verse 6b-7: Water breaking out in the arid wilderness and Arabah would be a sign of blessings that they would shortly experience. The desolate resting place where only jackals lived would become verdant with grassy growth. Reversal and transformation will mark this time.
2. Blessing for those who return 8-10
Verse 8: A highway will be there leading through the then lush landscape to Zion v 10. It will be for the ransomed of the Lord (v 10) to travel to Messiah’s capital. It will be a highway marked by holiness because only redeemed people will travel on it. Fools, the morally perverse, will not wander onto it because they are unholy. Is this a literal road? It may be (chp 49), but it certainly pictures God’s people at that time streaming to Zion through a renovated earth.
Verse 9-10: Nothing will threaten or endanger the redeemed as they travel the holy highway to the holy city. The redeemed will come rejoicing into Zion, the New Jerusalem, where there will be no more sorrow or sighing, just unbreakable happiness, gladness, and joyful shouting.
While what Isaiah described here parallels to a limited extent the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity, the context of the chapter as well as its terminology point to a fulfillment in the future that that return only prefigured. Another fore view was the converging of pilgrims on Jerusalem from all over the world to celebrate the annual feasts of Judaism.
1. God can be trusted in the midst of the chaos we live with here on earth and in our lives.
2. God’s lordship over each of the nations is asserted and he sovereignly accomplishes his plan through the machinations of the nations even today.
3. God is not merely the reactor to the nations, but is in fact the sovereign Actor on the world’s stage.
4. The superiority of God’s counsel over that of the merely human leaders operates within and throughout the schemes of leaders, governments, and influencers.
5. We have the promise that God can, and will, redeem. He may be trusted for His promises about the distant future but not clung to blindly. Even now we know He works in our lives guaranteeing His future work in the world.