18 “And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory.
19 “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20 And they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the Lord. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the Lord in ceremonially clean vessels. 21 And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the Lord.
22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.24 “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
Points of Interest:
Image of the Day–The parade finally reaches its destination
The Parade of Nations that started in 60:9 resumes right where it broke off, with the people of Tarshish. A whole new set of nations follows behind. Like the first half of the parade, the second half is full of semi-legendary, faraway nations. It’s taken a longer than expected time for this grand parade to finally arrive at its destination, but it’s worth the wait; the city they set out for has become a whole new heaven and earth in the meantime.
Promise of the Day–Round-the-clock party
The new world is perfect, it’s finished, and it’s ready for occupancy. All the nations have moved in, the eunuch from 56:4 has finally taken up his new priestly position, and his friend the foreigner has begun his temple service duties. Everything is working out just as planned.
Now it’s time to celebrate. Parties start on the 1st of the month and keep going strong all the way until the 31st … and then a new one starts up again the next day. From Saturday to Friday, it’s party time.
Question of the Day–Why end on destruction?
I was really expecting things to end with, ‘and they all lived happily ever after.’ But instead we get, ‘and they will be loathsome to all mankind.’ Why have the final camera shot linger on the enemies and their gruesome end, just when everyone is finally having such a good time?
I’m reminded of the end of a slasher film. I think you know the kind I’m thinking about: again and again, it seems like the killer has been defeated and it’s safe to relax, only for him to somehow, improbably, come back again. That’s kind of what our section of Isaiah has been like. How many times has God declared, ‘The city has been rebuilt!’, only for something to get in the way of us fully enjoying it? People wandering off the path, wild animals attacking, drunken accidents, marauders in the temple, impenetrable darkness. How do we know that the new world is finally and permanently established and we can truly enjoy the party?
Just like the slasher movie ends with a particularly thorough, inescapable death for the killer, with a clear shot of the body so that we know he didn’t somehow escape, proving that he is totally, completely, unquestionably dead, Isaiah ends with a thorough inspection of the enemies’ bodies: dead, burned, worm-eaten, and cast out.
No one will ever disturb the peace of the citizens of this new world again.
Taking it Home:
For you: Even if I would have preferred a rosy final image, this image is a fitting one for Easter Sunday; We flash forward a few hundred years to the image of Jesus, risen and radiant, having overcome death and pain. I picture Jesus walking to Isaiah’s final chapter to say hello and join the never-ending new world party. My guess,though, is that even if you fully buy that God has brought about this new heaven and new earth and has pushed all the misery and pain and death permanently to the wayside, that there is still some tragedy, heartache, or unanswered question in your own life. Ask God today to help you see and help you believe–for a clearer picture of this new heaven and new earth and increased confidence that one day God will really take away all this pain. Ask God today for the faith to celebrate this new city that he has. Even if only for today, believe entirely and with certainty and in celebration that it’s true! There’s a party, and a great city, and God has guaranteed that no one can ruin it.