Tag Archives: Isaiah

Isaiah 35

A Promise From 700 B.C.

(A five minute read)

Some encouragement is eternal, just like some truth.

When I faced a medical crisis three years ago, Isaiah 35 was my cane when I felt weak, and a steadying hand to the elbow when I couldn’t move forward. It brought life when it seemed there could be death, and completed a picture for me of how God answers prayer.

In June of 2019 I had surgery to remove a tumour from inside my bladder, and spent the rest of the year receiving chemotherapy and chemo-radiotherapy. My wife Melanie and I had already struck the match of faith even before the surgery, and His heat came, as we knew it would. And then God showed me the riches of this passage.

Isaiah 35 is superficially about the future glory of Zion, God’s permanent capital. But at my personal level, it became a byword about hope for restoration and revival.

The prophet offers a picture of how God promises to answer when we cry for help. Then, when He comes in response to prayer, miracles happen. Jesus promised the same when He taught, ‘Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’ *

I cried out to God repeatedly. He answered through this scripture.

1 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;

2 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God.

The overwhelming nature of God’s promises are shown in the superlatives in the first two verses: glad, rejoice, blossom abundantly, joy and singing, glory, excellency. These are reliable even in our greatest times of spiritual barrenness.

3 Strengthen the weak hands, and support the feeble knees.

4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not. Your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you.”

God comes to those who are obedient and faithful, and who cry out to Him, even from a place of desperation or fear.

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

6 Then the lame man shall leap as a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For in the wilderness waters shall break out and streams in the desert.

Then’ shows that the healing that happens next is a result of our obedience and faithful prayer. After He comes, then the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf are opened, then the lame walk and the mute speak.

These verses also show that God is not just a Healer, but also heals us beyond what we ask for. The mute may wish to speak, but He also has them sing! The lame may wish to walk – He also has them leap!

In my spiritual wilderness, when I needed a drink, He brought an oasis, He came to me and said, ‘You will spring to new life.’ He always thinks bigger than I do.

7 The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes.

The word translated ‘jackals’ is the Hebrew word tannîym, which is doubled in the text for emphasis. It’s often translated as ‘dragon’, which of course is symbolically the devil. In this passage, God transforms a place where only hideous creatures will dwell to one full of gentility and life.

8 A highway shall be there, a roadway, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass on it, but it shall be for the wayfaring men, and fools shall not wander on it.

Highway’ here does means a thoroughfare for travel, but the word translated as ‘roadway’ is the Hebrew derek, which means a course of action, or what we might today call a lifestyle. The wayfaring men are those who choose this path to salvation that God has offered and set out on it in obedience, not knowing their destination, but trusting that it is good.

9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up on it; these shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there,

10 and the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

I’m one of those ‘ransomed of the Lord.’ When Jesus died on the cross and paid the price for my sin, He bought the rights to my life (and yours). The passage ends with the greatest news of all, that in the end I’ll return to God, meaning I’ll repent of my wrongdoing and turn back (Hebrew shoob) to God, who will be waiting with open arms to restore (Hebrew shoob) me.

Hebrews chapter 12 offers a wonderful New Testament parallel to this. It reads:

‘Now all discipline seems to be more pain than pleasure at the time, yet later it will produce a transformation of character, bringing a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who yield to it.

‘So be made strong even in your weakness by lifting up your tired hands in prayer and worship. And strengthen your weak knees, for as you keep walking forward on God’s paths all your stumbling ways will be divinely healed!’ **

To which I say, ‘So be it!’

Adapted from my memoir The Lie Called Cancer. Read more here.

* Matthew 6:10
** Hebrews 12:11-13

i John 1

A Matter of Life or Death

(A four minute read)

I’ve been thinking a lot about absolutism and relativism lately. Which leads naturally to thinking about life and death.

Before you nod off, know that this won’t be a Humanities 101 lecture. I won’t channel Frances Schaffer either (although he was right about many things). This is just some light musing from my frequent state of semi-confusion.

On the relative scale there is worst, worse, bad, better, good, best. On the absolute scale there is Good and then there are the rest of us. The creatures. The created ones. Since we can’t be good enough to make it There, we can’t make it anywhere. At least not after death.

Don’t worry: I’m not obsessing with death per se, even though I’m about to turn 65. It just seems like the best example because it comes to all of us.

Only the absolute scale can measure this. Either we are alive, or we are dead. There’s no room for ‘kinda dead’ or ‘sorta dead’. Even the term ‘half dead’ is only an idiom, as illogical and useless as ‘half pregnant.’

So there are things in life that must be objectified. There are absolutes. Death is one of them. What happens after death is also an absolute, but there remains a tremendous argument about what happens There.

As a Christian I believe there’s some sort of life after the death experience. It’s promised in the Bible. It also just seems logical that there should be something after the transition through death, just as there is something after the transition through birth. A transitory life that includes self-awareness is devoid of meaning unless it prepares me for something.

The well-worn ‘classroom preparation/test’ metaphor is apt here. However, if life is actually a test, then it’s wrong to call God a God of Love. More like God with a clipboard. I prefer to think that life is a choice (God’s choice), and then a series of choices by me that move me toward God or away from God.

The Eternal Problem

The key then, is which direction am I moving when I Bite the Big One?

Sooner or later, believer, agnostic or atheist, we all come face to face with a living God who created us. At least that’s what I believe. I imagine Him leaning in, not malevolently, but with kindness, and asking me, ‘So?’ Since He already knows what’s in my heart the question would seem irrelevant, except that I have free will. I’m allowed to speak.

I’ve been allowed to speak for almost 65 years now, and most of what I’ve spoken does not bear repeating; much of this I admit to, but am not proud of.

We imagine God as having a great memory – the best memory in fact. After all, He is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-seeing so must be all-remembering as well. Except He’s not. He can just as easily be all-forgetting.

The Bible has many reassurances of this. Here are two:

First, we get the bad news: ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’

Then the good news: ‘ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 1

Bad news again, where God says, ‘you have made Me burdened with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities.’ But then immediately we are stunned by, ‘I even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins.’ 2


Why? Why would God declare that sin is not acceptable in His presence but then invite us in, sin and all, and, oh – none of this makes any sense unless God truly is a loving entity, not an angry vindictive one.

It’s easy to argue that this apparent inconsistency in God’s behavior shows that He IS vindictive, because He is ‘inconsistent’. The logical fallacy that follows is that He is ‘arbitrary’. But that imprints human values on God, which doesn’t work. Human values are relative. God’s are absolute. And we don’t necessarily understand them.

I’ll argue instead that if He were vindictive He wouldn’t offer us a way out of our sinful, selfish madness.

It’s the darnedest thing. He loves me so much I got free will. Which means I can endlessly choose things He doesn’t like. But He’s not a cop; I don’t get arrested and jailed and then put on trial and executed. Not if I say I’m sorry.

That’s the way of grace. And grace must exist because free will exists in a world where sin exists. And all these are absolute.

1. 1 John 1:8-9
2. Isaiah 43:24b-25