Isaiah 35:1 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them
Most scholars consider this verse in connection with the last verse of chapter 34, “And he hath cast the lot for them, and his hand hath divided it unto them by line: they shall possess it for ever, from generation to generation shall they dwell therein.” To Abraham and his descendants was given all the land which he could see as a possession forever (Gen. 13:14-15; 16:18-21). To the tribes of Israel were given land by lot for their inheritance (Josh. 13-21), “As the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel … divided the land” (Josh. 14:5).
Part of the literal gathering of Israel includes the return of the tribes of Israel to the lands of their inheritance. Isaiah prophesies that the land will be glad to receive them. They will settle in places that were once solitary wilderness and turn them into beautiful cities. This prophecy applies to the New World Zion as well as the Old World Jerusalem. In the words of Jesus to the Nephites, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance. And then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say: Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people” (3 Ne. 16:16-18, italics added).
Notice now that the Lord, by his Spirit, is to have a great gathering in the latter days of his people, and we are advised to seek out of the book of the Lord and learn of this gathering, and how his Saints should inhabit the land. It should be divided unto them by lot, the same as many people received their inheritances when they came into this desert. They cast lots, and drew their lots and inheritances. "And the wilderness and the solitary places shall be glad for them." If you can find a country that answers better the description here given anywhere in the four quarters of the earth, I should like to know it. When we came here, the country to all natural appearance was so barren that it seemed impossible to locate a people upon it. But you see what we have accomplished. Not by our own wisdom nor by our own strength, but by being gathered by the voice of the Lord and by his commandment, and being guided and directed by the spirit of inspiration. (Journal of Discourses, 15:58)
Isaiah 35:1 the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose
The theme of the desert “blossoming as a rose” has been a common theme of prophets in reference to the saints settling in the desert of the Great Basin.
I love the prophecies of Isaiah. It seems to me that he almost lived more in our day than when he was actually upon the earth. He saw so much of what would transpire in our day. He saw us settled here in these valleys of the mountains. He saw this desert, where we were once a thousand miles from transportation and supplies, made to blossom as a rose (see Isa. 35:1 He saw the rivers flow in the desert where we have built these great irrigation canals (see Isa. 43:19 He saw the water flow down from the high places where we have reservoired it in these mountain fastnesses for summer’s use (see Isa. 41:18 He saw the redeemed of the Lord come up and sing in the heights of Zion (see Isa. 51:11). (Conference Report, Oct. 1980, 64)
George Albert Smith
In a hundred years the desert has been made to blossom as the rose. In a hundred years the gospel has been preached to almost all nations of the earth where it would be received. In a hundred years the people have been gathered from the various nations and have come here to Zion, and have settled and made homes. In Utah and Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, California, and Oregon, the state of Washington and western Canada we have congregations as large as this that can be gathered together—members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have reason to thank God for the gospel of Jesus Christ revealed in this latter-day, for without it there could have been no such a settlement, no such a gathering as has been made by the people in this great western land. (Conference Report, Oct. 1947, 6)
Look at these valleys of the mountains. I came here on the 24th of July, 1847. What did I find? A barren desert, as barren as the desert of Sahara. There was no mark of the white man. It did not look as if any white man could live here at all. How is it today? Travel through the length and breadth of this Territory and behold the cities, towns, villages, gardens, orchards, fields, and crops that cover this once barren desert. What does it mean? It means that God Almighty is carrying out his purposes, it means that he has brought to his remembrance what his Prophets and Apostles have spoken; and all things shall be fulfilled to the very letter, even to the winding-up scene. From whence has come this congregation; from whence have come the Saints gathered together throughout these mountains of Israel? They have been gathered from every nation as far as the Gospel has been preached. We have been gathered together by the power of the Gospel. (Journal of Discourses, 22:344)
If we will work righteousness and fear God, and keep His commandments, the wilderness and the solitary places shall be made glad (as it has been already abundantly among us), and the desert shall blossom as the rose. But it will not be to me, or to Brother Cannon, or to President Young, or to anybody else, that the glory will belong. We will give God the glory for all our deliverance. He has been very kind and merciful to us all the day long.
Therefore, let us do right. Let us observe the laws of God, and keep His commandments, and the blessing of God will be with us. We will go forward and build our temples and labor therein. We will go forth and build up the Kingdom of God; we will go forth and purify the Church of God; we will go forth and establish the Zion of God. (Journal of Discourses, 26:76)
I have promised the people South, that if they will cultivate the ground and ask the blessings of God upon it, the desert shall blossom as a rose, pools of living water shall spring up on the parched ground, (D&C 133:29) and the wilderness shall become glad. (Isa. 35:1) The Lord has planted the feet of the Saints in the most forbidding portion of the earth, apparently, that he may see what they will do with it. I may confidently say that no other people on the earth could live here and make themselves comfortable. If we settle on these desert and parched plains, upon the sides of these rugged and sterile mountains, and cultivate the earth, praying the blessing of God upon our labors, he will make this country as fruitful as any other portion of the earth. May the Lord bless the people. Amen. (Journal of Discourses, 10:6)
Isaiah 35:2 the glory of Lebanon… the excellency of Carmel and Sharon
“The glory of Lebanon - The glory or ornament of Lebanon was its cedars (see the note at Isaiah 10:34). The sense here is, that the change would be as great under the blessings of the Messiah's reign as if there should be suddenly transferred to the waste wilderness the majesty and glory of mount Lebanon.
“The excellency of Carmel - Carmel was emblematic of beauty, as Lebanon was of majesty, and as Sharon was of fertility…The sense is clear. The blessings of the times of the Messiah would be as great, compared with what had existed before, as if the desert were made as lovely as Carmel, and as fertile as Sharon. The world that, in regard to comfort, intelligence, and piety, might be compared to a pathless desert, would be like the beauty of Carmel and the fertility of Sharon.
“Glory of Lebanon—its ornament, namely, its cedars (Isa 10:34).
Excellency of Carmel—namely, its beauty.
Sharon—famed for its fertility.” (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/isaiah/35-2.htm)
Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees
Marvin J. Ashton
There is a phrase used four times in the standard works which has always intrigued me. It is the expression “feeble knees.”
By definition, feeble means weak, not strong, without force, easily broken, frail.
When Frederick G. Williams was called to be a counselor to Joseph Smith, he was given this charge: “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5.)
Coupled with the word strengthen, which is to make or become stronger, the phrase led me to contemplate the meaning of these words…
Who among us has not experienced feeble knees or fear and uncertainty over the responsibilities we encounter in this mortal existence?
What of the father, for example, who works long hours to provide for his family only to find at the end of each month that his income only barely meets his expenses? Is he likely to experience the fear that an unforeseen expense might upset his family’s delicately balanced, already strained budget? Does he ever fear that he might not be able to adequately provide for his family’s necessities?
And what of the parents who find themselves rearing an unhappy and nonconforming child? Do they ever experience doubt and fear that they might not be providing the right counsel, discipline, and rules? Do they ever fear they might not be able to provide enough unconditional love to their child? Do they ever fear that the child may be lost eternally because of their parenting?
What of the single parent who is rearing children by himself or herself? Does that parent ever fear that he or she will be overwhelmed by the myriad responsibilities, particularly since these challenges must be met alone?
It would seem that no one escapes some uncertainty, insecurity, doubt, and even fear. (“Strengthen the Feeble Knees,” Ensign, Nov. 1991)
Franklin D. Richards
Contemplate the immense army [of the priesthood] we have among us; and what a work are they doing in the nations, and what a work are they doing and ought they to do at home in preaching the Gospel to each other, in encouraging and strengthening those whose hands sometimes hang down, and whose knees tremble; (Isa. 35:3, Heb. 12:12, D&C 81:5) speaking comforting words to the Saints, saying, “Dear brother, thy God reigneth, trust in him.” Notwithstanding all that we see on the right hand and on the left, and all that we hear, the Lord God has not forgotten His people, nor has He forgotten to educate and instruct them, in all that He knows is for their greatest good, so that by and by He may come and find a nation of kings and priests (Ex. 19:6) who shall reign with Him on the earth a thousand years. (Journal of Discourses, 28:100)
Thomas S. Monson
Unaltered is the divine command to succor the weak and lift up the hands which hang down and strengthen the feeble knees. Each of us has the charge to be not a doubter, but a doer; not a leaner, but a lifter. But our complacency tree has many branches, and each spring more buds come into bloom. Often we live side by side but do not communicate heart to heart. There are those within the sphere of our own influence who, with outstretched hands, cry out: “Is there no balm in Gilead... ?” (Jer. 8:22.) Each of us must answer. ("With Hand and Heart," Ensign, Dec. 1971, 132)
Isaiah 35:4 Be strong, fear not: behold, your God… will come and save you
Gordon B. Hinckley
Be strong—in standing for the right. We live in an age of compromise and acquiescence. In situations with which we are daily confronted, we know what is right, but under pressure from our peers and the beguiling voices of those who would persuade us, we capitulate. We compromise. We acquiesce. We give in, and we are ashamed of ourselves. As men of the priesthood, we must cultivate the strength to follow our convictions…
Be strong, my brethren, in the quality of mercy. It is easy to be a bully in one’s home, in one’s business, in one’s speech and acts. This sick world so cries out for kindness and love and mercy. These virtues become an expression of strength rather than weakness on the part of any holder of the priesthood of God. Be strong with that strength of which Isaiah speaks when he said, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
“Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.” (Isa. 35:3–4.)
“And in doing these things” says the Lord to each of us in modern revelation, “thou wilt do the greatest good unto thy fellow beings, and wilt promote the glory of him who is your Lord.
“Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:4–5.)
Be strong, my brethren, with the strength of simple honesty. How easy it is to “lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor.” (2 Ne. 28:8.)…
Be strong—in the faith by which you walk and in the Church of which each of us is a member. This is the work of God Almighty. It is the most precious of all causes. It needs your strength… Brethren, be strong in your testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Ensign, Nov. 1992, 52)
Isaiah 35:5-6 the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped
Isaiah doesn’t distinguish between the First and Second Comings of the Messiah. They are all mixed together. One minute he is talking about a child being born of a virgin (First Coming) and the next that the government shall be upon his shoulders (Second Coming, Isa. 9:6). In this case, one minute he is talking about the latter-day Israel redeeming the lands of their inheritance (Second Coming), and the next, Christ’s mortal ministry is described in perfect detail (Elder Pratt suggests it will have dual fulfillment, see below). Careful students of the scriptures should have been able to ascertain that the Jesus of Nazareth who opened the eyes of the blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf was the same long-awaited Messiah of Old Testament prophecy. That is what Jesus expected of John’s disciples.
And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.
Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. (Lu. 7:19-22)
Was Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah? Or should we look for another? That was the test for John’s disciples. That was the test for Isaiah’s audience. That is the test for all of us.
At the very time the Savior makes his appearance and comes with vengeance, there will be the sick, the lame, the blind, the dumb, the maimed, and those afflicted with all manner of diseases. The Prophet says that when he comes and finds them in this condition, “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be unstopped, the tongue of the dumb speak, and the lame man shall leap like a hart,” (Isa. 35:5-6) So there will be something left for Jesus to do, when he comes in flaming fire, to heal all the sick who have not faith to be healed (Acts 14:9; D&C 42:43; D&C 46:19) prior to that time. But when Jesus comes, he brings all the Saints with him; (1 Thes. 3:13) he raises the righteous dead from their graves, not as he raised Lazarus into mortality, (John 11:43-44) but he raises them up, male and female, with immortal bodies, to reign here on the earth during the period that he himself shall reign, during the great Sabbath of creation, the millennial reign of one thousand years. (Journal of Discourses, 18:146-147)
Isaiah 35:7 the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water
Latter-day Saints, and what I ask of you I might ask of the whole people of the Territory, have you seen a fulfilment of this saying of the Prophet Isaiah since you have been located here in the desert? Has there been any such things as springs breaking out in the wilderness and rivulets of water in the desert? (Isa. 35:6) Yes, not in one or two isolated instances, but in almost every settlement throughout this Territory. Many places in which, in early days, there was not water enough for a settlement, of twenty individuals, now support their hundreds. In what way? By the great increase of water. How [p. 59a]was Salt Lake when we first came here? We, that is, a few of the Pioneers, went over in July 1847, to the banks of Salt Lake, to what is called the Black Rock. Some of us went in bathing, and we could walk out to Black Rock, and look down on the water on each side. But how is it now? The waters are some ten feet above that land that we trod upon then. What is the matter? Ought not the waters of the Lake to have decreased, seeing that the waters of the various streams that, before our arrival, emptied their contents into it, are turned broadcast over thousands and tens of thousands of acres of land? Certainly one would think so, for when all this water is turned on the land it evaporates instead of going to increase the volume of the Great Salt Lake; but instead of diminishing, the waters of the Lake have risen some ten or twelve feet above the surface as it existed in 1847, when I first saw it. Hence streams have broken out in the desert, and waters in the wilderness, (Isa. 35:6) as it is prophesied, not only in this chapter, but also in various portions of the Psalms. (Ps. 65:9-10; Ps. 107:33-35; Ps. 114:8)
When speaking of the great day of the coming of the Lord, how often do Isaiah and David speak of the desert, and the waters, rivers and springs that should break out to water the barren, thirsty land! “The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.” (Journal of Discourses, 15:58)
Isaiah 35:8 an highway shall be there… and it shall be called The way of holiness
After the continents have been brought back together and the Lord has come again, there will be a highway for the scattered tribes of Israel, primarily the ten tribes, who will come from the lands of the north by a highway cast up from the midst of great waters, that they may receive their temple blessings in Zion. In the days of Isaiah, there was a great and famous highway from Egypt to Assyria, but that is not the highway of holiness Isaiah is talking about. It is a road to the temples of God, the path to greater covenants, the way of holiness when the Master comes again. Only then, will the straight and narrow path be a great and broad highway for the ransomed of the Lord.
And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh.
And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall not longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.
Their enemies shall become a prey unto them,
And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall not longer be a thirsty land.
And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.
And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.
And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim.
And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy.
Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel. (D&C 133:25-34)
To show that they come with power, they come on a highway cast up for them; the ice feels the power of God and flows down, making room for them; and the barren deserts of the north, wherever they may go and need water, will yield forth pools of living water to quench their thirst. As they come to sing in the height of Zion, the everlasting hills, this great Rocky Mountain range, extending from the arctic regions south to the central portions of America, will tremble beneath the power of God at the approach of that people. Then will be fulfilled the saying of David, that the mountains shall skip like rams, and the little hills like lambs, before his people. The very trees of the field will clap like hands, as the Psalmist David has said. Then will be fulfilled the passage that was quoted yesterday by brother Woodruff—"Sing O heavens, be joyful O earth, and break forth into singing O mountains, for the Lord hath redeemed his people," &c. And when they get to Zion they will begin to say-"The place is too strait for me, give place to me that I may dwell;" then the saying will go forth-"Behold I was a captive. Zion was a captive, moving to and fro, tossed to and fro, and not comforted. Behold I was left alone." But where have this great company been, where has this mighty host come from? They have come from their hiding place in the north country; they have been led thence by the Prophets of the Most High God, the Lord going before their camp, talking with them out of the cloud, as he talked in ancient days with the camp of Israel, uttering his voice before his army, for his camp will be very great. So says the Prophet Joel, and his prophecy will be fulfilled. When they return to Zion to sing in the height thereof, "They will fall down there and be crowned with glory by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim." (Journal of Discourses, 18: 25 - 26)
Isaiah 35:9 No lion shall be here, nor any ravenous beast
On this holy highway, there will be no drunken stragglers, no animals, especially not any dangerous predators. There will be no road kill—just the ransomed of the Lord, but why are they walking? Don’t they have cars?
Bruce R. McConkie
It appears that a way will be provided to assemble the outcasts of Israel again in their promised land. The safe and secure physical arrangements, whatever they may be, will, in fact, be but symbolical of the way of holiness whereon only the righteous can find footing. The way of holiness cannot be other than the strait and narrow path. The wayward tribes, having forsaken the ancient holy way, having been scattered for their wickedness, shall now be gathered because they forsake the world and seek again that whereon the footprints of their fathers are found. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 327)
Isaiah 35:10 the ransomed of the Lord shall return… with songs and everlasting joy
Parley P. Pratt
Joy and gladness shall be heard, (Isa. 35:10) and there shall be glad tidings to all the meek, and to all the pure in heart; to all that love instruction, to all that will not harden their hearts; to all the sinners that will be obedient and refrain from their sins, and live a holy life.
The cry will no longer go forth, “they will not repent and be converted, that I may heal them;” (Matt. 13:15) for the Lord God, the blessed Savior, who is full of virtue, power and love, and healing, with his Priesthood will bless them, and they will find comfort for he will heal them. (Journal of Discourses, 9:213)
Neal A. Maxwell
As we build a holier and a more beautiful Zion, with "the voice of melody" we will sing those lyrics—"All is well, all is well" but at times as a reassuring sob as well as a song, awaiting the day Isaiah promised when such "sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Notwithstanding My Weakness [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 87)