The Way of Holiness

E. J. Strange, Bridgwater

ISAIAH 35

This chapter is a forward echo of the great chapters towards the end of the prophecy such as chapter 55 where, in beautiful poetic imagery, the captives are led out with joy and all nature shares in their gladness.

The Wilderness Blossoms like the Rose, v. 1. There is always something gloomy about a wilderness whether natural or manmade -particularly the latter. The landscape bears all the marks of fearful neglect or fearful destruction. Such is the ruin left by war, and such was the land of Judah in the days of the invasions of the Assyrians and, later, of the Chaldeans. Such also is a fitting symbol of the devastation caused by spiritual neglect, and the violation by man of the laws of the Creator. The creation itself, groaning because of the bondage of corruption, awaits the manifestation of lie sons of God. When the redeemed of the Lord return to Zion with everlasting joy upon their heads, the glory of Lebanon and the beauty of Sharon, v. 2, are seen where once all was barren and ugly. What is true in a cosmic sense is also true for the individual. My redemption from sin's slavery brings me unbounded joy, but it is a joy that will be radiated. Beauty will be seen in my once barren life. "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me".

The Water of Life flows where the redeemed walk - there are streams in the desert, y. 6. This was true when Israel came from Egypt. It was true spiritually then, and it is today. "They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ", 1 Cor. 10. 4.

It has been said that "the parched ground", Isa. 35. 7, may by etymology be connected with the idea of a "desert mirage". In the wilderness of this world there are so many mirages. The passionable longings of men are so often disappointed. There is a fountain of living waters, but with one's back to it, with a refusal of these waters, nothing remains to satisfy; men are thirsty still.

It was on the last great day of the feast of tabernacles that the Lord Jesus stood and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water", John 7. 37, 38. We are left in no doubt as to the meaning of this glorious invitation. Those who believed would receive the Spirit consequent on the glorification of the Saviour. We have all been made to drink into the One Holy Spirit of God who is the Spirit of life and blessing. The river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. If in the humility of faith we walk in the Spirit, not fulfilling the inordinate desires of our flesh, then from us will flow the water of life; there will be streams in the desert.

The Way of the Redeemed - the sacred way - is itself described. It is a high-way, or causeway. In ancient history, tribes of men lived on high hills, but often had to go lower to fetch water. Ancient tracks were formed by the constant passage of feet, tracks which in some parts became depressed below the level of the surrounding country. They were "hollow-ways" {note Holloway, as a place name). Alas, the general path for men has been in the hollow-ways, depressed and dirty - the common rut. But there is a high-way - the sacred way. We enter upon it when we come to the Lord Jesus who said, "I am the way ... no man cometh unto the Father, but by me", John 14. 6. While we walk with men upon earth, our spiritual course is above the common level of humanity. May it be so in practice.

It is a Clean Way; "the unclean shall not pass over it", Isa. 35. 8. So often in this world we feel the defilement of all around us. We are walking in a path where the filth is indescribable, and we have to pick our way with caution and even then become besmirched. We cry, "lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies", Psa. 27. 11. The sacred way is for the cleansed, to whom their Lord has said, "Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken unto you", John 15. 3.

The marginal reading of Isaiah 35. 8, "but it shall be for those" is "for he shall be with them". Our way in life can alone be sacred inasmuch as we are conscious of walking in the company of the Lord Himself: "Jesus himself drew near, and went with them", Luke 24.15. If this be our true experience, we too shall say, "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way", v. 32. "Jesus, a great desire have we, To walk life's troubled path with Thee".

The Sacred Way is always the Safe Way - "no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon", Isa. 35. 9. It may seem dangerous, but the Christian finds that, as in Bunyan's great allegory, the lions cannot harm those who keep to the road. They may roar, the heart may sometimes quail, but the ravenous beasts are chained and cannot come near to destroy. The road may be rough, but it is safe.

The Road is the Right Way; it leads to Zion, Isa. 35. 10. David's city of Zion captured the imagination of poets and psalmists, of inspired New Testament writers and visionaries. Zion appears in our hymns as the city of God, the city of the great King, the place where glory dwells. "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee . . . and they shall call thee, The city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel", Isa. 60. 1, 14.

The redeemed are "marching to Zion"; with glory upon them and joy in their hearts, they march with singing. The ransomed are ever a singing people, for songs are the spontaneous expression of great joy. It is when we lose our joy in our Redeemer that we lose our song. They obtain joy and gladness, 35. 10. As when the sun rises, then the dark spectres of night, the shadow and gloom disappear, so sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The sacred way is the path that shines more and more unto the perfect day. It leads into the presence of Him where there is fulness of joy; it leads to His right hand where there are pleasures for evermore. And He is our Lord, our Redeemer, whom we love.