“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom. . . . ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come’ ” (Isaiah 35:1–2, 4).

Have a glance at Isaiah 34—even just the first four verses. Can you imagine a greater contrast than between the cosmic judgment there and the cosmic redemption in chapter 35? Yet we must hold them both together as the two dimensions of God’s climactic act. God must judge and destroy all that is evil, for evil will not have the last word in God’s universe. That’s why the Day of Judgment comes before the new creation in Revelation 20–22. God will put all things right before God makes all things new. Isaiah sees the same essential sequence embracing not only the peoples of the world but also the whole of creation itself, both in judgment and salvation.

The original setting for this vision was the anticipated return of the exiles in Babylon back to their homeland. In between lay the parched and burning wilderness, so the journey is portrayed like a new exodus (40:3–5, 41:17–20), only this time the desert would be carpeted with spring flowers, shaded with cedar trees, abundant in gushing water, and utterly safe (35:1–2, 6–7, 9). But the poetic imagery soars far beyond the historical reality of their actual return from exile. It points toward something far greater: the final gathering of all the Lord’s redeemed people into the eternal joy of the new creation (v. 10). That’s us! We are on our way home! All the sorrow and tears of this fallen world will vanish, overtaken by the songs of joy of those whom God will have ...

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