The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 35:4-7a. Here the prophet is referring to their time in exile. Earlier, Isaiah prophesied they would be taken into exile. While that has not yet happened, now Isaiah speaks of how they will be afraid and anxious during their exile. However, “Fear not!” for the LORD will come with a vengeance and He will save them and bring them back to the Promised Land. The big question would seem to be, is this speaking about a return from the exile in Babylon, or is it the advent of the Messianic Age and the salvation which comes through the Christ? Perhaps the proper answer is, “YES.”

There is certainly an abundance of Messianic language in this pericope. In verses 5-6 we hear the familiar phrases, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened,” “the ears of the deaf unstopped,” “the lame man shall leap,” and, “the tongue of the mute will sing.” This description occurs repeatedly in the prophets. Also, when John the Baptist is in prison and sends his disciples to Jesus to ask if He is the one who is to come or should we look for another, Jesus replies with this kind of language—the language which specifically details the ministry of the Messiah.

The text then ends with the beautiful imagery of the “waters of life” and how they will transform the dead and barren and bring new life. The motif of water and new life begins with creation and continues to reoccur throughout the Scriptures all the way until the last chapter of Revelation with its description of the courts of Heaven, the river of life, and the tree of life. The Church has also recognized this life-giving in the midst of barrenness and death in the waters of Holy Baptism, and rightly so.

The Church has also recognized this life-giving in the midst of barrenness and death in the waters of Holy Baptism, and rightly so.

35:4 לְנִמְהֲרֵי (le-nim-ha-rei) root: מהר (maw-har) Niphil, Infinitive: “to act hastily; act rashly; be hurried”

נָקָם (na-Kam) “vengeance; retribution”

גְּמוּל (ge-Mul) “recompense; requital”

35:5 תִּפָּקַחְנָה (tip-pa-Tach-nah) root: פקח (paw-thakh) Niphil: “to be opened”

עֵינֵי עִוְרִים (ei-Nei iv-Rim) “The eyes of the blind”

חֵרְשִׁים (che-re-Shim) from: חֵרֵשׁ (khay-rashe) “deaf”

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

כָּאַיָּל (ka-ai-Yal) from: אַיָּל (ah-yawl) “deer; hart; stag; like a deer”

פִּסֵּחַ (pis-Se-ach) “lame; limping”

וְתָרֹן (ve-ta-Ron) root: רנן (raw-nan) Qal: “to rejoice; joy; give a cry of jubilation”

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

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

בָּעֲרָבָה (ba-a-ra-Vah) “desert; steppe; barren place”

35:7a הַשָּׁרָב (hash-sha-Rav) from: שָׁרָב (shaw-rawb) “parched ground; burning sand; dryness”

לַאֲגַם (la-a-Gam) from: אֲגַם (ag-am) “pool; marsh pond”

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

לְמַבּוּעֵי (le-mab-Bu-ei) from: מַבּוּעַ (mab-boo-ah) “spring”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 35:4-7a.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 35:4-7a.