While the previous chapter described a land desolate and corrupt (also an allegory for the spiritual condition of one living without God), this chapter describes a land healthy and fruitful, embodying God’s blessings upon the redeemed.
Verses 1 & 2 depict the glory to come through Jesus Christ. It is ultimately God’s glory and it rings out in the land. This is in contrast to the punishment meted out to the people in Isaiah 33:9: “The earth mourns and languishes, Lebanon is shamed and shriveled; Sharon is like a wilderness, And Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits.”
In Isaiah 35:2, the punishment is reversed, which is fitting in light of how God redeems mankind through Jesus’s ultimate death and sacrifice for sins. Even though we (and Israel) deserve punishment, God’s grace saves and blesses us instead. What marvelous love: “It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, The excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, The excellency of our God.” Isaiah 35:2
Verses 3 & 4 admonish the suffering righteous to be strong and maintain their faith for the Lord God will save them and avenge their foes. The people suffered for years and years under the hands of abusive nations and the idolatry and sin of their own people. Through Isaiah, God is admonishing the remaining faithful to not give up hope.
The writer of the book of Hebrews uses very similar language as in Isaiah 35:3 to encourage New testament Christians in Hebrews 12:12. In this passage in Hebrews, the writer was explaining the need to suffer sometimes in order to get stronger. While there is a distinctive difference from the reason strength is needed compared to Isaiah 35, the resolution to be and remain strong is one we all need to make: “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13
Verses 5-7 prophesy the coming glory of Jesus Christ. The mysterious plan of God had been kept from mankind for so long. Many of His people had lost faith and given in to the temptations of the world surrounding them. When God’s plan comes to fruition through Jesus, miracles will occur (proof of verses 5 & 6 found in the New Testament) and the figurative land of the desert will be lush and healthy with the water of God. Again we have the secondary spiritual meaning in these verses. The dry and wanting spiritual condition of man will be vastly improved and made healthy through the sacrifice and blood of Jesus Christ.
The final passage in this chapter is special. It is clearly written prophecy and it describes the kingdom of God, which is His church. There are three ideas at play in these verses, which all ultimately embody the same idea:
1. Highway of Holiness
2. God’s church or kingdom
3. The narrow gate
God’s church of the saved is characterized as the Highway of Holiness. This is a place for the pure in spirit and it shall be protected by God. God’s church is a path in life that can be taken even by the simplest among us. The narrow gate (Matthew 7:14) is another way to describe the righteous path we are to walk with Jesus if we want the crown of glory in heaven when our life is finished: “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:14
The final verse is the perfect conclusion to these ideas: a description of the reward in heaven. When we are redeemed to God, we ”shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 35:10