DAWN OF A NEW AGE Isaiah 59–62
“The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Isa. 60:19).We can catch only a glimpse of the future that God has in mind for His people. But what we can see is glorious.
Judah’s sin was great, but a penitent people will be redeemed by the Lord (59:1–21). In that day Zion will be glorious (60:1–22), and her people blessed (61:1–11). Then at last the land and her people will be holy (62:1–12).
Understanding the Text
“Your iniquities have separated you from your God” Isa. 59:1–2. God firmly intends to bless His people. Yet Judah had not experienced blessing. When something like this happens, some people are sure to blame God. Isaiah portrayed his contemporaries complaining that God’s hearing was bad, or that His arm was a bit crippled so He couldn’t produce miracles as He used to. But that wasn’t the explanation. The fault wasn’t in God but in people. Human sin is the barrier that separates us from God. What the prophet meant is that sin is like a one-way mirror. Light passes through it from one side, but is reflected back by the other. Similarly sin is no barrier to judgment. That passes through easily. But sin is a barrier to blessing. No matter how hard we seek blessing, the prayers of sinners are reflected back, unanswered. “Our offenses are many in Your sight” Isa. 59:9–16. The first step in dealing with personal sin is to acknowledge it. It is the same with national sin. We must come to grips with the reality of our situation, and turn to God without illusion. The person who says, “Well, we’re not as bad as some,” is in as hopeless a situation as the worst of this world’s sinners. It’s not pleasant to be as honest with ourselves as Isaiah was in 57:12–15a. But just this kind of brutal honesty is necessary preparation to receive the forgiveness and cleansing God is eager to extend. “His own arm worked salvation” Isa. 59:17–20. The prophet pictured God, appalled that there is no one to intercede for those whom sin has ruined. He saw the Lord stand, and put on attributes associated with redemption as though they were parts of a warrior’s armor. What critical attributes are associated with redemption? (1) The breastpiece of “His own righteousness.” God is committed to do the right thing as well as the loving thing. This is why the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 had to die: “to bear [pay for] the sins of many.” (2) The “helmet of salvation.” God has deliberately chosen to deliver those who have been ruined by sin. And (3) “garments of vengeance.” Those who will not look to God in faith, fearing and revering God’s name, must themselves bear the consequences of their evil deeds. What will happen when God does arise, and come to Zion as His people’s Redeemer? For those who do repent, God promises permanent possession of both His Spirit and His Word, “from this time on and forever.” “Your gates will always stand open” Isa. 60:11. In the ancient world the gates of a walled city were shut at night, to keep out robbers, or any enemy force that threatened the neighborhood. God’s promise that Zion’s gates will always stand open is symbolic of perpetual peace. When the Redeemer comes, nothing will threaten God’s people. The promise is made explicit later in the chapter. “No longer will violence be heard in your land,” God says, “nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.” The rest of the passage uses images that are picked up in the Book of Revelation, and used there of the New Jerusalem, to be erected on a freshly created and holy earth (cf. Rev. 21). What value do such passages, that describe a time at the extreme edge of God’s future, have for you and me today? Perhaps most important, they tell us exactly where we are going, and what our future holds. However painful the present, we are assured that “your days of sorrow will end.” No one can steal the future from us. We know for certain that in God’s time “the Lord will be your everlasting light.” “The Lord has anointed me” Isa. 61:1–2. One day, some seven centuries after Isaiah, Jesus of Nazareth unrolled the scroll containing Isaiah’s prophecy to this passage. There in His home synagogue Jesus read the prophet’s words, identifying Himself as the One the Lord had anointed “to preach good news to the poor” and to “bind up the brokenhearted.” But Jesus broke off His reading in midsentence. What He read identified His mission to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”—but there He stopped. Why? Because the next words read, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” Already some 2,000 years have stretched on since Christ’s proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favor. One day, the Bible says, Jesus will return “in blazing fire” to “punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel” (2 Thes. 1:6–10). When Christ failed to read those words, He implicity recognized the fact that centuries would stretch out between His first coming and His return. These centuries are “the year of the Lord’s favor.” For one and for all, this is the time during which Jesus is seen hanging on the cross, or raised triumphantly, beckoning us to come to God by Him. Soon the year of God’s favor will end. Then Jesus will again be seen, this time in terrible splendor, come to execute the “day of vengeance of our God.” Each man and woman must take the Jesus of his or her choice. The Saviour, who died for the love of sinners. Or the Avenger, who punishes those who love sin.
He Stole My Future(Isa. 60)
She was so vital. Even though she had two children, she seemed fresh and young—as if she were just out of school. She was successful too. The aerobic workshop she taught was adopted by our local pro football team. And on top of everything, she had a husband who loved her. Then she hurt her back. When the pain wouldn’t go away, she followed the advice of her doctor and had back surgery. In that surgery something terrible happened. Nerves were inadvertently cut. When she came out of surgery she learned that the pain would still be with her. And that she had lost bowel and bladder control. And lost the ability to even move about, except with a clumsy metal walker. Desperately she went to the best hospitals in our state and to others. The doctors just shook their heads. There was nothing they could do. Not now. With the slip of the surgeon’s knife, he stole her future. All too many of us know what it is to have our future stolen. The things we’ve planned and looked forward to can be taken by a loved one’s death. By a lost job. By an illness. By war, fire, or theft. There are no guarantees given to any of us for what tomorrow may hold. But still, no one can really steal our future. Yes, people like that surgeon can steal tomorrow. But beyond tomorrow you and I have treasures that no one can touch. In the words of Isaiah, we look forward to a time when “the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.” How good to remember when someone or some event steals tomorrow, that beyond tomorrow, our eternal future remains secure.
When looking ahead, be sure to look far enough to be secure.