The Cursed Universe Restored to God's Original Purpose (Isaiah Sermon 37 of 80)
January 13, 2013 | Andy Davis
Christ and the Old Testament
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on Isaiah 35:1-10 and how God will, in the future, restore the universe to its original purpose and remove from it the stain and effects of sin.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
When I was in Bible interpretation class, they told us an important principle of interpretation is that we should always seek the author's original intention in every text, we should try to find out what the author's original intention was. I came to find out later the reason that they taught us that is that in history, there were some that went in for things called allegorical interpretations that were very fanciful and not in any way tied directly to the Bible texts, they floated away like one of your kid's helium balloon floated away last time you got one at Kroger's and they weren't tied around their wrist, they just floated right away, and we had no idea what they were rooted in, such is allegorical interpretation. So they taught us we need to go to the author's original intention. I was thinking about that phrase when it came to Isaiah 35. I think it's important for us to understand what Isaiah meant with this, I think it's more important to understand the true Author, God and what his intention is in this text.
But I didn't stop there, I went beyond it to say, what was the author of creation's original intention in creating the universe? Why did he make this world? Why did he make heaven and earth? What did he intend when he separated the sea from the dry land and he caused living creatures to multiply on both? In the sea and the dry land? When he created it, he caused the land to blossom and to flourish with living things, with seed-bearing plants. What was his original intention in creating the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, all of the different species? What was his original intention in making an incredibly, magnificently, beautiful world, filling it with his glory, with beauty and majesty? What was his original intention in all of that? And what did he intend when he created man to walk the surface of the earth? And he made man with special attributes and abilities. What was his original intention when he created the eye? What did he make the eye to do? Why did he create the ear with all of its abilities, its complexities? What was his purpose?
Now, there's a text, Isaiah 45:18, and we'll preach…and I'm looking at Isaiah 35 today, but in Isaiah 45:18, there's an important verse that gives us insight into the text we're looking at today. There it says, “For this is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it.” Now listen, “He did not create it to be empty, but he formed it to be inhabited—he says: ‘I am the Lord and there is no other.’” Note the words, God did not create it to be a desert. That's not why he made it. He did not want a howling wasteland. This begs the question then, why is so much of the earth the desert? Why are parts of the earth then a howling wasteland? Now, in Isaiah, again and again, the image of the desert is used as a picture of God's judgment on man for sin. Parts of the earth are a wasteland, are a desert, because of human sin.
But let's extend this idea still further. Why did God create the eye with all of its complexities? He did not form it to be blind, but he made it to be able to see. When God said, “Let there be light,” he also by implication said, “Let there be sight.” There's no point in the universe being filled with radiance of God's glory and there being no sight, no receptors of that glory. What's the point? Why then are maybe 256 million people vision impaired? Why are 39 million people, completely, totally blind? Same reason—human sin ultimately caused disease and brokenness to enter this world. Why did God create the air? Why did he make the eardrum and all the tiny little bones, and all those little hairs and all of that, that make hearing possible? Was it not so that we could hear the sounds that God wanted us to hear? The chirping of the birds, the crash of the ocean, the blowing of the wind and the trees, all of those things are just beautiful sounds. The sound of a baby crying or laughing, giggling. All of these sounds. He did not form the ear to be deaf, but he formed it so that it could hear. Why then, are 275 million people in the world hearing impaired? Same reason, because human sin has entered the world and moved it off of the Author's original intention. From the beginning, God formed Adam and Eve with perfect sight, perfect hearing, and perfect everything else, and put them in a perfect world to look at all of God's glorious beauty that he had woven into physical creation. He put them there so that they would see it and worship him, their hearts would be filled with joy at what they saw and what they heard, and God would get the glory. And it wasn't enough for just that first couple, God commanded them saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the world with my image.”
But sin entered the world, and death through sin, and in that way, corruption and decay in futility has come to all the earth. Romans 8:19 and following, it says, "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to [futility,] frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to this present time. And not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” So I just put in equal in there, "Adoption as sons equals the redemption of our bodies," and we're waiting for that. It hasn't come yet. And we're groaning, because sin has devastated this universe, God's original intentions are not being met. And so, this is the glorious good news: God sent his only begotten Son into the world to make it all right, to restore it, to redeem it, to buy it back, to bring it back and make it what it should have been. And to Jesus Christ alone be the glory for all of that. What a wonder-working God he is.
And so as Jesus began his earthly ministry, he went to his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, and Jesus stood up on a certain Sabbath, and the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. And opening the scroll, he found the place where these words were written, “‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’ And then he rolled up the scroll, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down, and he began by saying these words, ‘Today, in your hearing, this scripture is fulfilled.’” Wouldn't you love to have been there at that moment? Fulfilled? That scripture fulfilled? Yes, as they heard Jesus speak, as they heard him preach from Isaiah, the scripture was fulfilled. But Jesus went on from there to live out of ministry, rich with the power of the Holy Spirit, infinitely rich with the display of the power of the Spirit of God, doing signs and wonders in the sight of all the people.
And these signs and wonders, these miracles proved that he was unique, he was special, unlike anyone that had ever lived before, he was God the Son, God incarnate. It proved that he was who he claimed to be, the Son of God, those miracles. But they were also signs, like on a highway, pointing to a reality we haven't reached yet. They were signs, they're called signs and wonders. There were signs pointing to something we don't have yet—a place where all death and mourning and decay and suffering are gone forever, a place where there are no blind eyes and no deaf ears and no lame people and no mute tongues anymore. He didn't banish those things from the Earth, he healed individuals of those maladies, case by case. I was joking with some people, I don't mean to be disrespectful, I was just thinking about it, there's no account ever of anyone getting more than one healing from Jesus, I think he probably could have done it, but imagine, let's say a blind man, he's saying, "Oh, this is incredible, this is greatest, best day of my life. You know, I have actually been having trouble my lower back recently. I mean, while you're at it, would you mind? Just something on the back, 'cause I know you can do it." There's actually no record of that. I don't know if any of those healed people went home and said, "You know, I wish I had asked him about that too." And all of the people that Jesus healed are dead now. All of them. They're all dead, all of those seeing eyes are blind by death, all those hearing ears now, they are deaf by death, all of them. They're just signs, pointing ahead to something that isn't here yet, a reality that is coming.
When John the Baptist was languishing in prison and wasn't sure whether Jesus really was who he claimed to be, he was weak. Just like our text talks about, his hands were feeble, his knees were giving away, it happens to everybody, maybe it's been happening to you, maybe this sermon will strengthen your hands and your weak knees. I pray so. But the messengers came, and remember what John's messenger said to Jesus? "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Someone else? “Go back and report to John what you see and hear: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. And blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Go back and tell him that.
And so we come to today's Scripture. And today's Scripture predicts 700 years before it happened, this very ministry that Jesus did, predicts it. Look at verses 5-6 in Isaiah 35, "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy." The—actually, the whole chapter extends to all of creation itself, the desert blooming like the crocus, and what a stunning contrast Isaiah 35 is to Isaiah 34, which we looked at last week. Isaiah 34 represents the wrath of God on all nations, Isaiah 34:2. And then we had the picture of Edom, the reprobate nations, the reprobate people. And it says that, "Edom's streams will be turned into pitch, and her dust in the burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night and day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation, it will lie desolate." That's in Isaiah 34. Another word for that is a desert. It will lie as a desert, and “no one will ever pass through it again.” But this chapter, Isaiah 35, speaks of the blooming of a desert, a howling wilderness turned into the garden of Eden all over again, the judged land restored and made beautiful again.
Now, many scholars have different interpretations of Isaiah 35, telling us what the author originally intended. So then they take their crack at what the author's original intention was. Isaiah was speaking, they say, about the restoration of the Jews back to the promised land, when they would come back out of Babylon and they would take again their places in the promised land. Others say, it refers to the salvation of the gentiles by the proclamation of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Or others say it may be applied individually, to the personal spiritual experience of individual sinners that are saved and their eyes are open and then they can see at last. I once was blind, and now I see. I was deaf and now I can hear. And it’s speaking metaphorically of the salvation work of God and Jesus and individual sinners. Some scholars say it refers to the millennial kingdom, when after Christ returns, he will set up a perfect world and he will make all of these things physically happen in the millennial kingdom, and he changes the curse to a blessing. And some say it's just talking about the joys of the new heaven and new earth, the joys of the new heaven or new earth.
Well, I say, why not all of the above? What do you say? I don't know about all of that, but why not? Why not just say, this is poetry, and we probably don't need an engineer to preach on it, we just need more of a poet kind of person to preach on it, and we're not gonna get meticulous about whether it's this or that or the other, let's take it all. Well, this engineer says “amen” to that. Let's take it all. Let's say God intends rich, lavish blessings, both on the physical creation and on human beings, and he is intending to bring us to a world that is gonna be so rich and so beautiful and so full, that you can't even describe it, no words can capture it right now. 'Cause it's the purpose of the word of God to cause faith and hope to rise up in your heart and to give you a renewed strength so that you make it there, you finish your journey and get there. So let's do it.
"God intends rich, lavish blessings, both on the physical creation and on human beings, and he is intending to bring us to a world that is gonna be so rich and so beautiful and so full, that you can't even describe it, no words can capture it right now "
I. Creation Transformed: From Sterile Desert to Fruitful Garden (vs. 1-2)
Look at verses 1-2, creation transformed from a sterile desert to a fruitful garden. It says there, "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy."
So you know, at the beginning, God made the earth, and he made it beautiful and fertile and perfect in every way, but he had a special place called the Garden of Eden, and that was where man was to get his start, and it was beautiful with all kinds of fruit trees, and it was just a lush and lavish garden, flourished with all manner of growing things, it was perfectly fruitful. And the whole world was radiant with the glory of God, and Adam and Eve to fill the Earth and to explore it and to move out on its surface and find out all of the beauties that God had wrapped up into the physical universe. In a similar way, lesser of course, 'cause it's after the fall, but in a similar way, the Jewish nation, when they crossed over the Jordan, they were entering what was known as the promised land, and it was described in similar terms. In Deuteronomy 11, "The land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks in the rain from heaven." Doesn't that sounds beautiful? Just drinks in the rain from heaven. You're not gonna need to irrigate it with a foot pump like they do in Egypt, but “it's a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.” Take special care of it, and therefore in that same chapter, it's called “a land flowing with milk and honey.”
But in both cases, both in terms of the Garden of Eden and the Promised Land, there was an unbreakable link between the people and the land. And when the people sinned, the land was cursed in both cases. In Eden, God cursed the ground because of Adam and it would not produce fertile, lush harvest any longer, but thorns and thistles. And so also in the case of the promised land, one of the curses on it was a curse on the land itself. In Deuteronomy 28, said if you turn away from me and if you violate my covenant, and if you do not keep its stipulations, I will curse the land that you're living in. Deuteronomy 28:23-24, “The sky over your head will be bronze and the ground beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the reign of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.” So the turning of that fruitful land into the desert represents the cursing of the land because of the sin of the people. Verse 1 speaks, in our text, speaks of a desert and a parched land. How did it get to be that way? God didn't create it to be a desert. How did it get to be that way? Psalm 107:33-34, it says this, "God turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land he turned into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who live there." You see? The same thing happened at Sodom and Gomorrah. The same thing. A very lush fertile ground, that's why Lot chose to go there, God turned it into a salt ground. Cursed by God, why? Because of the wickedness and the sin in the people who live there. As we saw in Isaiah 34, God stretched out over Edom the plumb line of...measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation. What's another word for desolation but a desert? God turned Edom into a desert because of their wickedness and their sin.
And so it is in the world we live in today. You can just hear, if you know what to listen for, you can hear the groaning of creation because of man's sin. Earthquakes claiming the lives of thousands of people, a third of a million people died in that earthquake in Haiti. Tsunamis and tidal waves like happened in over a year ago in Miyagi, Japan, killing 19,000 people and displacing again about a a third of a million people from their homes. Volcanoes in the world like Mount Marapi in Indonesia, that erupted and killed 122 people in November of 2010. Hurricane Katrina, as you know, killing over 1800 people and causing 81 billion dollars of damage. Heavy rains in the year 2010, heavy rains and floods and Gansu, China resulted in a devastating mud slide, leaving 1407 dead people. Floods in the Philippines in December last month related to a typhoon, again, killed over 500 people. In our own country last year during tornado season, just one killer tornado after another, just ripped through that part of our country, killing 19 people in Kentucky, 12 in Indiana, three in Ohio. Blizzards, droughts, wildfires, hailstorms—these are the sounds of the groaning of creation, with an attended death toll.
So what then is the blooming of the desert? What does it mean that the desert will bloom? Well, it's a supernatural act of intervening grace by a sovereign God. He steps into our groaning creation and changes everything. Isn't that magnificent? Look again at the words, “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; and they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.” This is just a magnificent blooming of creation, where once there was nothing but sterility and dust and thorns and thistles and curse, it's just totally reversed, and instead, now it's just this flourishing garden of Eden all over again.
"What does it mean that the desert will bloom? It's a supernatural act of intervening grace by a sovereign God. He steps into our groaning creation and changes everything."
And the desert here is personified, the desert itself is rejoicing greatly and the desert is shouting for joy, so instead of the sounds of groaning, you're hearing the sounds of creation shouting for joy. And the natural beauty is lavish, and he uses terms that we might be able…if we had been Jews in Isaiah's day, we would have understood, and we can extend our minds a little bit to understand it, the glory of Lebanon will be given to it. Lebanon was known for its cedars, it's huge trees, its forests. So maybe you've never been there, but maybe you've seen the redwoods in northern California, some other magnificent forest, and it's just gonna be incredibly beautiful like that. And Carmel and Sharon, we don't know that much about them, but just picture beautiful places on earth, you see, God didn't make the whole world a desert. He didn't make everything look openly cursed, he left enough beauty in this world so that we've seen it haven’t we? We've seen some really beautiful scenery, and we can imagine maybe like one of those islands in the South Pacific, like Tahiti or Bora Bora, some place like that, and it's just lush and beautiful or maybe the Amazonian rain forest, and you can imagine all of that without any of the groaning or decay that happens there.
So these things are going to happen, and this is a prophecy. God is putting his word, his power behind this. This is going to happen. It's going to flourish. And it's gonna be beautiful. And it's going to be, as it says in this text, they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. And this is already getting on to my second point, but the minds of the observers will be changed, and no longer will we worship and serve created things. We're not gonna look at it and worship the tree, we're not gonna worship the whale, we're not gonna worship the rainbow or worship any of that stuff, we're going to worship the God who made those beautiful things. And the earth will be filled at last with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. It's gonna be magnificent.
II. People Transformed: From Cursed Weakness to Blessed Strength (vs. 3-7)
Nature will be redeemed, and so will our eyes, our hearts to be able to receive it. So that's the second point. Look at verses 3-7. People transform, not just nature transform, but people transform from cursed weakness to blessed strength. Verse 3 and following, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; here God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’ Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then with a lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts were jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.” So now we get to the human condition, still a lot of natural language here, but here we're talking about people, hands and knees and hearts, eyes, ears, legs, we're talking about people.
Now, human weakness is a result of the Fall, human disease is a result of the Fall. Now, the weakness of the human race is of two kinds: physical and spiritual. Our bodies are diseased and our souls are diseased, and we must have a full salvation from these. People's bodies are weak through injury and disease and aging and fatigue, just simple fatigue. People's souls are weak through sin and rebellion and guilt and unbelief, and then discouragement and despair. And both of those together make life very, very difficult to live in this world, and some people so bad it feels like a curse just to be alive. But here God addresses, he speaks directly into the weakness of our human situation and sin, and he speaks to us a word of redemption, a word of salvation through Jesus Christ, and so we have human weakness transformed to strength. Look at verses 3-4, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come to you.’” So I took that as a personal message this morning. I said, “God was saying that to me.”
Just like Isaiah 40, when he spoke to Isaiah the prophet and said, “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.” So I wanna do that for you if I can. So I just wanna be a conduit of strength and steadying and banishment of fear by the word of God. But this isn't just something the pastor can do behind the pulpit. Why don't you all do that for each other the rest of the week? Why don't you just speak God's promises to each other the rest of the week, and why don't you steady those feeble knees that are about to buckle? Why don't you find some weak hands that are about to give up, and strengthen them? And isn’t it amazing what strengthened them, right in the text? “Say to those” etcetera, just the word, just the word, the feeble word. Just speak the word, 'cause it's not feeble, “it's the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.” I think this is going on right now while I preach. I think your hope is getting stronger again, you're actually eager for the future, you're actually saying, “When will it come, O Lord? I wanna see all that. It's gonna be beautiful. I wanna get there. Not there yet, but I wanna get there.” So it's already happening.
"Why don't you just speak God's promises to each other the rest of the week, and why don't you steady those feeble knees that are about to buckle? Why don't you find some weak hands that are about to give up, and strengthen them?"
Now, for the Jews in Isaiah's day maybe it would be you are in exile like Daniel was or some of the others that were carried off into exile and you're wondering, when can we go back? But that's not enough for me. I wanna speak even beyond that to say to all of God's people throughout history, we know the real battle is not with the Assyrians or the Babylonians. The real battle is with the world, the flesh and the devil, and oh, how weary we get when we're fighting it. And we need to be reminded that God's commands are actually promises when he says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” some day you will be, some day you will be by the sovereign power of God, because your God will come, and he will come to save you. And you may feel feeble and weak on the external journey too, say, “How can I do anything for anyone else? How can I lead anyone to Christ? They never seem to come to Christ. How can we plant churches and unreached people groups? It just seems impossible for us to do anything.” Banish those thoughts, they are from Satan himself. God will be exalted in the world, he'll be glorified, and he will save all of his elect and those churches will get planted and those people will get saved. All of them, not one will be missing.
And so here's the message of encouragement to strengthen us, and we have a responsibility to do this for each other. I preached on this, kind of, a few months ago in Hebrews 12, as the author quoted this, Hebrews 12:12-13, it says, “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” Does that sound familiar? Now we're getting it from the back side. On that Sunday, I quoted Isaiah 35. Now, in the Sunday, I'm quoting Hebrews 12. Isn't that fun, how the Bible's interconnected? But it says to the church, “Strengthen each other, build each other up, encourage one another. Speak words of blessing to one another.” “‘Make level paths for your feet,’” he says there in Hebrews 12:13, “so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” What path are you on? We'll get to that in a minute, but it's called the Highway of Holiness, that's the path you're on, and it's a long, long journey. But let's strengthen each other.
So not only do we get a message of encouragement, we also get a promise that our bodies will be radically, supernaturally transformed. Look at verses 5-6. Those of you that are fans of Handel’s Messiah, you can hum along, but do it quietly. “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then with a lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.” Shall we just cut to the chase? This is a clear prediction of the ministry of Jesus Christ. That's what it is. It's not metaphorical alone. We'll get to that in a minute. It is a clear prediction that someone would come to do this and that someone is Jesus. Now, isn't it amazing when you contemplate the wonders of Jesus, the signs and wonders, the miracles. I believe in every case, you can make a case, every time it was a restoration to the author's original intention. He is basically restoring back to the way things should have been, what sin has done in the world.
Think for example of the stilling of the storm, God it did not make the storm to make the sea to be a killer. He didn't intend for his apostles to drown in a boating accident, it's not the world God intended, where nature eats you alive and you drown. And so he got up and what did he do? He rebuked the wind and the waves, and he stilled the storm. Or think of the feeding of the 5000 out in that desert place, and there was nothing to eat. God did not make your body your stomach to starve, he didn't create you to die by starvation, that's evidence of the Fall, but instead he fed you. Think of the changing of the water to wine at the banquet. I believe this represents the flowing of the Holy Spirit, and God did not intend for us to sit at a banquet and to be sterile of joy and have no presence of the Spirit, etcetera, but he lavished blessing on them. But notice I kind of didn't mention the real miracle is 90 percent of them or more were what? They were healings. Most of them are healings, and that is so obviously a restoration back to what God originally intended, he did not create the eye to be blind. He didn't have all of those magnificent functions, the retina, the cornea, and the optical nerve, and all the capability of sight—he didn't make all that so that it wouldn't work.
Four different times in the Gospels there are accounts of Jesus healing blind people, the best by far, of course, John 9, in which John creates space in his very tight gospel, he only had certain things in there, but he has a whole chapter on this one miracle, whole chapter. On the healing of a man born blind. And it's such an incredible thing that the man himself said, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened eyes of a man born blind.” This has never been done before. Utterly astonishing display of the power of God. But there are other miracles listed here as well. The ears of the deaf are unstopped, like when Jesus puts saliva on the tips of his fingers and touched the man's tongue, and then he put his fingers in the man's ears and said, “ ,” which is, “Be opened.” It's direct fulfillment of this, Isaiah 35, “Then will the ears of the deaf be unstopped…and the mute tongue will sing for joy.” Supernatural display of the power of God.
Or the lame leaping like a deer in Matthew 9. You remember the story of the paralyzed man, they brought him on a mat and they couldn't get toward...they couldn't get near Jesus, there is too many people, and so they dug through the roof. Those are great friends. You need friends like that, friends that don't give up and they dig through the roof. I don't know if they later fixed the roof and paid for it or what happened with all that, but they dug through the roof and they lowered this man down right in front of Jesus. I often wondered if pieces of the roof were falling in front of Jesus while he was teaching or whatever he was doing, that they all looked up wondering what was happening, I wonder if it took like 10 or 15 minutes to finish the job, I wonder if Jesus used that time well to keep teaching and then finally the opening was big enough, I think about things like this. And it took a while, but there it was, and the man was descended, he was lowered down right in front of Jesus.
And it says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’” Still paralyzed. Still paralyzed. Let me give you what you really need. You know what you really need? You need forgiveness by Almighty God, and I'm here to give it to you. And remember how the people were offended, and they said in their own hearts, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Who can forgive sins but God alone? And he said, “Why do you say these things in your hearts?” That's a bit eerie, to be in the presence of Jesus reading your mind. “‘Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say to this paralyzed man, “Rise and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,’ and he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Rise and walk.’ And he did.”
Jesus still has power to forgive sins, that's what Isaiah 35:5-6 is ultimately about the power of Jesus to forgive your sins, and you are a sinner and so I am I. And we need that forgiveness, without it we will be lost. Read about it in the last chapter. And the smoke of the torment rises forever and ever. Flee that. Flee to Jesus, who has the power to heal you from sin, but actually, I believe that these healings were not just physical, I believe they were metaphorical. How can you believe both? I think they pointed to a higher healing, which was spiritual. Not only were our eyes physically damaged, our ability to see God, to see his glory was damaged. We were blind toward God. Because later in that same chapter, in John 9, you remember Jesus' enemies come out, the very ones that kicked the blind man, now seeing out of the synagogue 'cause he testified to Jesus, they kicked them out, Jesus goes and finds them like the Good Shepherd, that's the very next captor, he goes and finds him to bring him in. And the enemies are there, they're the wolves and the enemies, and they're right there. And Jesus says to them, “‘For judgment I have come into the world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and said, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ And Jesus said, ‘If you were blind you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” So it's not just a physical blindness that Jesus is dealing with there; clearly, it's a spiritual blindness too.
And it's not just that he's able to open physically deaf ears so they can now physically hear sounds, it's that we were deaf to the word of God, we were not listening to him, you see? So at the end of each of Jesus' parables, what does he say every time? “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Have I given you the ability to hear me? Then listen to me. And it's not just that physical lameness was going on, people couldn't get up and walk around—it's that we had no power to walk in the way of God, we had no power to walk in the commands of God, we were paralyzed toward his commands. And it's not just that our tongues were physically mute and we couldn't speak physically—it's that we could not speak the words of God, we could not speak the praise of God, we saw sunrises and sunsets, and we said, “Praise be Baal. Praise be Molech. Or isn't that a beautiful sunset?” and never thought about God and we did not speak and say, “To God be the glory for all of this.” All of that needed healing, we needed to be healed, so that we could spiritually see God and hear him speak by his word, and walk in the path of his commands and speak the words of God to one another and the praises of God. That's the healing we needed, and so do you see how perfect it is that Jesus did these healings as these miracles? It did everything all at once. Pointed to both the physical salvation of the universe and the spiritual salvation of the universe.
And so the desert comes alive. Look at verses 6-7, “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.” Physically, this is a clear picture of what the new heaven and new earth will look like. It's going to be incredible, lush, and beautiful. But I think it's also a clear picture of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit of God. I believe often the Spirit is likened to water. With the Samaritan woman, he's likened to water. In John 7, “Out of your inner being, streams of living water will flow,” by this he meant the Spirit. Later in Isaiah, listen to this, this is so clear. You get that Hebrew parallelism that beautiful poetry and it's so clear that the Holy Spirit equals water. Isaiah 44:3-4, “For I'll pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” See, that's just directly parallel. “They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.” So the agricultural images go right over to people, we are like green grass, we are like poplar trees by flowing streams by the power of the Spirit.
III. The Transforming Event: “Your God Will Come to Save You” (vs. 4)
And what is the transforming event? Verse 4, I already said, this is what it is. Verse 4, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come.’” Friends, these transformations I've been talking about, they do not come by human power, they don't come by human ingenuity. I don't wanna hear about what the Jews are doing with irrigation in the promised land. That's marvelous and incredible—that's not this. You understand? It's a supernatural transformation that only God can do. We can celebrate the skills of friends of ours, church members, at giving sight to blinded people, but I believe this text is talking about a day when there will be no blind people at all, and there'll be no deaf people and no lame people and no mute people at all, when disease itself will be banished forever. And the key to everything is your God will come. God's gonna intervene, he's gonna step into history, says Isaiah, the prophet, seventh century BC, he's gonna step, he's gonna come.
Well, you know, the ultimate expression of this is the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, born of a virgin. And the angel Gabriel said to her very plainly, “‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,’ which means, ‘God with us [or similar to your God has come].’” He is here, now, and he comes to save his people. Says, your God will come, he will come not to wipe you out, he will come to save you. And so in that same chapter, Matthew 1:21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the Savior of the world, he is the one who comes to do these things, 1 John 4:14, “And we have seen and testified that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” Now, the text also says he will come with vengeance and with divine retribution, he will come to do that too. There are sheep and there are goats. There's wheat, and there are weeds. There are good fish, and there are the bad fish. And there's going to be a vast separation, Jesus has taught this very plainly, and he will come it says “with the vengeance and with divine retribution,” we saw that in the last chapter.
Now, these things were fulfilled at the first and will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ. The two comings of Christ fulfill these prophecies. He will come to save you. He saves you by dying on the cross, by taking on our sins in his body and dying on the cross into the wrath and judgment of God, he comes to save you that way. And not only that, but being raised from the dead on the third day in a resurrection body that is our future. Those are the eyes that will never be blind, those are the ears will never go deaf, the resurrection body. Second coming, he will come with vengeance and with divine retribution. In Revelation 19, heaven will stand open and we will see One on a white horse leading the armies of heaven back to bring wrath and judgment on all those who have not repented and trusted in Christ.
So, for me, I urge you to flee to Christ, now, to listen to these words, to allow these words to transform your heart, that your eyes will be opened and you will see in Christ crucified—you can't see any images or pictures, nothing's flashing up on the screen, we're not looking at tha—just in your mind Jesus Christ is publicly portrayed as crucified this morning, dead for you in your place. But not only that, on the third day, risen from the dead, as though you are in the upper room and you're able to put your fingers in the nail marks and your hand on the side and say, “He's not just a spirit, he's not a ghost, he's been bodily raised from the dead, he is my Savior.” And say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” If you walked in here lost, you walked in here unregenerate, you walked in here blind and deaf and lame and mute, don't walk out here like that. You can walk out seeing and hearing and walking spiritually and speaking the praises of God. What do you have to do? You don't have to do anything. Believe him. Believe him. You don't have to move a muscle, just believe him. Look at the order in Matthew 9. First, to the paralyzed, man, “Your sins are forgiven.” Second, “Rise and walk.” There's your priority structure. Let Jesus speak into your soul, your sins are forgiven. Confess him as your Lord.
"If you walked in here lost, you walked in here unregenerate, you walked in here blind and deaf and lame and mute, don't walk out here like that. You can walk out seeing and hearing and walking spiritually and speaking the praises of God. "
Is that the end of it? No, it's not even the end of the chapter. You're wondering how can even the pastor can't get through 10 verses, well I think you know. Just look at it—it's a magnificent. This morning, I decided it would be two sermons. How can I describe the Highway of Holiness in four minutes? It can't be done. So it won't be done, but what I will do is I will read it to you and I'll say it points toward the rest of your life after you come to faith in Christ. Look what it says, “And the highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransom of the Lord will return. And they will enter Zion with singing.”
The moment you trust in Christ, your eyes are opened and you can see him at last, you begin, God sets you on a journey, and he calls it here in this text, the Highway of Holiness. And you're not allowed to be on that unless you're redeemed, only the redeemed can be on it, they're the only ones on that highway. And it's a place of safety and security and protection, no lion can get there, and you're going to make it, friends, you're gonna make it right to the end, and at the end you're going to enter Zion, the Holy Place of God, and there will be a rich, warm welcome for you, and you will be singing and they will be singing, and you will spend eternity in bliss and joy. “Everlasting joy will crown your head…and sorrow and sighing will flee away from you.” That's the future. So next time I preach in Isaiah, not next week, two weeks from now, I'll finish this chapter. So let's close in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the marvels of salvation, thank you for the marvels of Jesus' power. We thank you for the marvels of the promise. “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.” Oh God, make it happen. I pray it would be happening spiritually right now. I pray there wouldn't be a single person leaving this room unregenerate, not one person leaving this place not believing in Jesus. I pray that they would trust in him and that they would get up from that, and then begin walking the walk of holiness. Oh God, I pray, give us time, if it be your will, that two weeks from now we can talk more about that. Oh God, make us holy. Help us to yearn to put sin to death and to walk that way until at last we come into Zion forever. In Jesus name, Amen.