Zion has re-entered by the back door, so to speak, in 59:20. Now in this chapter it expands to fill the whole horizon of the text again, and the atmosphere changes completely. The gloom and darkness of chapter 59 give way to brilliant light. Only the merest traces of darkness remain, as something distant and definitely off-stage (vv. 2, 12). If the previous chapter was like a long dark tunnel, this is the light at the end of it.
In a vision Isaiah sees the Lord Himself rising over Zion like the sun, and filling the whole city with His glory, so that it becomes a magnet drawing all nations towards it (vv. 1-2). Although it is focused on Zion, the vision of this magnificent chapter is world-wide in its scope. It begins with thick darkness covering the whole earth, as at the beginning of creation itself. But here it is spiritual darkness, the darkness of moral evil and spiritual blindness. It is the “shroud” of 25:7 that enfolds all peoples and covers all the nations. But then, as in Genesis, the scene is transformed as light pierces the darkness, and the new world begins to emerge. If the world called into existence in Genesis 1 was “very good”, this one is far better (vv. 19-20). The city at its center represents everything that was promised in the original creation, now brought to triumphant and glorious fulfillment, and the heartbeat of the city is worship; how could it be anything else (vv. 7, 14b)?
In this chapter Zion is not the physical city that was rebuilt after the exile. It is the kingdom of God come down to earth; the new creation. Of course the return from exile contained the seed, but it is the full-grown plant, the final outworking, which Isaiah has directly in view here. If we are to understand his words aright we must see them for what they are – a vision of the end comparable to Ezekiel’s vision of the city of God (Ezek. 40-48), or to John’s vision of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21-22).
Let’s now take a look at a few particular aspects of this vision. The first thing it affirms is that the kingdom of God will conquer all other kingdoms. Nations and kings will come to Zion, not to conquer it, but to acknowledge that the God who has chosen to reveal Himself there is the only God and to submit to Him (vv. 3, 14). Those who refuse to do so will perish (v. 12). The power of human kingdoms will fail, and the kings of the earth will amass their wealth only to lay it down one day at the feet of the King of kings (v. 5).
The final triumph of the kingdom of God will be absolute and will involve judgment (v. 12). But the second truth that comes through very clearly is that many, from all corners of the globe, will enter it willingly (vv. 6, 9-10). Zion’s gates will stand open…day and night to welcome all who wish to enter with good intent (v. 11). In other words, citizenship in the kingdom of God will not be limited to Jews only, but will be open to people of all nations. Believing Gentiles will honor those of the faithful who were Zion’s children before them and be grateful to share in their heritage.
There is one more truth which emerges strongly in verses 15-22 as it draws to a close. Isaiah bombards us in this final part of the chapter with expressions such as everlasting, never…again, no longer, and no more. He is telling us that the confusing flux of history will issue at last in a state of permanent peace, righteousness and praise (vv. 17-18). Human regimes are never entirely benevolent, and sometimes turn upon those they are supposed to protect. Life as we experience it has many loops, dips and detours, when events seem to be turning back upon themselves rather than advancing towards a goal. But here Isaiah assures us yet again that there is indeed a goal, a point of arrival, and that when it is reached there will be no danger of relapse into frustrations and sorrow of the past (v. 20). God’s rule, fully realized, will be as perfect and permanent as God Himself.
With that we might expect the passage to end. But no; with exquisite lightness of touch Isaiah brings us back in the very last line to that attitude of poised expectancy which should mark our present living. The end is not yet; it will come in its time. But when it does come it will come swiftly (v. 22), so we must be ready for it.
Isaiah 60:1-22 Reflection Questions:
Where in the Gospel of Matthew is it shown that Gentiles came to worship Jesus?
Where in Matthew does it describe that Jesus is the promised light that dawned in Jerusalem?
Are you ready for the end? How is your relationship with God?