Monday, January 28, 2013
“A highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it” (Isa. 35:8 NIV).
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 35:1–10
We live in a time of highway projects and road building. Turnpikes and freeways are springing up across the land. Bridges are being built over rivers and tunnels underneath. Yet none compare in importance to the “Way of Holiness” described by Isaiah. People have hewn out footpaths in deep valleys and along high mountains, treading blindly among the crevices of life. In contrast to the circuitous maze of man-made roads—whether footpaths or freeways—stands a mighty project, a divine highway: “the Way of Holiness.” It is the way of life.
Forgetting Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem, Isaiah looks toward the city’s destruction by Babylon and the ensuing exile. Using poetic imagery, Isaiah describes God’s deliverance from Babylonian exile and the return of faithful Israel. “The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (35:1). God ordered Isaiah to speak words of encouragement to those on whom a total eclipse is about to descend: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you” (35:4).
As usual, Isaiah is not content to speak only in terms of an immediate context. His vision is lifted beyond the return from Babylonian exile to the final deliverance of God, inaugurated by the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (35:5–6). No doubt this is one of the passages to which Jesus referred as proof that he was the Messiah (Matt. 11:1–5). What Christ did in the healing of a few people shall be done for all the redeemed, in a fuller way, at the consummation of the ages. Christ did not come to build the highway to God. He stood at the crossroads of the temporary trails of humans, on a hill called Golgotha, and proclaimed himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
1) A clearly marked way (Isa. 35:8).
God’s highway cannot easily be ignored. Isaiah pictures life in terms of the surrounding desert with its barren, tractless wastes. Well-worn trails disappeared overnight because of the blowing, shifting sands. Every path was temporary. Into such life God has prepared a “way of holiness.” It is described in terms of a mighty roadway built on a high embankment, like some mighty monarch’s royal road. It stands out against the barren, shifting sands of the desert.
The Bible and the church stand as visible road signs. People have tried to pull down the signs and burn them, but all such efforts have failed. People have tried to discredit God’s Word, and yet it remains. They have sought to find fault with the church and thus discredit God’s offered salvation. Admittedly there are churches that are like poorly lettered, darkly faded signs, but they point to an untarnished and unblemished Savior. Men are not accountable to a church but to the Savior. Yet the church stands, often weak but always indestructible, because it is God’s ordained instrument for directing people to salvation.
God’s way of life is easy to find, hard to miss: “The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” (Isa. 35:8). It is not that people cannot find this way. Rather, it is that people hesitate to commit themselves to this way, for it has its price. The way is a person—Jesus Christ. He must be accepted as Lord. He demands everything of his disciples.
2) A demanding way (Isa. 35:8, 10).
One cannot travel the way to life without a faith commitment. This is how the journey is inaugurated. Ransomed and redeemed are terms used to speak of those who have willingly yielded to God’s gracious call. Having found their guilt erased by the crucified Christ, they have committed themselves to the living Christ.
Salvation is not merely a past experience. It is a present reality. Discipleship is a daily experience. There must be no reservations. The Christian life is not like a cafeteria where each person picks out what suits him. There is no place for harboring certain “decent sins.”
We worry about the growth of liberal theology because it cuts things out of the Bible. The Virgin Birth is not rational, so liberalism snips it out. Miracles are not rational; hence, they too must fall before the scissors. The same lot befalls the doctrine of the resurrection. How can mortal humans dare to become judges of God’s revealed Word? The answer is simple. Liberals do their scissor work just like the staunch conservative who reads that the tithe belongs to the Lord (Mal. 3:10) yet snips it out of his Bible by ignoring it, who reads about compassion and snips it out by indifference (Luke 15), who reads about the necessity of assembling for public worship (Heb. 10:25) and snips it out by making every other weekend a holiday.
3) A joyous way (Isa. 35:10).
The human soul has an inner yearning for a utopia wherein joy abides. Materialism, with its view that life consists in an abundance of things, is only one of the many mirages pursued by people today. The lure of a morality where sex outside of marriage is commonplace and acceptable is another popular mirage. The problem with mirages is that they promise satisfaction but never deliver. The fulfillment always vanishes at the last moment, leaving only frustration, shame, or emptiness.
In contrast to the world’s illusions, God keeps his promises: “The parched ground shall become a pool” (Isa. 35:7). A more literal reading would be: “The mirage shall become a pool.” God’s promises do not vanish as the morning mists. The fountain of life is a reality that satisfies. The greatest and most joyous moment awaiting Christians is that time when heaven and earth pass away and the heavenly Zion is manifest for all to behold.
In the meantime, God’s faithful have a daily joy of deliverance expressed by the psalmist: “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth” (Ps. 40:2–3).
4) The only way out (Isa. 35).
The “way of holiness” found in Christ is the only road without a dead end. It is the spiritual route open to every sinner who desires freedom from guilt and ruin. Isaiah 35 cannot be appreciated fully apart from the preceding chapter. The two chapters are in reality a poem divided into two parts. Isaiah 34 pictures the storm of God’s judgment on sin. Isaiah 35 is the offer of peace in the midst of the storm. In Isaiah 34, Edom personifies all that opposes God. The final judgment is described as a time when “all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll” (v. 4). God’s wrath is real: “For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations” (v. 2). “For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment” (v. 5).
Whereas the Promised Land was divided by lot that every man might have his rightful inheritance, so shall hell be divided among those who have chosen it: “And he hath cast the lot for them, and his hand hath divided it unto them by line: they shall possess it for ever” (Isa. 34:17).
This coming storm is no accident. It is a part of the divine time table. The Bible stands as a solemn warning against that moment: “Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail . . . for my mouth it hath commanded” (Isa. 34:16).
Yet there is an alternative: the “Way of Holiness.” All the forces of evil seek to keep people from that way of life. Only the gospel of Christ, the “Way of Holiness” offers any solution, any way to face these certainties in calm assurance.
Now in Conclusion
Through faith in Christ, life becomes a pilgrimage that will reach its final destination beyond death. Death becomes merely the last port of entry this side of glory. It is said that recorded on Dean Alford’s grave underneath an old yew tree in St. Martin’s churchyard are the words “The inn of a traveler on his way to Jerusalem.”
God bless you, Pastor Mike