In the earlier chapters of our study (40-55) Isaiah assures captive Israel that while they are incapable of freeing themselves, God is willing and abundantly able to deliver them from their captivity and to restore them completely.
In chapters 56-59 Isaiah looks into the future and sees how delivered Israel will still be totally incapable of living righteously before their God.
In chapter 58 we saw how they would fail to live up to God’s righteous commands and so they would turn even more religious, increasing their fasting and their rituals, while on the very same day acting unjustly toward their neighbor, their employee, anyone who disagreed with them.
In chapter 59 they seem to be asking: “Why is not God blessing us as promised?” Isaiah tells them in no uncertain terms why the blessings they were expecting have not materialized.
"Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. 3 For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things. 4 No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. 5 They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. 6 Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. 7 Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. 8 The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace. 9 So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. 10 Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. 11 We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away. 12 For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: 13 rebellion and treachery against the LORD, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. 14 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey" (Isaiah 59:1-15 NIV)• Their sin has put up a barrier between them and God.
• They do not seek justice for others. No one calls for justice (v.4), instead they indulge in lies and evil deeds.
• Everything that they do is evil, violent. Evil is ingrained in them so that their every action gives birth to more evil. They rush into sin (v.7); they shed innocent blood.
• Their ways are destructive, and no one who follows in their way will ever find wholeness and peace. (v.8)
• Justice is driven back; righteousness stands at a distance; truth and honesty evade them; they live in darkness.
• In v. 13 Isaiah lists other sins: “rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.”
In v. 13 notice the first two are sins against God from which naturally progresses sins against fellow man. In 56:1 God commanded justice and righteousness from them as testimony of their salvation, their restoration. But they are utterly incapable of producing this fruit because of the barrier that they have put up between themselves and God. These first 15 verses present a very bleak picture reminiscent of Romans 7 where Paul writes:
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. … 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:14-18, 24 NIV)That is the dilemma Isaiah says Israel too is facing. They cannot in their own strength live righteously and seek justice. What is to be done?
15 The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. 17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. 18 According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. 19 From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along. 20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD. 21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD. 1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon (Isaiah 59:15-60:2 NIV)God sees their condition and is “appalled”, but he is also merciful. He himself will come and do for them what they cannot do for themselves. With his own arm and his own righteousness and armed as a warrior he will do battle for them. What is the enemy that he is fighting? The main enemy is sin itself. The “suffering Servant” revealed in Is. 53 would come humbly and would allow himself to suffer the punishment his straying sheep deserved. In ch. 59 the Servant comes as a conquering warrior wearing the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and garments of vengeance. In this manner “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD. (59:20) . What he is defeating here is sin itself as it reigns in his people. As the repentant allow the Spirit of God to fill their lives and his word to fill their mouths they will become a witness to the surrounding nations so that:
"From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory" (59:19).Despite the constant sin and treachery of his people, the Lord remains faithful, his covenant will be kept, his promises will be fulfilled.
In this chapter Isaiah states plainly that sin is preventing the fulfillment of God’s purpose. Note the short, sharp phrases in vv.2-3, ... your sins ... your hands ... your fingers ... your lips ... your tongue. Nonetheless, the last word is still that of confidence. When God saw “that there was no one” (v.16) then the Lord arrays himself as a warrior and proceeds to accomplish his purposes. Isaiah’s answer to the problem of sin continuing to exist even in restored Israel is the answer to the problem of continuing sin even in the redeemed Christian. We cannot overcome it by ourselves, but Christ, the divine warrior, can defeat sin for us through his Spirit who lives in us, as Rom. 8 tells us. This victory results in our being able to live as Paul asks us to live in Col. 3.
13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:13-16 NIV)
Now we turn to Isaiah 60, which I think is one of the most beautiful chapters in all the Bible. Whereas in ch. 59 we read: “We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows”, here in chapter 60 all is light, brightness, dawn, radiance.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn (Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV)This chapter promises the glory of Zion that will be the direct result of her people believing in and submitting to the suffering Servant.
The Lord gives two commands: “Arise,” “Shine,” accompanied by the strength to fulfill the command... “the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”
By herself Jerusalem could not arise for the sins of her people separated them from God. But due to Christ’s cleansing power she is able to arise, and having received the Lord’s own perfect, holy light, she is able to radiate that light.
Following in this chapter we find the glorious results that come from obedience to the command of v. 1.
- verses 4-8 offer promises of great wealth and prestige among the nations.
- verses 9-14. The promise that other nations will come to their light and walk by their light.
- verses 15-16. They will become an object of rejoicing instead of an object of hatred.
- verse 17. Peace and righteousness will rule forever.
Many scholars say that the promises in this chapter will never be fulfilled literally; that they are all spiritual. And while we can find many spiritual applications from this chapter (and we will attempt to do so this morning) I would like us also to explore together what other scholars believe will be a true literal fulfillment of these promises. They will be fulfilled at the Second Coming of Christ when, as Paul says in Romans 11, “all Israel will be saved.” Paul says: “I tell you mystery.” The mystery is that for a while Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles had come into the kingdom, and then all Israel will be saved. He backs up his prediction of national Israel turning to Christ in the last days by quoting Isaiah 59:20-21 (which we have just read). I believe this turning of Israel to her Messiah is also what Zechariah refers to in Zech.12:10,
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (Zechariah 12:10 NIV).
When the command that they believe in the suffering servant will finally be obeyed, we will see the promises of Isaiah 60 come to pass. Let’s compare some of the images here in Is. 60 with the description of the New Jerusalem that we find in Revelation 21.
- Rev. 21:23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Is. 60:1 and 20)
- Rev. 21:24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
- Rev. 21:25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
- Rev. 21:26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (Is. 60:11-14)
- Rev. 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Is. 60:18)
This then is the glorious future for Zion that God revealed to Israel through Isaiah; a future dependent upon his command that they believe in the suffering Servant and that they live righteously by the enabling of his Spirit. What does this chapter have to say to us today?
1. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn" (Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV). Do we “arise” by the enablement of his Spirit, allowing the Spirit of God to work in us so that his righteous character shines through us? If so, then nations will come to him.
2. Isaiah speaks of great riches coming to them in V. 9. We all have received rich blessings from God. What is the purpose of all the blessings that God bestows upon us? Is it so that we might take pride in what we have accomplished? Are they for our own enrichment, or to make life easy? No. The purpose is to honor the Lord. We use all that he has given us to bring him glory. This is the thought of vv. 10-16.
3. "Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones" (Isaiah 60:17 NIV). Isaiah speaks of a wonderful transformation here, bronze into gold; iron into silver. How are we transformed, so that we become lamps through whom Christ’s life can shine undimmed?We are so transformed when we allow him to turn us from people who are helpless in sin into righteous people who are “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8).
4. "I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. 18 No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise" (Isaiah 60:17–18 NIV). Where does real peace come from? Only from God. When we turn our lives over to him his peace rules our hearts, his wall of salvation protects us, and no violence can ever separate us from him.
5. "Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end" (Isaiah 60:20 NIV). The days of sorrow, as depicted in ch. 59, were the days of sin and ignorance when all was darkness and the light of God’s presence was not felt. And so for us until we recognize Christ, the light of the world, as our savior.
6. "Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor" (Isaiah 60:21 NIV). As Christians we are dependent upon God both for the origin and the sustaining of our spiritual life (the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands). Hence the life that we live must be carried out in obedience to the one who formed it. And the whole purpose of that life is “for the display of my splendor.”