“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” – Isaiah 42:16
This is a prophecy of the Advent. And what an encouraging prophecy it is! It promises good, for it says, I, your Redeemer and Savior, when I shall come, will cause the spiritually blind to walk in new ways, I will lead them in new paths, I will turn their darkness into light, and straighten their poor distorted hopes and ideals so that their spiritual vision shall be clear and radiant with the light of heaven.
“I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known.” New ways and new paths! Our text is not speaking of any natural journey, but is referring to something spiritual when it uses these familiar terms of our natural life. The Psalmist prays, “Remove from me the way of lying,” and “Therefore I hate every false way.” And the same inspired penman speaks of the “paths of righteousness,” “the way of truth, “the way of thy commandments.” What are these ways and paths? Are they not those habitual ideals and forms of thought that lead the soul to the attainment of some purpose, whether good or evil? The modern psychologist speaks of pathways formed by habits in the substance of the brain. But how could there be these pathways in the brain substance if there were not corresponding pathways or “ways of thinking” in the life of the soul?
Life is a journey, and every moment of life we are in spirit taking longer or shorter journeys over the mental pathways of truth or falsity. Also, our doctrines tell us in many places that in the other world every love has its own distinct way or path, so that those in the other life who love to think and do good actually travel along paths leading through paradisical gardens, through peaceful pastures and vineyards, and beside “still waters”; but those who love evil and its false aims freely choose ways which lead through barren deserts, through wilderness places, and into unlovely scenes, and eventually into thick darkness heavy with evil odors.
And so because ways and paths in their deeper meaning represent our ways or paths of thought, the Lord, in speaking of His Advent through the prophet Isaiah, promises that when He shall stand among men as their Savior, then those who are spiritually blind but who still desire to be saved shall walk in ways and paths before unknown, and their darkness shall be turned into light, and their crooked ways shall be made straight. This is a wonderful promise, and especially at the close of a year, when we are about to make new beginnings.
This prophecy sets before us the bright hope that through the days of the coming year the Lord may come into our souls, leading us daily along new ways and paths, straightening out our perverted hopes and ideals, enlightening our minds with the light that comes from the Sun of the heavens. The Lord ever seeks to be born in the lives of men. There is never a moment or hour of life when He is not seeking some manger in the mind into which He can come. He seeks to come to those who are in deep ignorance of Him and of His Word that He may enlighten and bless them, and He seeks also to come to those who know what His will is and who know the power of His goodness and truth, for these realize how little they have been able to receive of what the Lord wishes to give. So, with all, the Lord ever seeks new Advent seasons – not only to the benighted, to the indifferent, but to everyone who might, like the Psalmist, cry out: “Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”
“I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not.” Who is there who does not want to walk in more peaceful ways, to be led by the hand of the Lord and find rest and refreshment in instruction by Him? Life to some gets so monotonous at times that they seem to walk over hot and dusty paths, through wildernesses of unproductiveness; they seem to be getting nowhere. Or their way may lead over the narrow, rocky defile of selfish thoughts, shutting off their vision of God and His purposes for them. Then they need to find new ways and paths in which to walk.
And those who are young, those who are just entering into life, those young men and women who find it so alluring and easy to rush eagerly and thoughtlessly along the path of reckless enjoyment of the pleasures of the world, seeking its riches, honors, and power – these younger lives, too, in their more sober and reflective states, really wish they might find some new and upward-leading path which could bring them to a happier and more sane existence.
We ever need to seek new ways and paths. One says, “I will do this day’s work because I have to; my living, my reputation, my worldly well-being require it.” This thought is an old way, an old path that leads to the destruction of true life. And there is another old and well-worn path: “I will live for the pleasures of this life. I will keep within the bounds that good reputation and good health require, but I will not take upon myself the burdens which Christianity seems to demand.”
But there are other ways of doing these same things, other paths of thought which we may follow in doing them. “I will labor patiently through the day, for this is the Lord’s will, and my neighbor needs my earnest, faithful work. I will enjoy the pleasures of life as gifts of God and as the means of increasing my usefulness in His service.” These are the true highways of life of which Isaiah writes, “The unclean shall not pass over it… No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon… but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the Lord.”
Like the man in the scriptures we are all “born blind.” We all naturally love to “turn every one to his own way.” We like to follow the mental pathways of our own prudence, “the way that leadeth to destruction.” These ways of our own choosing are not the Lord’s ways; for He says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” His ways are the ways of infinite wisdom, which He has revealed to us in His Word and which lead us up from the earth to the hills and mountains of spiritual life.
Every morning as we go forth to our labors we follow some mental way or path. If we were living in the spiritual world, we should find ourselves walking through lovely scenes and bright sunshine, or among gloomy and repulsive sights. Throughout life we should have the prayer of the Psalmist in mind: “Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways… Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
And there are other promises in the words of our text, for we read, “I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight.” This the Lord accomplishes when He makes His Advent in us. Every one of the commandments, every blessing, every truth of scripture is a way of righteousness; and when we walk along one of these little ways, we come into the light of a new morning in the soul, when our crooked views of life are made straight.
Consider, for example, the brief commandments “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” These are two laws which, like pathways, lead into the light and warmth of justice and to the sweet goodness of heavenly marriages. As one works faithfully at his daily tasks, as he renders to everyone his rightful due, as he learns to be honest to the Lord, he follows the spiritual pathway of this law of Sinai, and comes into the love of justice and heavenly service. And as one shuns impurity of thought and intention and keeps the fire of pure marriage love burning on the altar of the inner life, always loving the beautiful and the pure, he comes at last into the brilliant wisdom and happiness of true marriage love. Then all former ideals are stripped of their sophistries and allurements, and made straight.
So with all the commandments and teachings of the Word – these are the new ways and new paths into which the Lord ever seeks to lead our feet. And it is because of this divine solicitude that the Lord is called “the restorer of paths to dwell in” and calls himself “the way, the truth, and the life.”
And so may it be with us. May the Lord walk with us, as He walked with His disciples over the hills and vales of Palestine, lighting all our paths, turning our darkness into light, straightening our “crooked things,” and leading us in the way everlasting.