“And the redeemed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sadness will flee.” (Isaiah 35:19)
God revealed a prophetic vision to Isaiah beyond Jerusalem’s destruction and beyond they the exile. He showed him a wilderness, a dry land, a desert that would be restored. This wilderness would bloom with joy by the glory of the Lord when the Lord would redeem His people. The Lord promised healing and restoration, and a road, a way to get there, a highway that would be safe to travel. Only those redeemed would have access to this road, and they would return to Zion with singing, gladness, and unending joy.
No doubt those who first heard these prophetic words discounted them. They found the message incredulous. Consider why. Jerusalem was not under siege. There was no threat to fortress Jerusalem. So Isaiah’s message would not have resonated with them at all. Their spiritual myopia would be their undoing, but the day would come when these prophetic words would become more of an encouraging message of hope.
This side of history we know of Jerusalem’s destruction, the Babylonian exile, the suffering, but also the joyful return to Jerusalem as God redeemed His people as promised. But we cannot stop there. We must go deeper into this prophecy, because it is a messianic prophecy.
Isaiah’s description of an arid wasteland speaks of the spiritual condition of those who do not walk with God, who have turned to follow their own path. God would provide a way whereby people might turn to Him and “return” to enter into an eternal joy. This joyous return describes what takes place spiritually when we turn from sin, enter faith, and walk with the Lord on the basis of the way Jesus provided on the cross, thus bringing this prophecy to its full completion.