In our reading today, judgment is contrasted with salvation; destruction with re-creation. We begin in chapter 34 with judgment. God calls all of the people of the world to hear (34:1). God has devoted to destruction the entire creation (v. 2). This “devoted to destruction” is the same word used to describe what Israel was to do to the Amalekites and the inhabitants of the land (see Deut 20:17) and what would be done to anyone who worshiped other gods (see Ex 22:20). God is devoting the creation to destruction in this way, both man (v. 3) and fallen angel (v. 4). The very heavens will be destroyed (see Matt 24:29, Rev 6:13-14).
Starting in verse 5, Edom is used to represent the nations of the world. They are one of the nations “devoted to destruction” (see v. 2). The sword of God will drink its fill destroying the fallen angels, and then be directed at the earth. In verses 6-7, terminology of sacrifice is used to describe the judgment of God against men. The final sin offering will be the sinners themselves.
In verse 8, we see “a day of vengeance” being described. This is the final judgment, like when we read “in that day” or “the day of YHWH.” We see the land itself is utterly destroyed and set on fire (v. 9) with a fire that cannot be quenched, whose smoke goes up forever (v. 10). This imagery is used in Revelation 14:11 and 19:3 to describe the final judgment. We see that humans will never again inhabit the land, but it will become a wasteland overrun with vegetation and wild animals (vv. 10-15).
God is literally pictured as undoing His creation in this chapter. In verse 11, the “confusion” is the same Hebrew word used to describe the earth as “without form” and the “emptiness” the same word as “void” in Genesis 1:2. The same Spirit that hovered over the void in Genesis 1:2 is here said to be the agent of destruction (vv. 16-17). And from “generation to generation” (the same word used in Gen 2:4, 5:1, etc. in Genesis) the land will be possessed by all of the animals “each one with her mate,” a picture of the re-creation of the world after the flood. Because God will remake it all again…
In chapter 35, we see the re-creation of what has been destroyed. This new creation will be for the remnant God has redeemed. Here, the wilderness is not a picture of overgrown thorns and wild animals. Rather, the wilderness rejoices, and even the desert yields beautiful flowers (35:1). The new creation is likened to the beauty of Lebanon, Carmel, and Sharon (v. 2). These are all places the king and his beloved used to describe each other’s beauty in the Song of Solomon (see Song 5:15, 7:5, and 2:1). They were also all to be judged in 33:9
In verse 3, we see the new creation makes the weak strong. The writer of Hebrews refers to this to call us to holy lives (Heb 12:12). It also takes away all anxiousness and fear (v. 4 – see Matt 6:25-33). We see here that God will ultimately judge justly, and it will work for our salvation. The the blind eyes and deaf ears will truly see and hear (v. 5), and mute will speak and the lame will be healed (v. 6). Jesus told John’s disciples that this had begun with His ministry (see Luke 7:22). The burning fire of 34:9-10 will for us be made into abundant streams of water (v. 6-7). The wilderness will be lush with growth. What will be judgment for some, will be salvation for us!
In verse 8, the highways that were laid waste in 33:8 are replaced by the Way of Holiness. It is not a highway for the unclean. It is only for those who walk the straight and narrow path of salvation. The wild animals of chapter 34 are gone, and the redeemed can safely travel the way (v. 9). And the ransomed of the Lord will travel this highway to Zion, eternally secure in their joy (v. 10). This is a picture of the church living lives of holiness now only to inherit the New Heaven and the New Earth when our race is done. We already are part of the new creation. We are the new creation in the here and now.