Isaiah’s closing message to all the oracles he had delivered on God’s behalf was a revelation concerning destiny—either the path of redemption or the path of reckoning, for there is no middle ground.
The Path of Reckoning
First, Isaiah delivered the bad news that without faith in God, there will be a time of reckoning in which the issue of sin must be addressed. Because God is righteous and just, right judgment is necessary in the Lord’s governance of the cosmos.
The Path of Redemption
It is God’s desire, however, that none should perish, but rather have eternal life. The path of redemption is the path of repentance and restoration, the path of belief and faith.
The Lord revealed the nature of God’s character and values by saying,
I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.Exodus 33:19 (NRSV)
There is a dramatic shift, then, from the path of reckoning to the path of redemption, which is featured in three parts.
Redemption in Nature
In Genesis God explained that the consequences of sin would result in a curse that affected the earth and all that lived in it. In Romans Paul talked about how the earth groans under this curse, waiting to be liberated when Jesus returns. Just as the earth was made into desolation and chaos, the Lord now lifts God’s metaphorical finger from the rewind button. God’s Spirit moves once again across the void, there is a new genesis, and beauty unfolds
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;Isaiah 35:1-2 (NRSV)
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and shouting.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Redemption in Humanity
Just as the earth is made fresh and new and alive, in the second part of redemption’s transformation God’s people will be restored to the fullness of their potential, and it will be by the very same activity that brought justice and reckoning.
Strengthen the weak hands
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,Isaiah 35:3-6 (NRSV)
and the ears of the deaf shall be opened;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
On one level, this is the glorification that Paul speaks of in Romans, when all believers will be resurrected to their new bodies, to reign forever with the Lord.
We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.Romans 8:23-24 (NRSV)
Yet on another level, this prophecy was fulfilled two thousand years ago, when Jesus reassured John the Baptist’s disciples that He really was the Messiah. It is a prophecy still being fulfilled to this day. Every person who puts their faith in the Lord Jesus is already redeemed. The process of transformation is already underway, a certainty that will be made complete on the day of the Lord’s return.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.Romans 8:29-30 (NRSV)
The path of reckoning the prophet spoke of holds only death, in the end. The path of redemption holds life, life forevermore. What was corrupted is now put right, this is the deepest reckoning of all, God’s powerful sword at work.
As personal meditation, think of each area the prophet conveyed.
- Weak hands and feeble knees. What weakness could you or I trust God to strengthen?
- Anxious and fearful heart. What one thing would we be willing to leave in God’s hands, as often as it comes to mind?
- Blinded eyes. In what situation would we be willing to ask God to change our perspectives so we can see what the Lord sees?
- Deafened ears. How willing are we to change the way we listen, to let go of our expectations and simply ask the Lord to give us the insight we need, then trusting enough to live by what the Lord gives us?
- Inability to walk. What steps of faith have you or I been hesitating to make? What is holding us back? What will it take to get moving again?
- Muted tongue. When have you or I kept silent out of fear, or lack of caring? What situation needs our voices right now?
Redemption of Earth
The rest of Isaiah’s message focuses on the final part of redemption, God’s redemption and restoration of the land.
A highway shall be there,Isaiah 34:8-9 (NRSV)
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
God has made a safe and holy way. It may be a bumpy road sometimes, but it is still a safe road.
Redemption is God’s gracious work received by faith
All those already loving God and living by faith are walking on this highway of holiness, the path of the redeemed.
Those still tending their options resist the idea of two destinies. Perhaps there is a third destiny? Or perhaps there is no destiny? You and I cannot answer those questions ourselves, and they are worthy to ask. Thankfully, the Lord provides a way to find God if that is what a person is truly seeking.
In the Hebrew scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah reassured the people in God’s voice,
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.God to all those seeking the Lord, Jeremiah 33:3 (NRSV)
Centuries later, the apostle Paul also spoke on God’s behalf to a gathering of Greek philosophers and dignitaries on Mars Hill, Athens.
[God personally] gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’Acts 17:26-27 (NRSV, modifications mine)
Wherever anyone lives, in whatever culture or people group or nation, God puts God’s own self within reach of every person. The Lord says, If you really look for Me with the intent of finding Me, I will make sure you find Me. If you and I want answers, God has promised to give them, enough for us to put our faith in the Lord.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall returnIsaiah 35:10 (NRSV)
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.