Have you ever closed a book and itched to know the rest of the story? Or been so furious that you donate the novel to Goodwill? Or been so satisfied that you floated through the rest of your day? The ending of the book is very important….it is what creates the last impression.
Justice and Hope. That’s the flavor I’m getting from Isaiah. Chapter 66 begins by asking the question of how to get God’s attention…build a bigger cathedral?
“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that [a]I may rest?
2 “For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.
“But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
God wants all of us…not just the action, but a good intent behind it. He compares right actions, wrong heart with sacrificing abominations, cursed activities that only the worst of Israel’s enemies performed. It is like the gross activities in Judges, with everyone pursuing their own way.
But what if everybody else hates your guts? God will have the final say. He promised to deliver the nation. He uses the imagery of thirst-quenching water again…
“For thus says the Lord, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;”
There is enough for all! Revelation, the final chapter of the Bible, also uses this imagery of abundant, overflowing, life-giving water! God brings peace, but after He brings justice to the world:
“For behold, the Lord will come in fire
And His chariots like the whirlwind,
To render His anger with fury,
And His rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For the Lord will execute judgment by fire
And by His sword on all flesh,
And those slain by the Lord will be many.”
God allows us to choose to live in sin, and be separated from Him. Peter echoes this imagery in 2 Peter 3 with the second world-wide cleansing.
The final verses:
“For just as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the Lord,
“So your offspring and your name will endure.
23 “And it shall be from new moon to new moon
And from sabbath to sabbath,
All [m]mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the Lord.
24 “Then they will go forth and look
On the corpses of the men
Who have [n]transgressed against Me.
For their worm will not die
And their fire will not be quenched;
And they will be an abhorrence to all [o]mankind.”
This is not the happy Disney ending I was hoping to enjoy. But it makes the peace of living so much stronger.
Throughout Isaiah, themes and messages are highlighted over and over: living water, salvation despite disobedience, a coming Messiah, the nation of Israel established forever. It would create an interesting map. And all the roads would lead to God. Acting to give mercy as well as justice to all people. He went so far as to join us, speak to us of better things with a contagious passion, and clear the debt we had racked up with wanton living. We can live better, He says. The final page is turned. How will you respond?
God, thank You for intertwined imagery that creates such a beautiful picture of the work You do in the world. And I still struggle with the judgement. But also to understand the mercy. I will never fully understand it, but please help me to continue learning. Thank You for Isaiah, the pain and the glory dancing to Your praise. Amen.