The Joy that Awaits

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

-Isaiah 35:10

Some times people paint with colors and at other times they paint with words. Isaiah here is painting with words and what a wonderful picture he paints.

He starts by saying that “the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad” (Is. 35:1). The groaning world, the world bent with the Fall, shall be made right. Even the earth shall be glad. The barren desert, filled with dust and sand, shall beautifully blossom.[1] It shall “rejoice with joy and singing” (v. 2). The whole of the world will unfurl and be in a state of spring. Yes, the desert shall blossom like the crocus (v. 1).

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The redeemed shall see the majesty and “the glory of the LORD” (v. 2). Our eyes as of now have a shutter over them, we see through a fog, or as through dirty glass dimly, but then we shall see. We shall see the full wonder of the LORD’s glory and beauty. We know the whisper but we shall hear the wondrous roar!

What we have seen and known so far will be as an architectural model compared to the actuality of the world our Lord will remake. Consider the drab colors of an empty desert to the richness and life of a blossoming flower.

Does Isaiah’s picture matter? How can a painting, even a beautiful painting, have any impact on us?

We are in the drab desert now. Hearing that there is an oasis, a real oasis, is motivating and encouraging.

So, Isaiah says, “Be strong; and fear not” (v. 4 cf. Is. 51)!

In other words, you may be wearily walking, and feel as though your wondering, in the desert, but take heart; ahead is your rest. And it’s glorious.

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then the lame will leap like a deer
and the mute tongue will shout for joy (Is. 35:5-6).

What is bent shall be mended. Weary hearts shall find their rest.

The sand that scorches your feet as you walk your weary trail shall become a luscious pool (v. 7) and all manner of thirst shall be quenched (v. 7).

Everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away (v. 10).

Grasping joy and gladness in our grip. Sorrow and sighing forever banished and in their place everlasting joy.

 What a promise. What a gift. Who, however, is it for? To whom is it given? Who is the “they” in verse 10?

It is the “redeemed” (v. 9) and “ransomed” (v. 10) who have their home in this promised paradise. Only people dwell there who have had their sin forgiven (Is. 33:24) but the unclean shall not pass in (Is. 35:8).[2] So, what is the way to this paradise, this land of eternal spring and beauty? Jesus is the highway, He is the “Way of holiness” (see Is. 35:8 and Jn. 14:6).

A thousand distractions and a thousand lesser goods will keep us from longing and looking to our joy in Zion. May we ever kill what would keep us from seeing and experiencing such goodness and beauty. Remember, God is not a cosmic killjoy, He is no ogor, He has our best in mind. He gives delight beyond our imagination, may we not be contented with the desert. May we never be sated on polluted water when He has provided abundant streams (Jer. 2:13).

———-

[1] Is. 51:3 says, “The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”

[2] In fact, “the LORD has a day of vengeance… for the cause of Zion” (Is. 34:8). As hard as it is to say, it seems that the redeemed shall flourish when the evil are cursed. See, for example, the grave contrast between Is. 34 and Is. 35.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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