One of the things that God is to be praised for is His parental patience. Good parents know how to properly use both sticks and carrots, as it were. Consistent consequences for bad behavior and faithful promises for good behavior — and the patience not blow up in a mushroom cloud after the thousandth misbehavior. And in today’s reading we can see our patient God working with seemingly incorrigible Israel — telling them of the consequences coming their way, but promising redemption for a righteous remnant — a remnant which has a double fulfillment, as we’ve talked about before.
“Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” Isaiah 59:1, 2 — So, Israel, you want to know why your prayers aren’t being answered? Why your enemies aren’t being beaten back? It isn’t because God isn’t capable, because He is limited in what He can do, or because He can’t hear your cries. It’s because your sins have separated you from God! That’s what sin has always done, separated men from God. It puts us at odds with the Lord; our relationship is broken; we have offended our great Friend. Mankind becomes so insensitive to the offensiveness of sin that many often cop that blank look and say “What?” from things like selfishness, pride, and lust to theft, homosexuality, and prostitution. But just in case we ever wonder, What happened to God? Why isn’t He saving us? Where is your God now? Well, it’s happened before that sins have hidden His face from men, so that He does not hear. If we don’t listen to Him, we don’t get heard by Him.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you.” Isaiah 60:1, 2 — Israel’s future would include a pretty dire consequence for the really hideous and faithful way that they had behaved toward God, but there was also a time coming when the righteous remnant would be once again taken into His arms, forgiven, and blessed in such a way as to make the heathen world around them envy them. And this passage reminds older Christians to be careful never to forget something very important — how bad it really is outside the circle of redemption. Some of us, having been raised in the church, have had little or no experience with the really dysfunctional reality of the world without God. But it is. Big house or not, gaudy jewelry or not, big smiles and big bank accounts or not; the world without God is not a nice place — it just looks that way. And this is why when we live a consistent, happy, godly life in front of others that it attracts notice, and sometimes questions. The darkness is interested in the light.
“Foreigners will build up your walls, And their kings will minister to you; For in My wrath I struck you, And in My favor I have had compassion on you.” Isaiah 60:10 — This had to have been the most preposterous promise imaginable on the ears of the Israelites — foreigners will build our walls? But it happened just that way. Never call God’s promises crazy, preposterous, or impossible. Making the impossible and preposterous happen are His specialties.
““No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory. Your sun will no longer set, Nor will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be over.” Isaiah 60:19, 20 — Light, as a metaphor, can be used in lots of ways: as a symbol of revelation and wisdom, as a symbol of security from fear, and (as in this case) a symbol of joy (the opposite of mourning). This may sound familiar to you, if you’ve read through the end of Revelation lately — the part about the new Jerusalem:
“And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:23)
“they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:4, 5).
…and this may help us to understand the Revelation reference a bit more — the Old Testament helps interpret the New.
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,” Isaiah 61:1, 2 — Early in Jesus’ ministry, after His baptism and temptations in the wilderness, He came to the synagogue in Nazareth, where He’d been brought up. When He stood up to read from the Scriptures, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was passed to Him. Jesus opened the scroll to this passage — a very deliberate act, since this prophecy is found at the end of the book — and read this Messianic prophecy. He then handed the scroll back to the attendant, sat down (all eyes on Him), and told them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” When we understand all that these two verses are telling us, it is really good, good news. It’s good news to: the afflicted (suffering) because of the hope of Heaven, the heartbroken because there is forgiveness, the prisoners because there is freedom from sin, to the captives (slaves) because they need no more be slaves to darkness, to those looking for the Messianic age because it has arrived, to the oppressed because God’s vengeance is near, to those who mourn because they will be comforted in the promise of immortality!
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.