“A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray.” – Isaiah 35:8
In almost all of us there is a dream, the hope for a safe way to pass through life; a way shared by kind and kindred souls which will lead to our heart’s destination. Isaiah gave us a word picture of it.
Poetic visionary that he was, Isaiah wrestled in his text with the continual rise and fall of Israel’s fidelity to God, and the inevitable consequences of such inconsistency. The spiritual landscape of that nation was often parched and barren, overgrown with the tangle of crude idolatry, forgotten promises, and self-serving, aimless conduct.
Still, the prophet’s ear was to the ground. listening for the march of God toward His holy purposes for His wayward people. “The desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose,” he declared, promising a people who weren’t listening that God would make something lovely and fruitful out of the ruins they had created. We can all hope for that, can’t we?
“He will come and save you” is the assurance passed on to every weak, feeble, and faith-hearted soul. (35:3, 4) Eyes will be enlightened, ears will be made ready, pilgrims will find their voice, and their legs will be energized for the journey. (vs 5, 6)
“For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.” (vs. 6, 7) The promise of God to Israel, and to every believing generation, is one of sustaining, refreshing provision on our way.
And then the prophet concludes with the great ‘reveal’ of this passage, The Highway. In just a few brief lines Isaiah describes a holy corridor of divine origin and function which will safely transport any man or woman to their goal. For clarity, let’s examine the components of these precious verses.
A ‘raised road’ or a ‘thoroughfare’ is described here, quite distinguishable from ordinary pathways or trails; an avenue providing a kind of steady travel not found elsewhere in one’s world. “ . . . and a road.” This term is often used in a figurative sense, indicating a course to follow, an outline for the journey.
The highway has a name, ‘The Highway of Holiness.’ It is that particular stretch of one’s journey where he discovers he has been ‘set apart,’ a traveler whose direction and destination have been linked to Intentions greater than his own.
“The unclean shall not pass over it . . .” Time spent on this road will be for sorting out and discarding stuff that pollutes and perverts the soul; a crossing into that realm where one becomes increasingly conscious of higher, purer, more liberating things.
“Whoever walks the road” is a difficult phrase to translate; the King James version reads “A way-faring man . . .” Either rendering has the clear connotation of one traveling alone. Note that!
“ . . . though a fool, shall not go astray.” (vs 8) You and I, fools that we may be, will somehow get where we need to go if we’ll just stay on The Highway! I most heartily seize on that promise.
We need not fear the predators, verse 9 says, for no “ravenous beast can go up on it.” Life is filled with threats, for sure, but the person remaining on The Highway will never be overthrown by them.
It’s important to interpret the scriptures by seeking to grasp what was in the mind of the writer, and of the Spirit who was moving him. What exactly did the prophet see? We find clarity here when we recognize he’s speaking to us as solitary pilgrims.
It is only in our aloneness that any of us come upon The Highway. Some seek for it, some stumble upon it, some are directed toward it by others, but it is never discovered in a crowd. We find it only in that barren and lonely territory of heart and soul which is unique to our own selves.
We suddenly find opened to us a passageway leading outside the confusing and confining wilderness of our unredeemed soul. “I am the door!” Jesus promised, and so He was for all of us who have encountered Him, and entered in.
But having passed through that great Door, The Highway before us is unlike the one seen by other travelers. It has a surface and landscape, an air and a fragrance unique to us, and which we can only haltingly describe to others. It is a hallowed vista within each redeemed soul which daily reveals the pathway for the coming hours.
The Highway is the scene of our most personal, sometimes leisurely, sometimes demanding walk with the Spirit of Jesus, where we learn to hear Him, see Him, and enquire of Him daily about the particulars of our journey. Precious holy times!
No one knows just how the reality of God is perceived by another soul, or exactly how God is directing him or her. Their pathway through the kingdom may be quite different than many others, and often played out in unique ways or places. “What is that to you? Follow Me,” is how Jesus answered Peter’s inquiry about another guy’s journey. He walks a different Highway.
Unfortunately, and owing largely to the good but nonetheless misguided intentions of others, many souls are soon swept off The Highway and rigorously integrated into the numerous corporate celebrations of the church. (vs 10)
“The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads.”
There is no question the jubilant worship and fellowship of the saints is more exhilarating than the daily, solitary walk along that inner Highway. However, that is where a life of faith is conceived, birthed, and grown. This holy journey is at once glorious and challenging, opening to us profound sensitivities and leadings, but, at the same time, exposing us to various inner tests and exercises.
“The kingdom of God is within you,” Jesus taught. The rule, administration, and initiatives of God are first introduced and established within the human spirit as we walk that solitary Highway, and it’s easy, in our boisterous and tech-driven Christian culture, to allow religious activity and entertainment to drown out the weighty whisperings of the Spirit which are the inner corrections to our course.
So, let’s remind ourselves to first invest much time, energy, thought, prayer, and faith in those solitary days along The Highway; it’s the surest way to ‘get there.’ But then, praise God, we may also rejoice that all along that journey we’ll find we’re not alone; we’ve been joined by a joyful procession up to Zion!
“They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away!”
So then, this must be the church! All right!