The Song of the Desert
The prophet Isaiah was not only a statesman but a man with a song. In his great book, a library within a library, he has given to us three wonderful songs. In chapter 12, it is the Song of Delight; in chapters 25-27, it is the Song of Deliverance; and here in chapter 35, it is the Song of the Desert. Here the Holy Land is ideally portrayed, and it will be gloriously fulfilled in the Messianic age. There is a wonderful prospect in view for this groaning earth and a bright future for the Hebrew race. We need not wait for that day, however, for all may be fulfilled spiritually in us now through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Cause of the Song
In chapter 34, it is a scene of desolation, but here one of the regeneration of nature, and the poet Isaiah is at his best in pictorial language. The song alone is sufficient to captivate the heart. In the opening words the glory of the Lord is seen in the blossoming desert (1-2). A great change comes over everything, for all nature will be rejoicing. Blossom time will be superabundant and the gladness of the day will be like the advent of spring. The land of Palestine will become an Eden of beauty, majesty, and fertility. This is brought out by the names Lebanon, Carmel and Sharon. The lovely land of Lebanon recalls to mind the majesty of our God; the name Carmel, along the coastal range of the same name reveals the beauty of our God; whereas the name Sharon, stretching along the blue Mediterranean is suggestive of the fertility and fruitfulness of our God. Think of the desert blossoming as the rose, the wilderness fertile and fragrant with fountains and flowers. What is the cause of so great a change? Two notes are struck by the prophet: First, the glory of Jehovah; and second, the excellency of God, or His glory and His greatness.
How this chapter reminds us of our own lives marked by the ravages of the desert of sin and the ruin of the wilderness through the Evil One! It is only when Christ reigns that the desert becomes a paradise, and waste and want are met with divine fulness and satisfaction. The glory of Jehovah is relative to His Person, whilst the excellency of our God has to do with His power. Glory is manifested character, and excellency is manifested conduct. The God of creation is the God of conversion. The God of restoration is the God of redemption. Our barren hearts can become by the transforming power of the Gospel, the garden of Eden for the fulfilling of the purpose of God. “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
The Challenge of the Song
In verses 3 and 4 the poet speaks to the nation, either the people as a whole or the religious guides of the time. Hands were drooping and knees were tottering, a picture of the decline in the land. As a nation, Israel was hastening towards the captivity that awaited them, following the destruction of the city and the temple, and all they counted holy and rejoiced in. It was a period of weakness, fearfulness, and degeneracy. The drooping hands tell that service for God was at a standstill. Walking for God was almost stopped and fainting on the part of all was self-evident. Yet in the darkness and with judgment impending for the enemies, the ransomed of the Lord were to experience freedom and fulness of joy. The challenge rings out in the highest note of the song, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees… Be strong.” They are verbs of continuous action and are to put heart and courage into the people in a day of national decline.
Think of our day and generation, when many have left their first love and the service of God is so commercialized. The watchword of the Christian should be, “Strengthen ye” the things that remain. We are called to battle and to build, even as Nehemiah. How can we accomplish this important ministry? By establishing saints and encouraging them in the faith once for all delivered to them.
The Comfort and Cheer of the Song
How marvellous to think of that day when the blind shall see, the deaf shall hear, and the lame shall Walk! It is a time when infirmities will pass away to the fulness of health and happiness for all people. What is going to be true in that day can be made real now in the power of the Gospel message received and realized. When Christ becomes Lord of all, blind eyes begin to see, deaf ears begin to hear, lame feet begin to leap in His glad service, and silent tongues begin to pray and sing. The vivid story of the lame man in Acts 3 is being enacted before our eyes. The regenerating power of God the Holy Spirit is able to transform lives.
The mirage of the day will become a reality then. Even though there are problems to face, discouragement is on every hand, and disillusionment abounds, God’s word is eternal, sure, and never can be broken. Here we observe gushing fountains, streams in the desert, and pools where once was emptiness and drought. It is the highway to life everlasting. In that day the nation will walk in God’s way according to God’s word (Isa. 30:12). It is the sacred way (8a), the simple way (8b), the safe way (9), the songful way (10), and the satisfying way (v10). The wilderness way with all its perils and problems can become the highway of the King that leads to the eternal home. Only the God of Israel can work such a marvellous change over the land and in human life. He alone is able to deliver us from disabilities, to cure our insensibilities to turn our barrenness into fruitfulness, and to throw a glory over all of life. In that coming morning perfect liberty will be the portion of all from sin and sighs; death and disease will flee away, and love and light and lasting joy forever shall be enjoyed.
Even if we are still marked by sorrow and sickness, infirmity and impotence of life, how blessed to know such can become a means under God for our spiritual welfare! Think of Job and his boils; Joseph and his pit; Jacob and his limp; Paul and his thorn. Crippling comes before the cornation, and holiness before Heaven. Holiness is spiritual health and beauty. The sorrows of life are to draw us unto Him. The sighs of life are to train us for the splendour of that home. It is no wonder the prophet breaks forth into a song when he contemplates his theme: life in the midst of death.