Monday, March 24, 2014

CCXLVIII - Concluding Isaiah - Chapter 60-66

These last seven chapters of Isaiah speak of the coming of the Messiah (Christ) and how God was going to bring to conclusion His divine plan for all people.  This of course includes His plans for Jerusalem as well.  Although, as in the previous fifty-nine chapters, Isaiah jumps abruptly from subject to subject, this passage is a bit easier to follow.  It will be easier to read these chapters if you reference this post while doing so, as I will be careful to identify the subjects and audiences as Isaiah continues his style.

Chapter 60 – The New Jerusalem

First verse says “Arise, shine; for the Light has come”.  Although this is prophesy for the future, Isaiah is telling them that there will be reason for celebration and that God has not forsaken them.  Note that the phrase “the glory of the Lord” always meant God’s presence.  God’s actual presence will be in Jerusalem.  Verse 2 says that Jerusalem’s light must shine.  Light takes away darkness, and people will always move toward light.  Here Isaiah is prophesying that the whole world will come to Jerusalem to worship and acknowledge God as the only God that is, was, and always will be.  He gets more specific in verse three as he indicates than all non-Jewish nations will come to Him and He will welcome them.  As for the rest of this chapter, Isaiah describes a time when people and wealth from all nations would move to Jerusalem (vss 4-10).  Then he says in 11-17 that the gates would always be kept open and the Light would be everlasting (18-22).

Chapter 61 – The Role of God’s Servants

This chapter deserves a few moments, as Jesus Himself chose to read from Isaiah 61:1-3 when He was in the synagogue in Nazareth.  This reading was the Sanhedrin’s most damaging evidence against Him, as it was here that Jesus pointed to Himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy (Luke 4:16-21).  Note in verse 1 the word “anointed”.  The ceremony of anointing one is to symbolize he person’s authority and endowment to serve.  {This is the reason people here to follow their king, as the kings of Judah were always “anointed”, giving them the authority from God to fulfill their commission.}  The word “poor” includes all who were oppressed.  The word “proclaim” means to preach.  This message in verses 1-3 offered hope for Jerusalem’s mourners, who were about to become celebratory instead.  In the remainder of this chapter Isaiah specifies four of these good tidings upon the Israelites.  1. Rebuilding of the destroyed cities (61:4-5).  2. A priestly ministry for all of Jerusalem’s citizens (61:6-7).  3. An everlasting covenant with God (61:8-9).  4. Israelites would become a permanent model for the world (61:10-11).

Chapter 62

Verses 1-5 in this chapter says that God promises to establish Israel as a righteous nation in spite of its sinful past.  Jerusalem’s name would change from “Deserted” which means desolate, to Hephzibah which means “My Delight is in Her”.  In verses 6-9 God places watchmen to guard over Jerusalem.  These guards would not only serve as protectors, but would also be in constant prayer for all of the inhabitants.  In the next three verses Isaiah urges the current citizens of Jerusalem to prepare for and welcome the returning exiles who would be considered a holy people.  (In previous chapters we saw that Isaiah was urging the exiled Israelites to return.)

Chapter 63

In verses 1-6 Isaiah pictures God as the ultimate Warrior.  As He returns from dealing with the other nations His garments are red, indicating that He had destroyed the enemy nations.  In much of the Old Testament the name of Edom is used to refer to all nations who had been cruel to Israel.
63:7 – 64:12 is an intercessory prayer by Isaiah.  He starts with a recap of Israel’s History and a review of God’s redemptive acts, all of which were grounded in His love for His chosen people.  Then starting in verse 15 Isaiah asks for God to again act out of love for His people and deliver them.  He confessed the people’s sins of idol worship and declared that they deserved bondage or a similar punishment.  But then he appeals to God not to remember their sins forever.

Chapter 65  -  God’s Answer to Isaiah’s Prayer

God had reason to be angry with Israel, mostly because of idol worship, but it went beyond that.  Remember, God loved Israel, but Israel did not love God, as described in the beginning verses of this chapter.  These verses describe an attitude of indifference toward God.  {When asked “what is the opposite of love?” most people will say “hate”.  This is not true.  The opposite of love is indifference.  To hate is to have feelings and thoughts toward something or someone, howbeit unfavorable.  To be indifferent is placing no value on them at all.  Think about that.}  This passage says that God is repeatedly holding out His hands saying “Here I am.  I love you.  I want to help you.”  But they ignore Him, pretending He is not there.  But in response to Isaiah’s intercessory prayer, God promises not to destroy all of them, but only those who deliberately forsaken Him.  (This probably was more of a concentration on the leaders, pagan priests, and sorcerers.)  Then starting in verse 17 God speaks into the more distant future as He promises to create a new heaven and a new earth, emphasizing that the old earth will not even be remembered.  He says in verses 18 and 19 that in the new Jerusalem there will be total, indescribable happiness as opposed to sorrow and mourning.  The following verses are specific examples of the comparison between the old and the new Jerusalem.  It says that no more will babies die while they are still babies.  Men will grow to be a hundred years old.  They will dwell in the houses they build, instead of building them for someone else.  It goes on to say they will not labor in vain.  {This is a reference not only to slavery, but also to the situation that foreigners would regularly raid and steal everything they labored for.}  It repeats that there will be no more weeping, but only joy in the hearts of the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem.  I like verse 24.  God says “I will answer their prayers before they speak them”.  Think about that.  Then in the last verse He describes peace the best way they could have understood it.  To paraphrase, He says “the lion will lie down peacefully with the lamb”.

Chapter 66, the final chapter of this Book of Isaiah reiterates both the harsh judgment of God’s enemies and the great salvation of His people.  In this conclusion you will find Isaiah making one last appeal for the people to pay attention and listen to his words of condemnation, warnings, hope, and redemption.

Next post:  The Book of Jeremiah

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