The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 35:1-10 and is the third straight text from Isaiah in this Advent season. There is also more to come. Isaiah’s beautiful prophetic language describing the, “Coming of the Promised One,” is very familiar to us, but the challenge is always to determine to which coming of the Messiah Isaiah’s prophecy is pointing towards. Scholars are not always in agreement in this regard, but, since Advent is a time to focus on both comings of Christ, you cannot go wrong with Isaiah!

Contextually, chapter 35 immediately proceeds the historical/narrative section of Isaiah in chapters 36-39. This section (36-39) describes the reign of Hezekiah with a strong focus on his illness, the siege by the Assyrian commander Sennacherib, and the envoy that comes to visit Hezekiah from Babylon. Because of the position of our pericope in regard to this historical section, some have suggested Isaiah 35 is all about the restoration of Israel back to the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity. I would disagree with this and argue that the Messianic language of this text and the theme of restoration point to the return of Christ who ransoms His people and restores them to the heavenly Zion.

In this chapter, Isaiah twice uses the motif of wilderness/death/evil which is restored/raised to life by water. This is a common death and new life/resurrection motif in Scripture beginning in Genesis that foreshadows much of the ministry of Jesus and even His journey from Egypt through the wilderness back to Judea. It is also useful to think of the reversal of this motif in Christ as He goes through the waters of the Jordan immediately into the wilderness to face the temptations of Satan.

Once again, as we see in many of the prophets, Isaiah uses the language which becomes the marker for the Messiah. “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped… the lame shall walk (leap) and the mute shall speak…” This was the message Jesus sent to John the Baptist as he languished in prison, in response to the ones John sent to ask Jesus if He was the One or should he look for another. By these words, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah who was foretold by the prophets of old.

One other note concerning, “The Way of Holiness,” and the highway the redeemed and ransomed will walk upon: this is much broader and includes many others besides just the Jewish people in Babylon. It refers to ALL PEOPLE! Christ came to redeem and ransom everyone, and all who believe in Him shall be saved… ALL!

35:1 יְשֻׂשׂוּם (ye-su-Sum) root: שׂושׂ שׂישׂ (sis or soos) Qal: “to exult; to rejoice; to be glad; to display joy”

וְצִיָּה> (ve-tzi-Yah) “dry landscape; dry land; desert”

וְתָגֵל (ve-ta-Gel) root: גיל (gheel) Qal: “to rejoice; to shout in exultation”

וְתִפְרַח> (ve-tif-Rach) root: פרח (paw-rakh) Qal: “to sprout; to blossom; to shoot forth buds”

כַּחֲבַצָּלֶת; (ka-cha-vatz-Tza-let) “crocus”

35:2 פָּרֹחַ תִּפְרַח (pa-Ro-ach tif-Rach) Qal, infinitive construct: “to blossom abundantly; to sprout exceedingly”

גִּילַת (gi-Lat) “rejoicing”

וְרַנֵּן (ve-ran-Nen) root: רנן (raw-nan) Piel: “to exult; to give a ringing cry; to sing”

הֲדַר (ha-Dar) “splendor; majesty; adournment”

35:3 רָפוֹת (ra-Fot) “feeble; slack; weak”

וּבִרְכַּיִם (u-vir-Ka-yim) from: בִרְךְ (beh-rek) “knee”

כֹּשְׁלוֹת (ko-she-Lot) root: כשׁל (kaw-shal) Qal, participle: “to stumble; to totter; to stagger,” “the knees of the stumbling…”

אַמֵּצוּ; (am-Me-tzu) root: אמץ (aw-mats) Piel: “to strengthen; make firm”

35:4 לְנִמְהֲרֵי (le-nim-ha-rei) root: מהרֵ (maw-har) Niphal, participle: “to act rashly; to be hurried” “The ones who are anxious”

נָקָם (na-Kam) “vengeance; retribution; revenge”

גְּמוּל> (ge-Mul) “recompense”

35:5 תִּפָּקַחְנָה (tip-pa-Kach-nah) root: פקח (paw-kakh) Niphal: “to be opened”

עִוְרִיםI (iv-Rim) “blind”

חֵרְשִׁים (che-re-Shim) “deaf”

35:6 יְדַלֵּג> (ye-dal-Leg) root: דלג (daw-lag) Piel: “to leap; to leap over; to jump”

כָּאַיָּל (ka-ai-Yal) from: איּל; (ah-yawl) “hart; deer; fallow deer”

פִּסֵּחַ (pis-Se-ach) “lame; limping”

וְתָרֹן> (ve-ta-Ron) root: רנן (raw-nan) Qal: “to break out in rejoicing; to exult; to give a cry of jubilation; to sing for joy”

אִלֵּם (il-Lem) “dumb; unable to speak; mute”

נִבְקְעוּ (niv-ke-U) root: בקע (baw-kah) Niphal: “to split; to burst open; to break forth”

35:7 הַשָּׁרָב (hash-sha-Rav) “dry ground; parched ground; barren ground”

וְצִמָּאוֹן (ve-tzim-ma-on) “waterless area; thirsty ground”

לְמַבּוּעֵי (le-mab-Bu-ei) “spring; water source”

בִּנְוֵה (bin-Veh) “stopping place; habitation; settlement; haunt”

תַנִּים (tan-Nim) from: תַן; (tan) “jackal; serpent; dragon; sea monster”

רִבְצָהּ (riv-Tzah) “resting place; lying down place”

לְקָנֶה (le-ka-Neh) “reed; water plant”

וָגֹמֶא (va-Go-me) “rush; papyrus; reed”

35:8 מַסְלוּל; (mas-Lul) “highway; road; street”

טָמֵא (ta-Me) “unclean”

וֶאֱוִילִים (ve-e-vi-Lim) “fool; idiot; foolish one”

יִתְעוּ (yit-U) root: תְעה (taw-aw) Qal: “to wander about; to go astray; to err”

35:9 אַרְיֵה (ar-Yeh) “lion”

וּפְרִיץ (u-fe-Ritz) “violent beast; predator; ravenous beast”

חַיּוֹת (chai-) “wild animal; beast of prey”

35:10 וּפְדוּיֵי (u-fe-du-Yei) root: פדה (paw-daw) Qal: “to redeem; to ransom”

בְּרִנָּה. (be-rin-Nah) from: רנה (rin-naw) “cry of jubilation; ringing cry; rejoicing”

וְשִׂמְחַת> (ve-sim-Chat) “joy; jubilation; gladness”

יַשִּׂיגוּ (yas-Si-gu) root: נשּׂג (naw-sag) Hiphil: “to appear; to reach; to attain to; to obtain”

יָגוֹן (ya-Gon) “agony; sorrow; grief”

וַאֲנָחָה (va-a-na-Chah) “sighing; groaning”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 35:1-10.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 35:1-10.