"And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isaiah 35:8-10)
I AM sure of this, namely, if we were perfectly enlightened we should see Christ as clearly in the Old Testament as we see Him in the New. I believe that He may be traced out from Genesis to Malachi by any one whose eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit. Unbelievers mock us when we assert these things; they say we force Scripture, we make it mean anything by our spiritualizing, we should adhere to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures, and read the Old Testament as we read any other history, and so forth. But we answer, We cannot be guided by the suggestions of carnal men; we are told that such cannot understand the Scriptures, so that their advice goes for nothing. Besides, the apostles warrant us in looking out for Christ in the Old Testament, and Christ Himself has directed our minds in the same channel; and, last of all, if we were to interpret the Old Testament as any other history, we should be involved in the grossest contradiction as to the way of salvation. There is but one way of salvation, and that is by Christ. The New Testament irrefragably proves this, consequently the Old Testament can teach no other. What a volume of truth is there in those few words of Christ as recorded by the evangelist, Luke 24:44,45. What natural man can trace out anything of Christ in the books of Moses or the Psalms? Yet, you see, there must be much. I would now open up the text, and dilate upon "the highway," Christ, and in conclusion ask a question or two.
I. "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." (Isa. 35:8) "The highway, or the way of holiness," here, I take to be Christ; for it is the way of Zion, (see ver. 10) and I know of no other way than that to it. You know that Christ has emphatically called Himself "the Way:" "I am the Way," etc. Besides, this "way" is said to be for "the redeemed," for the ransomed of the Lord." (see ver. 9,10) It is, moreover, "a way of holiness," a way for the blind who had their eyes opened, for the deaf who had their ears unstopped, for the lame who had their limbs restored, and for the dumb who had their tongues loosed. (see ver. 5,6) And now look into ver. 8: "the unclean" here are the unconverted, or, in other words, those who remained blind and deaf and lame and dumb. "These shall not pass over it, but it shall be for those," for those already described by the prophet. Then again, it is said of this way, that "the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." (see ver. 8) This is indicative of the simplicity that is in Christ, and of the simplicity of His chosen ones. Again, "No lion or ravenous beast shall go up thereon," no unclean or unconverted person shall be found in this way, but the redeemed, the manifestly redeemed or ransomed of the Lord, shall walk there.
All these figures of speech beautifully fall in with the idea of Christ being the Highway to heaven. And mark that word "return" in ver. 10; it is peculiarly descriptive of God's people. In the first instance they are as madly bent upon worldly and fleshly pursuits as any other people; but, when their eyes are opened, and their ears are unstopped, they return from their evil ways, and journey on the highway that leads to Zion. We all by nature go away from God--we leave our Father's house; but, when the Spirit of God brings us to our senses, we return, and come to Zion. But what of the "songs and the everlasting joy," and the "fleeing away of sorrow and sighing," in ver. 10? The redeemed of the Lord sigh oftener than sing whilst on their journey to Zion. I grant you, many are the mourners in earthly Zion, and we cannot but mourn whilst in the flesh. But the difference of feeling between the first gushings of repentance and former hardness of heart is so great, as to warrant the expressions "joy and gladness." When we first begin to realize our standing on the great highway, we are filled with joy and gladness, and, though it soon sobers down, by reason of the conflict within, yet it is everlasting; for it can never be wholly extinguished. Just as the life we get at believing is everlasting life, though God knoweth we are often apparently more dead than alive; so is this joy "everlasting," because, having been once experienced, it can never be wholly suppressed. For joy uninterrupted we must look to the time when we shall see Christ as He is. And now are we all clear upon this point, namely, that it is Christ who is spoken of here as the Highway, or the Way of holiness? There is no other way Zionward. Now let me elaborate a little upon this "Way," and the blessed privileges of being upon it.
II. First. Whosoever is upon this Way is clear from the guilt of sin. There is not a sin of the heart or of the life that God can penally punish for. "The Lord hath laid the iniquity of all His ransomed ones upon Christ." "The blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin." (1 John 1:7) "He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him." (Heb. 7:25) "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He put our transgressions from Him." (Ps.103:12) What can be more explicit than this? Poor mourners, can you believe it? No, you cannot, except as God gives you the power to believe it. It is beyond your natural comprehension, and God tells you so. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa. 55:9)
Secondly. This highway is the way from the power and dominion of sin. "Ah," you say, "then we are not upon it; for sin sorely troubles us." To whom I reply, Sin will sorely trouble you to the last; for you can never be rid of it till your wretched flesh is dead. But it shall not reign. It shall not have dominion over any who are upon the great highway to heaven. Sin cannot reign where grace reigns; but it can assault, it can annoy, it can harass. I repeat it: this highway is the way from the power and dominion of sin. Sin can never exercise damning power over any who are on this highway, for such are in union with Christ; they are under the care of Christ, they are in the keeping of God Himself, and they can never perish. Still sin can grievously assault and cause much trouble. Let me illustrate this for you. The queen reigns and rules in this kingdom. Yet there are many very disloyal and disaffected men in the kingdom, but nobody thinks for a moment on that account to dispute the fact of the queen's supreme rule. So is it with those on the great highway, grace reigns in them, notwithstanding the existence of sin's disobedient and harassing subjects within. Dear ransomed ones, I know what you look and long for. You want to be free from the assaults of sin; you want to be as holy and pure and undefiled as Christ Himself--and then you would literally be crowned with everlasting joy. But it cannot be, my brethren in the Lord. You are only holy in Christ, but, being in Him, you are clear from the power and the dominion of sin.
Thirdly. This highway is a way from the wrath of God. This must be so: for, where the guilt and power of sin are removed, the wrath of God must be removed too. Take away the cause, and the effect will cease to exist. We read, "The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness, unrighteousness, and sin." That is a terrible fact. But, when ungodliness, unrighteousness, and sin are gone, the wrath of God must be gone too. Now this did Christ upon the tree. He was cursed in our stead. He bore all our sins in His own body. He took out of the way all charges that were against us, and nailed them to His cross. (Col. 2:14) And where can they be? They are not; consequently the wrath of God is not. O ransomed ones, think! Christ is the Highway from the wrath of God--His present wrath and His future wrath. (see 2 Thess. 1:10) But is not God angry when we sin? God is angry with the sin, but not with the sinner, who is a child of His. God loves the child, though He hates the sin. Then why does God chasten for sin? God chastens in very love the dear child of His who sins. "The chastening is not joyous, but grievous; but afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness."
Let one of you parents think upon a dearly-beloved child. It rends your very heart to think of that child suffering. But the child labors under a disorder that must be eradicated with the knife, or the child must die. The operation is terribly painful, and the poor child winces and shrieks with pain. But the operation is successful, and the child is restored to his health and strength. Surely no one would think of accusing you with want of love for the child in causing him to undergo the operation. No. It was your very love for him that induced you to call in the surgeons. Now, it is exactly so with God, and the chastening of his poor diseased child. It is His very love for him that induces the chastening. Oh, beloved in the Lord, chastening is a blessed mark of the Lord's love! Those who are not chastened are bastards and not sons.
III. To sum up all that has been advanced.
First. Christ is the Highway of our text.
Secondly. He is the Way from the guilt of sin.
Thirdly. He is the Way from the dominion of sin.
Fourthly. He is the Way from the consequence of sin, which is the wrath of God.
Blessed, precious, glorious Christ! Well mayest Thou be dearer to us than life! May we have grace upon grace given to us to honor and serve and glorify Thee! And now for the question, Who is upon this Way? Depend upon it, that crowds of professors who talk about Christ are not upon Christ as the Way to Zion.
But here are a few tests:--
1. Every other way must be renounced. The way of human merit, of self-righteousness, and every carnal plan of recommending ourselves to God. "For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
2. The weight and burden of sin must have been felt.
3. We must have been conscious of our blindness, deafness, lameness, dumbness by nature--for no others are upon it.
4. We must have some sense of joy and gladness, on account of the great blessing of being upon it; for this is the description of those who walk upon it.