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The Return of the Redeemed to Zion


The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the L ord,

the majesty of our God.



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,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;


then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;


the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.



A highway shall be there,

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.


And the ransomed of the L ord shall return,

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.


6. For waters shall be dug. He next adds other blessings with which believers shall be copiously supplied, as soon as the kingdom of Christ is set up; as if he had said, that there will be no reason to dread scarcity or want, when we have been reconciled to God through Christ, because perfect happiness flows to us from him. But he represents this happiness to us under metaphorical expressions; and, first, he says that “waters shall be dug;” because, where formerly all was barren, there the highest fertility shall be found. Now, we are poor and barren, unless God bless us through Christ; for he alone, brings with him the blessing of the Father, which he bestows upon us. Wicked men, indeed, have often a great abundance of good things, but their wealth is wretched; for they have not Christ, from whom alone proceeds a true and salutary abundance of all blessings. Death unquestionably would be more desirable than that abundance of wine and of food with which we, at the same time, swallow the curse of God. When, therefore, Christ shall gloriously arise, rivers and waters shall flow out and yield true and valuable advantage.

7. The dry place shall be changed into a pool. He confirms the former statement, that Christ will come in order to enrich his people with all abundance of blessings; for waters shall flow out of “dry places.” 2727     “Instead of the general meaning put upon שרב (sharab,) by the older writers following the Septuagint (ἄνυδρος) and the Vulgate (quoe erat arida) it is now agreed that the word denotes the illusive appearance caused by the unequal refraction in the lower strata of the atmosphere, and often witnessed both at sea and land, called in English, looming, in Italian, fata morgana, and in French, mirage In the deserts of Arabia and Africa, the appearance presented is precisely that of an extensive sheet of water, tending not only to mislead the traveler, but to aggravate his thirst by disappointment. The phenomenon is well described by Quintus Curtius, in his Life of Alexander the Great.” — Alexander.
The same view is given by Vitringa, who speaks of it as held by other learned men, and illustrates it very happily. It is also maintained by Rosenmuller, who supports it by curious and instructive extracts from Arabic scholiasts, and from the Koran, and by a host of other authorities. — Ed
We must keep in remembrance what we mentioned a little before, that the Prophet delineates to us what may be called a picture of a happy life; for although this change was not openly visible at the coming of Christ, yet with good reason does the Prophet affirm that, during his reign, the whole earth shall be fruitful; for he had formerly said that without Christ all things are cursed to us.

In the habitation of dragons. The whole world, therefore, shall resemble a parched wilderness, in which lions, “dragons,” and other wild beasts prowl, till the kingdom of Christ shall be set up; and, on the other hand, when he is established on his throne, the godly shall lack nothing. An instance of this was given, when the Lord delivered his people and brought them out of Babylon; but the accomplishment of this prophecy must be looked for in Christ, through whom their ruinous condition is amended and restored; for that deliverance was but a feeble representation of it. And yet the full accomplishment of this promise ought not to be expected in the present life; for as it is through hope that we are blessed, (Romans 8:24,) so our happiness, which is now in some respects concealed, must be an object of hope till the last day; and it is enough that some taste of it be enjoyed in this world, that we may more ardently long for that perfect happiness.

8. And a path shall be there. Here it is promised to the Jews that they shall be allowed to return to their native country, lest, when they were carried into Babylon, they should think that they were led into perpetual banishmerit. Yet this statement is, in my opinion, extended much farther by the Prophet; for, as he promised a little before, that there would be plenty and abundance of provisions where there had been barrenness, so now he says that those places where formerly no man dwelt shall be occupied with the.journeys and habitations of a vast multitude of men; and, in short, that the whole of Judea shall enjoy such harmony and peace with other countries, that men shall pass from the one country to the other without fear; for where there are no inhabitants, there can be no intercourse and no roads. He therefore means that the Jews will carry on intercourse and merchandise with other nations, after having been brought back and restored to their own land.

And it shall be called, The holy way. Not without reason does the Prophet add that “the way shall be holy;” for wherever there is a great multitude of men, innumerable vices and corruptions abound. What else is done by a crowd of men than to pollute the land by infecting each other with mutual contagion? The Prophet therefore means that not only the earth, but also the minds of men are renewed by the kindness of Christ, so that they sanctify the earth which they formerly were wont to corrupt by their pollution. Yet what I stated briefly ought to be remembered, that the Jews, to whom the way shall be consecrated, will return to their native country, that they may worship their Redeemer in it in a holy manner; as if he had said that the land will be cleansed from the disgraceful rabble of a wicked people, that it may be inhabited by the true worshippers of God.

The unclean person shall not pass through it. He now adds a more full explanation; for polluted persons shall not tread the land which God hath set apart for his children; as if he had said, that the Lord will separate believers in such a manner that they shall not be mingled with the reprobate. This ought, unquestionably, to be reckoned among the most valuable blessings of the Church; but it is not fulfilled in this life; for both despisers of God and hypocrites rush indiscriminately into the Church and hold a place there. Yet some evidence of this grace becomes visible, whenever God, by various methods, cleanses his Church; but the full cleansing of it must be expected at the last day. Even the worshippers of God, whom he has regenerated by his Spirit, are attended by much uncleanness. Though they have been sanctified by God, yet their holiness cannot be perfect; their flesh is not wholly dead, but subdued and restrained so as to obey the Spirit. Now, it is because the Lord reigns in them, and subdues their natural dispositions, that, on account of that part of them which is the most important, they are called Saints.

And he shall be to them one that walketh in the way. This clause has been tortured in various ways by commentators. Some render it “This shall be their road; they who have been used to the road, and they who are unacquainted with it, shall not go astray.” Others render it, “This shall be the road for the children of Israel, and they who walk shall not go astray, though they be unacquainted with it.” But the demonstrative pronoun הוא, (hu,) he, is more correctly, in my opinion, viewed as referring to God; as if he had said, that God will go before them to lead and direct the way. And the context absolutely demands it; for it would not be enough to have the way opened up, if God did not go before to guide his people. The Prophet therefore extols this inestimable kindness, when he represents God as journeying along with his people; for, if he do not point out the road, our feet will always lead us astray, for we are wholly inclined to vanity. Besides, though the road be at hand, and though it be plain before our eyes, yet we shall not be able to distinguish it from the wrong road, and if we begin to walk in it, our folly will quickly lead us off on the right hand or on the left. But the Prophet shews that we shall be in no danger of going astray, when we shall follow God as the leader of the way; for he condescends to perform this office; and he probably alludes to the history of the first redemption, for at that time God directed his people

“by means of a cloud by day, and of a pillar of fire by night.” (Exodus 13:21.)

At the same time he points out how necessary it is that God should govern us, in directly laying folly to our charge, when he adds —

Fools shall not go astray; for they who are wise in their own eyes, and who rely on their own guidance, will be permitted by God to wander in uncertain courses; and therefore, if we wish that he should walk along with us, let us know that we need his guidance. Yet he offers us this most excellent reward, that they who follow him, even though they did not formerly possess any wisdom, shall be in no danger of going astray. Yet the Prophet does not mean that believers, after the Lord has taken them by the hand, will be ignorant; but he shews what they are before the Lord becomes their leader.

9. There shall not be there a lion. He adds another favor of God, that the people, though they travel through a wilderness, will be protected against every hostile attack. Formerly he mentioned it (Isaiah 34:14) as one of the curses of God, that wild beasts would meet the Jews wherever they went; but now he declares that, when they have been received into favor, no lions and no beasts of prey shall attack them; because the Lord will ward them off, so as to open up a way for his people free from all danger and from all fear. For although they had received liberty to return, yet they might have met with many obstacles; and therefore he says that the Lord will remove every annoyance and obstruction.

We may draw from this a profitable doctrine, namely, that God not only begins, but conducts to the end, the work of our salvation, that his grace in us may not be useless and unprofitable. As he opens up the way, so he paves it, and removes obstacles of every description, and is himself the leader during the whole journey. In short, he continues his grace towards us in such a manner that he at length brings it to perfection. And this ought to be applied to the whole course of our life. Here we walk as on a road, moving forward to that blessed inheritance. Satan presents numerous obstructions, and dangers surround us on every side; but the Lord, who goes before and leads us by the hand, will not leave us in the midst of the journey, but at length will perfectly finish what he has begun in us by his Spirit. (Philippians 1:6.) Yet it ought to be observed that the very beasts, through God’s kindness, shall be tamed, so as not to direct their rage and cruelty against us, as it is said,

“I will make a covenant for you with the fowls of heaven, and with the beasts of prey.” (Hosea 2:18.)

10. Therefore the redeemed of Jehovah shall return. The Prophet confirms the former doctrine, that God hath determined to redeem his people, and therefore that nothing can resist his decree. He calls them “the redeemed of God,” that they may consider his power, and may not estimate by human means the promise which he has made about their return. He says also, that they will come to Zion, because God does not in vain wish to bring them out of Babylon, and to leave them when they have commenced their journey. At the same time, it ought to be observed, that we have no means of entering the Church but by the redemption of God; for under the example of the ancient people, a general representation is placed before our eyes, that we may know that no man is rescued from the tyranny of the devil, to which we are all subject, till the grace of God go before; for no man will redeem himself. Now, since this redemption is a gift peculiar to the kingdom of Christ, it follows that he is our only deliverer, as is also attested by the declaration,

“If the Son shall make you free,
you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36.)

Yet it is not enough that we have once been redeemed; for the design is, that we should dwell in the Church of God, and make progress from day to day. Since therefore we have been delivered by Christ, we ought to labor with all our might, and continually to strive to gain that end. If it be said that we do not need to perform a long journey, in order to be admitted into the Church of God, (for we are received into it by baptism,) I reply, that here the Prophet discourses metaphorically about the whole course of life; because the time when” the redeemed of God” shall actually “come to Zion,” is when the course of life is closed, and they pass into a blessed life. And it ought also to be observed, that the greater the progress which we make in the grace of God, and the more close our alliance to the Church, the nearer do we approach to Zion.

And they shall obtain joy and gladness. By the words “joy and gladness,” he means that there will be so great happiness under the reign of Christ, that we shall have abundant reason to rejoice. And indeed the true and only ground of rejoicing is, to know that we are reconciled to God, whose favor is sufficient for our perfect happiness, “so that we may glory even in tribulation,” (Romans 5:3;) and, on the other hand, when Christ does not enlighten us, we must, be darkened by sorrow. Besides, it is certain that the godly do not rejoice in a proper manner without also expressing grafftude to God; and therefore this spiritual joy must be distinguished from that ordinary joy in which irreligious men indulge; for the reprobate also rejoice, but their end at length shews how pernicious is the wantonness of the flesh, which leads them to take delight in despising God. This kind of “joy” Paul justly (Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22) calls spiritual; for it does not depend on fading things, such as honor, property, riches, and other things of that nature which quickly perish; but this joy is secret and has its seat in the hearts, from which it cannot be shaken or torn away in any manner, though Satan endeavors by every method to disturb and afflict us; and therefore the Prophet justly adds —

Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The joy is everlasting, and all “sadness flees away;” for although many bitter griefs are daily endured by the children of God, yet so great is the power and strength of their consolation, that it swallows up all sorrow. “We glory,” says Paul, “in our tribulations,” (Romans 5:3;) and this glorying cannot be without joy. The Apostles

“departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy of suffering dishonor for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:41.)

Yet the godly often suffer heavy distresses, and are not exempt from grief. This is undoubtedly true, but they are not overwhelmed; for they look straight towards God, by whose power they become victorious, just as if a person, elevated on a lofty mountain, looking at the sun, and enjoying his brightness, beheld others in a low valley, surrounded by clouds and darkness, whom that brightness could not reach.

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