Isaiah 35: 1-10
The language and content in the book of Isaiah change
with the beginning of chapter 40. Many Bible scholars
believe our present book of Isaiah is a combination of
several ancient writings by different prophets. The
original prophet Isaiah lived and prophesied during the
Assyrian conquest of Judah and Israel. Many scholars
identify a “Second Isaiah” (Deutero-Isaiah), who
prophesied during the end of the Babylonian exile,
around 539 BCE, long after the original prophet died.
Chapters 34 and 35 declare hope and restoration in the
face of oppression and conquest.
In God’s time, all creation will blossom like a
luxuriant garden, as testimony to the majesty and power
of God. The transformation extends to all who are weak,
oppressed, and fearful. God will be with them in power,
to save and comfort them. God will heal people who are
blind, sick, lame, deaf, and speechless. Strength and
confidence will return.
During this time of healing and wholeness, a clear and
inviting road will point the way back home for all the
exiles. The highway will be safe, holy, and easy to
travel. Those who walk the Holy Way will sing with joy
and will forget all sorrow in the worship of God. The
exiles who longed to return to their land found this
image memorable and comforting. They rejoiced to think
they soon would be released from captivity to begin the
journey home. They believed that once they returned
home, Jerusalem would rise again, the garden would
blossom, and the nation would be great.
Five hundred years later, the Gospel writers found in
this passage a testimony of God’s concern and saving
grace during times of oppression. During the Roman
conquest, the people of Israel felt exiled within their
land and waited for the promised Messiah. From
antiquity, Isaiah spoke to them. All the Gospel writers
pointed to John the Baptist as the one “crying in the
wilderness,” who would prepare the “way of the Lord” for
the coming Messiah. They used the familiar passages in
Isaiah 35:1–10 and 40:3–5 to describe the Holy Way and
the hope of the Messiah.
The joyous expectation of the coming Messiah shines
through the weeks of Advent. Today, we look toward our
celebration of the birth of Jesus. We prepare the
wilderness around us to receive him. We hope for the day
of healing and renewal, promised so long ago in the time
of the Assyrians and Babylonians.
The time of moral and spiritual renewal is still the
foundation of God’s vision for all creation. Despite
conquest, oppression, injustice, sickness, and death,
the people of God live with the knowledge that God cares
for them. God is present with them—Emmanuel,
God-with-us. There is a clear and inviting way for all
those who are lost or exiled. Jesus said, “I am the
way…” (John 14:6) and we are the followers of the way.