Today we complete the book of Isaiah. We begin with Isaiah’s recounting of the history of Israel. It is a story that is defined by the hesed love of YHWH (63:7). All Israel has, is a result of God’s grace and goodness. God chose Israel out of the world as His people and became their Savior (v. 8). He was with them in all their trials and tribulations, leading them and sustaining them (v. 9). Yet Israel forsook God, so He forsook them (v. 10). Now that they are forsaken, Israel looks back at their redemption in the Exodus (v. 11 – the beginning should be translated “then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses”). They wonder: where is our Savior? Where is He Who was with us and sustained us (v. 12)? Where is He Who led us through the wilderness (v. 13). Where is He Who gave us rest in the land (v. 14)?
Isaiah now prays for mercy. Where is God’s power and love for His people (v. 15)? Isaiah recognizes that they have wandered so far from who they were that Abraham and Israel would not even recognize them as their offspring (v. 16). But Isaiah throws himself on the mercy of his heavenly Father. Note in verse 17 that Isaiah knows God is sovereign even over Israel’s apostacy. He recognizes that their possession of the land and the promise were temporary (v. 18) and that they have become like the nations who are not called by YHWH’s name (v. 19).
So Isaiah prays that God would leave heaven and come down to earth to save His people (64:1 – this is exactly what He will do in Christ). He prays that God would again make Himself known to all like He did through the Exodus (vv. 2-3 – He will do this through the New Exodus). No other god has ever done anything like that (v. 4)! So only YHWH can do it again. And God acts for those who call on His name (v. 5 – and He will again). He acted against sin, will He act to save from sin (He will)? But Isaiah knows they are all dead in sin (v. 6) and do not call on God (v. 7). So God has turned them over to their sin (see Rom 1:24-25).
In the following verses it becomes clear that Isaiah is praying for God’s spiritual people who are among the physical people. And he repents on behalf of the true people of God, who call Him “Father” (v. 8). The repentant recognize God’s authority. Even though we have sinned, we surrender ourselves to God in repentance (v. 9). Even God’s spiritual people will be taken into captivity (v. 10). Will God not save those He has promised to saved (v. 12)?
In chapter 65, God answers Isaiah’s prayer. God is ready to be sought by the nations outside of Israel (65:1). God has reached out to “a rebellious people who walk in a way that is not good” (v. 2) and to a people who provoke Him by sacrificing to other gods (v. 3). They practice dark arts and eat unclean animals (v. 4). And yet they consider themselves holy (v. 5). Who is this? It is the whole world, including Israel. These are those who anger God. And God will eventually judge justly (vv. 6-7). And yet, there are some that God will save from the unrighteous nations (including Israel – v. 8). Note that these people are called His servants. We see here the identification these people will have with Christ, God’s chosen Servant (see 42:1-4).
In verse 9, we see that, like those that will be judged, those that will be saved will include those from physical Israel. All the chosen servants of God will possess His mountain (a description of God’s dwelling place on earth). For those that seek God, the “land” will be a place of safety and of plenty (v. 10), but those who have forsaken the Lord (all the wicked of verses 2-5) and worship false gods (v. 11) will be utterly destroyed (v. 12). Note that these people “chose” to sin. Though God is sovereign (see 63:17), yet each is responsible for his own sin.
God then contrasts His chosen servants with those who chose sin (vv. 13-14). Note that this is described as one event leading to two different outcomes for different people. The name of the reprobate will be those the saved call cursed (v. 15). The wicked will be put to (spiritual) death, whereas the servants will be called by another name (see 62:2-5). In verse 16, we see that the physical land that is inherited by those whose sin is forgiven (“former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from My eyes”) points forward to the true land of rest of verse 17 – the New Heaven and the New Earth. There, the former things of this life will not be remembered (see Rev 21:1-4). The New Heaven and New Earth are equated with Jerusalem (v. 18) which is equated with God’s people themselves (v. 19). In verses 20-22, God is symbolizing eternal life. There will be eternal blessing and peace and security for God’s people (vv. 23-25) in all God’s “mountain” (the “land”, the New Heaven and the New Earth, Jerusalem, and God’s mountain all represent the final state of man dwelling with God).
YHWH then explains that any physical place is unable to contain Him (66:1). And where God dwells (heaven) is His own creation (v. 2). God is pointing to the necessity of the New Heavens and the New Earth if He is to dwell with His people physically. But He is also pointing to the place He now dwells spiritually – with the humble and contrite spirit that fears God (see 57:15). Because it is the inward that matters. Empty, outward rituals don’t matter (v. 3). You may as well sacrifice a pig or worship an idol if your worship does not proceed from a humble heart. Those that follow empty rituals will be judged (v. 4). But God warns His people that their brothers (unbelieving Israel) will reject them (v. 5 – see Luke 6:22-23). This will also happen to true believers at the hands of nominal Christians (and has throughout the ages!). We should rest in the fact that God will ultimately judge justly (see Rom 2:3-5, 14:10, 1 Cor 4:5).
In verse 7-9, we get a picture of a woman in labor giving birth to a son. In verse 8, we see that Zion (God’s people) is the woman in labor. This points to physical Israel (among whom were spiritual Israel) bringing forth a son, which will result in a land, a nation, and many children. This is Christ being born and calling His church to Himself (including the Old Testament saints) who will be His holy nation (see 1 Peter 2:9-10) and inherit the land (the New Heaven and the New Earth). This is what is symbolically described in Revelation 12:1-6.
In verse 10, Jerusalem is the church. God invites all who would, to come to her as their mother and be nourished (v. 11). God will give peace to her, who will be made up of all nations (v. 12). And she will show forth her God (v. 14). And we must! Because the day of judgment is coming (vv. 15-16). All the wicked will perish together (v. 17). So God will gather His church from all nations (v. 18) and send them to all nations to declare His glory (v. 19 – see Acts 1:8). And the fruit we bear (the elect who respond to God’s call and join themselves to His church – who we bring to His mountain, Jerusalem) will be our spiritual offering unto God just as the physical people brought their physical offerings (v. 20).
In verse 21, God says He will take those of the nations as priests and Levites. He is giving a role reserved for those of a specific physical heritage to those of a specific spiritual heritage. And as sure as our final dwelling with God is, so is the preservation of His church (v. 22), and the fact that all of mankind (not just Israel) will come worship before God in the spiritual Jerusalem.
And the book ends with a final, solemn warning. The elect of God will see His salvation, but we will also witness the horrible, final judgment (v. 24). Those who are judged will be judged eternally. This verse was quoted by Christ to describe the final estate of the wicked (Mark 9:48), and is described as the “lake of fire” in the book of Revelation (Rev 20:10, 21:8). We must go everywhere where people have not heard His fame or seen His glory, and declare His glory!