* The material for these studies is from Barry G. Webb’s “The Message of Isaiah” by InterVarsity Press; and from J. Alec Motyer’s “The Prophecy of Isaiah” Commentary by InterVarsity Press.
I will comfort you (vv. 12-17): Isaiah is almost ready now to bring his grand vision to a close by drawing out its full missionary implications. But first he has some comforting words for the faithful within Israel. For them the prospect of Jerusalem’s coming destruction by God was exceedingly painful. They could not view it with the equanimity of which others might be capable. Did the sentence passed on Israel mean that Jerusalem had no further place in God’s purposes?, and what of their own place in the new order of things?
His first word for them picks up and confirms all that has been said about the future city of God in preceding chapters. The New Jerusalem will be everything that the old failed to be – a city of peace, rich to overflowing with the blessing of God (v. 12a). And those who grieved over the passing of the old will be comforted in the new (vv. 12b-13). The faithful need not fear that they will be discarded with apostate Israel; the New Jerusalem will be the home of all God’s faithful people, the old as well as the new. His second word answers the disquiet they feel at the severity of the sentence passed on Israel. Is it not unreasonably harsh? The answer is that it is no more so than the judgment He will visit on all His enemies everywhere, Jew and Gentile alike (vv. 14-17). The judgment that begins with the House of God has its significance not simply in itself but in what it points to. It is a sign of the final universal judgment to come. It puts the whole world on notice! If the whole world has been put on notice, what of those who remain ignorant? How is the revelation to be published? How are the nations to be apprised of the judgment to come and the means of escape from it?
To the ends of the earth (vv. 18-24): This last, tremendous paragraph contains God’s entire program for the evangelization of the world. It is summarized in verse 18. In a word, God’s fundamental response to the evil actions and imaginations of His creatures is one of grace. His gathering, rescuing activity, once restricted to the dispersed of Israel, is to be extended to all people. He will come and gather people of all nations and tongues so that they may see His glory (v. 18). The goal of mission is the glory of God, that God might be known and honored for who He really is. How this goal is to be achieved is spelled out in what follows.
God will set a sign in the midst of the nations (v. 19). In context this can surely be nothing other than the wondrous birth of verses 7-8. It is the whole miraculous complex of events which occurred when Israel was judged and the church was born, and the “survivors” are the faithful remnant of verses 12-16. The final proof that God has not rejected them is that they have been chosen to spearhead His mission to the nations. The mention of grain offerings in verse 20 introduces the figure of a great harvest, and with it what must have been one of the most startling and controversial aspects of Isaiah’s missionary vision. It is the nations that are harvested, and the converts from all nations that are presented to the Lord as holy offerings. Converted Jew and Gentile become covenant brothers (v. 20), united in a new kind of priestly ministry in which both alike, in due course, share in the privileges and responsibilities of leadership (v. 21). What a stunning accurate portrayal this is of things to come!
Only one reflection remains, and it has to do with the origin and outcome of God’s mission, its beginning and its end. Verse 22 contains one final word of assurance to faithful Israelites, the true children of Abraham of the Old Testament period. The promise of an enduring name and many descendants will not fail; they will have their perfect fulfillment in the new heavens and the new earth, where the redeemed of the entire human race will offer unending worship to their Creator. But the final verse contains a chilling reminder that those same promises to Abraham implied judgment. They confronted man and women with the unavoidable responsibility to respond: to bless or curse, and be blessed or cursed themselves. The last verse does not detract in any way from the victory of the previous verse, but rather testifies to the completeness of it. God will not stoop to conversion by force. He will give us what we choose, and be glorified as much by His righteous judgment as by His saving grace.
At its most fundamental level, this closing paragraph brings us back to the basic truth that God is Creator, and therefore Ruler, of His world. The book of Isaiah, like the Bible itself, moves from the heavens and the earth (v. 1:2) to the new heavens and the new earth (V. 66:22). God’s mission is simply the outworking of the intentions He had at the beginning, expressed in the blessing He pronounced on the first pair and confirmed in the promises He made to Abraham. And Isaiah leaves us in no doubt that the key to it all is God’s perfect Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ. How eloquently and simply the apostle John put it! Isaiah, he says, “saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him” (John 12:41). In the second half of the book the new creation unfolds from His saving work like a bud bursting into bloom, and the last verse challenges us never to take it lightly, but to ponder (as we shall for all eternity) the greatness of our redemption and the terrible fate from which we have been saved! What can we do, but worship Him?
Isaiah 66:1-24 Reflection Questions:
How are the questions in the second paragraph answered in the gospels? Where?
Are we any closer to spreading the Word today, if so, how?
How are verses 66:12-17 a comfort to you? Journal on it.
What are you doing to help with the “great harvest”?
Do you plan to be blessed or cursed? Are you for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit or against them? Spiritually, it’s a matter of life or death! If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, get with a pastor to walk you through on what to do!