Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Isaiah 64-65: A Glorious Future for God's Peoples

Isa 64:8-12 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.  Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people. Your sacred cities have become a desert; even Zion is a desert, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and glorious temple, where our fathers praised you, has been burned with fire, and all that we treasured lies in ruins. After all this, O Lord, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure? 

Isa 65:1, 17-25 "I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.'... Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.  I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.  They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands.  They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the Lord. 

The present may look bleak, but the future will be glorious. Jerusalem lies in ruins and the temple is burnt to the ground. The cities are denuded and desolate. Everywhere is destruction and despair. In response, Isaiah acknowledged that the Lord is the Potter and we are clay--that He can do whatever He wishes. But nevertheless, Isaiah prays for God to remember Israel and to turn His anger away from His people: "Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people" (64:8-9).

In answer to Isaiah's prayer, God promises a future of restoration and joy--far beyond this life's experience. Firstly, a promise that God will be known not just by Israel: "I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.'" In those days, God's grace would be extended beyond Israel's borders. And even further into the future, God will press the eternal "reset" button: "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more" (65:17-19). This promise is repeated in Revelations 21:1-4. This New Beginning will be glorious - it won't be "up there" but "down here". The Lord's Prayer would have been answered: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

There is continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants. Perhaps, it's better to say the New Covenant is not a different covenant but a better one. The same future promises are found in both covenants but the roads there have be changed. In the Old Covenant, the road map is Moses's Law. In the New Covenant, the road map is Christ through the indwelling Spirit.

Father, thank You for the hope You gave to Your people--whether under the Old or New Covenant. Nevertheless, we thank You that we have a better Covenant because of what Christ has done at the Cross on our behalf. Amen.

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