Isaiah 35:1-10 & James 5:7-10
The wilderness or the dry land Isaiah mentioned has two-fold meanings:
First, he was referring to the land of Judah that was scorched by the enemy.
Second, the prophet used the desert as a symbolic word to describe the world filled with all kinds of challenge, danger, trials and sufferings.
According to Isaiah’s vision, the land that was scorched by the enemy will be renewed and restored. The people of Judah who were taken as the slavery will return home. When they are returning home, they will rejoice with singing. Their homecoming will be like the blossoming with abundant life.
The God who cares for the dry and barren places also cares for each and every one of us. The God who cares for the earth also cares for his people. The prophet shows us a pair of hands that have grown weak. They can hold nothing and no longer do the work they used to do. God will make them strong. The prophet shows a pair of knees that give way to staggering and stumbling. God will make them firm. The prophet shows us people whose hearts and minds are racing, gripped by anxiety. Tell them “Be strong and do not fear!” So we are challenged to “be strong and of good courage.” We are called to take care and encourage one another.
Why? Why do we have to do this? Isaiah offers the reason why we can rejoice for now and the future. It is because that God is here with us now–Emmanuel. God will come. The good news of Advent is “behold, your God is coming!” That’s why Isaiah said in verse 4, “He will come and save.” This is the promise of divine presence that strengthens sinking hands and failing knees. In this world, our enemies are real and powerful. The nation of Judah is no match for Babylon. Many challenges you and I are experiencing are real and difficult to overcome. Our enemies, the devils, are real and powerful. With our own strength, there is no way we can win these battles. That’s why we need God. He is the only One who can set us free from our bondage and help us to defeat our enemies and overcome all kinds of challenges we experience.
Prophet Isaiah shares this vision with the scattered people in Judah as well as with many people in today’s world, who are living fragmented lives in a fractured world, with torn apart families and broken hearts. Today’s text announces the coming of the Lord who will transform a dry land into a land of blossom, stream, pools, and marshes; fearful and fainted hearts into courageous hearts. So the dry land and the suffering people rejoice with leaping, singing, gladness, and everlasting joy!
The prophet also describes how God will heal all the disabled people. In fact, the healing of those with physical disabilities is a messianic sign. When the disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was the expected Messiah, Jesus told them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dear hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them (Matthew 11:4-5).
Isaiah said in verses 8-9, “A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no travelers, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.” As you know, the desert is a place of wandering and danger. But according to Isaiah’s vision, it will be transformed into a highway. Because of the clear direction, no one will go astray, not even the fools will get lost. This highway will be called the Holy Way since only the redeemed and ransomed, by the blood of Jesus, can travel on this road. There will be no danger to travel on this highway, unlike I-4 and Hwy 95 there will be no reckless drivers or other possible dangers. This is the road that God’s people would travel for their homecoming. This will be the most joyful trip we ever going to take. Isaiah describes like this in verse 10, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Today’s text, Isaiah 35 invites us to reflect on this Advent season, not only God’s coming to us in Christ, but also our coming home. God comes. God is here. We leap and shout and sing. And together we walk home on the highway called, “the Holy Way.”
James 5:7-10 teaches how we can receive such and everlasting joy; how we can get on the Holy Way. He tells us to be patient like the farmer who wait for the early and the late rains for their crops. He encourages us to endure all kinds of hardship and sufferings like the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. James said, “strengthen your hearts for the coming of the Lord is near. He is at the door!” He also said, not to grumble against one another. If we continue to grumble against one another, we will also be judged by God.