This book of Isaiah is simply astonishing. These sermons, poems, prophecies, songs, histories, prayers and longings are the fruit of decades of walking with God. They speak to the poor, to those outside the Kingdom, to Rulers, to the wise and the simple, and they are God’s Word to us today. We read them, learn them, hide them in our hearts, and live by the Word of God. It is sweeter than honey, and it alone brings life.
These last two chapters bring the main themes of Isaiah into sharp and challenging focus one more time:
1. God will find His enemies (65.1-16)
God knows when people are paying lip-service to Him, or not even that. His covenant people keep hearing the Word of God, and they keep dismissing it, for their own heart-loves and false religion (vv.2-5). He knows when they don’t care. Isaiah reminds us that God doesn’t stop caring, nor does He forget. He will repay (vv.6-7). And yet again, He will work out grace, to save a remnant of Israel who turn from their ways, and to reveal Himself to the world (vv.8-10, 1). Grace doesn’t annul judgement, though. Every one who has ever lived will find one or the other at the hands of Jesus Christ. On the last day we will either feast or starve (vv.11, 13), and we will do so forever.
2. God is making all things new (vv.17-25)
From the ruins of the world we know will come a new creation, with God’s people at the heart of it, and at the centre of God’s affections (vv.17-19). All of the key notes of God’s original creation, God’s Eden, will be there: long years of life, security and plenty, blessing on work, the Presence of God, and peace and harmony (vv.20-25). This is a fabulous picture. In Jesus, its fulfilment is coming true in our age, with his Body, the Church, enjoying so many of these blessings. In the age to come there will be the ultimate triumphant arrival of all of these blessings:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21.3-5).
3. God is building a new community (66.1-16)
Who is in this new world? Who gets these blessings now, and the promise of far more to come? God is never impressed by us (v.1-2), but He fixes His love on those who respond to His Word from broken hearts (v.3). And only on such people: idolaters are dead, even as they worship, and one day will be paid back in full (vv.3-6).
Sometimes God works slowly, sometimes, very quickly. Here, God promises to give birth to a nation (v.7). Some have seen this promise fulfilled in the birth of the modern State of Israel. I’m unconvinced, as God throughout Isaiah announces that His great masterpiece is the creation of a new nation, ultimately one of Jew and Gentile. So look at the resurrection: on that morning God triumphed over sin, death and judgment, and brought life and hope – and a nation of followers – out of the grave with His Son. Here is the new nation, made up of all who trust in His Name. As Ephesians 2 says, “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Ephesians 2.15-16). What a nation, and what a sudden and unexpected birth. In this nation, and here alone, is a world of joy, nourishment, comfort and peace (vv.10-16).
4. God’s word of promise will never, ever go away (vv.17-24)
Hate God, and embrace the destiny He has prepared for you (v.17). Love Him, and He will gather you to Himself (vv.18-21). Isaiah’s prophecies end as they began, with God confronting His people with the terms of covenant failure, or covenant mercy. There is a new world coming, and there is the call of God to each one of us, which we can never pretend has not been made, or is unimportant. God is calling. He is calling you. What have you heard? Where are you heading? Have you seen the great work of the Servant, and put your full trust in Him? If you have you’ve seen the God whose glory Isaiah fell down before (ch.6); and, if you have, “your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar” (Isaiah 33.17).