Reading through the Bible together
We have reached the final two chapters of Isaiah but we find that God’s amazing grace never runs out. Generation after generation He has revealed Himself to Jew and Gentile alike. He is the Great I Am, even for those who don’t know He exists. Each day, “all day long (v.2), He calls out in a yearning voice to all people everywhere, continually, “Here I am! Here I am!” (vv. 1,2). “Come…!”
God will never give up on anybody while there is any vestige of hope that they will respond to Him (v.8). The seeds of the Great Rebellion are independence from God. To be lost, a person must make a deliberate choice against God. With ‘malice aforethought’ he/she must choose to worship false gods; must choose to follow his/her own willful way (vv.3-7; see also 66:3,4).
The ‘lost’ have blocked out the voice of the Divine Shepherd who “called but they did not answer and spoke but they did not listen” (v.12b; 66:4b). In this way they commit the “unpardonable sin,” the Sin against the Holy Spirit (64:10a; Matt 12:30-32). Their decision is revealed in their hypocritical, self-righteous behavior, their “holier-than-thou” attitude (v.5), and the fact that they “delight in their abominations” (66:3b).
The Divine Shepherd promises to lead His flock, His remnant, to green pastures – safe places of rest (vv. 8-10). He promises to spread a table before them in the presence of their enemies and give them overflowing cups of joy. Instead, they choose (v.12c) to spread their own tables in worship to their false gods; to fill their cups to overflowing in honor of the no-gods which are Fortune and Destiny (v.11).
A new “heaven and earth” opens up for God’s chosen ones (vv.17,22), His servants who seek Him (vv.9,10) and find their “Yes!” and “Amen!” to all God’s promises in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20). God envisages a renewed Palestine with Zion and Jerusalem at center (66:7-13) that will expand in ever-widening circles until it embraces all nations of the world and eventually the entire universe. It becomes a cosmic paradise from which everything harmful has been banished forever – even the serpent, the symbol of sin and death, has its final undoing (v.25). It is a sanctuary where man’s fondest dreams become so real and glorious that “the former things will not be remembered (v.17). This new order includes all the delights God has always intended for His people: joy (v.18), fullness of life (v.20), security (vv.21-23a), rewarding activity (v.22b), fellowship with God (vv.23b,24), and peace (v.25).
How different, how tragic, is the future for those who reject God. It is made very clear that God is not a ‘universalist.’ In other words, not all people are going to be saved. The contrast in the destinies of those who choose to accept and those who choose to reject God is summed up in verses 13 – 15. The choice is ours!
Partners in Ministry Coordinator
Greater Sydney Conference, Australia