Isaiah (Part 78): Zion’s Realization (Ch 60b)
Previously, I mentioned that Isaiah’s chapters 60 through 62 spoke of Zion—God’s Immanuel Purpose. I am going to modify that just a little. The first half of Isaiah 63 also belongs in this category. Isaiah 63a has to do with Zion’s Retaliator (obviously God), who will execute judgment on all those who do not embrace God’s Immanuel Purpose. While we will discuss this in more detail once we get to Isaiah 63, we must mention here that the reason for this change in outline is that judgment always accompanies the rescue of the right. We have seen in Isaiah that God always protects the remnant. That remnant is made up of those who, although maybe not consistent, at least have the desire—based on acknowledgement and acceptance of God’s revelation—to look to God in trust for his care. But the remnant, by definition, must be placed in juxtaposition with those who do not trust in God for his care. For purpose fulfillment and revelational satisfaction, those who do not trust in God for his care must be judged. Judgment on those against God always results in withholding of benefit from God. God articulates primarily in love relationship—the extending of truth, goodness, and beauty to those who will and may benefit from that love. Those who will not—who choose to seek out truth, goodness, and beauty apart from God—will ultimately, and obviously, find nothing—emptiness—since all truth, goodness, and beauty have their source in God.
Isaiah 60 highlights the coming to pass of God’s intended purpose in creation—the extension of God’s glory through everlasting love relationship with his image bearers. We have discussed already some of the imagery in Isaiah 60 that points to this covenant realization. In verses 1 through 5, God’s glory shone as light over the realized covenant. Even amid a world in darkness—sin—God’s light shone in covenant realization with Christ and those born to him.
In verses 6 and 7, we see the world moving to the light with gifts of material blessing. This is imagery. The world comes to God. Those who are of faith are transformed. In verses 8 to 9, God’s covenant purpose—Zion—receives praise from the world. In verses 10-11, Zion receives service from the world. In each of these situations, a literal picture of nations serving a covenant nation is not the intent. God’s covenant, which he makes with individuals of all nations who trust in him, is depicted by these aspects of praise and service. It is the individual from a far away land whose embrace of the covenant is expressed by the service and praise of wealth, flocks, and builders. And finally, that which remains—ONLY that which remains—is Zion, God’s unique and singular covenant relationship, through Christ, with those who place their trust in him.
In verses 13 and 14, beautification of the covenant is highlighted. The old temple of Solomon was beautified with the cedar and cypress wood of Lebanon. This, then, provides the picture—the image—of the glory of God’s New Covenant temple (us) who come from the world just as surely as did the cedars of Lebanon.
These verses hold a significant symbolic correlation. The “dwelling place” of verse 13 is actually the Hebrew “place of my feet.” Just as we may say “the place where I put my feet up” to signify home, this expression signifies the home of God on earth, and that is his relationship with his covenant people. That place of his feet is tied, in verse 14, to where the nations bow down. They bow at the feet of the covenant relationship. And so this picture of subservience is symbolic for glorifying the covenant relationship.
Moving to verses 15 through 16 we find that the imagery changes slightly. Instead of nations streaming to Zion, we find people “passing through” Zion. First, this shows the intent of imagery rather than literal fulfillment. Zion cannot be both destination and crossroads city if literally interpreted. But there are significant and common elements of glory for both a destination and crossroads city. The crossroads city benefited economically from its location and vantage point as a crossroads. Sojourners from one nation to the next would pause at the crossroads city on route. Often the crossroads city would hold as much attraction to the wayfarer as did the ultimate goal. Thus, the crossroads city grew rich because the nations would frequent it.
Zion, then, is pictured in this instance as a crossroads city—a city that grows rich from the wealth of the surrounding nations. The idea is the same as in the previous verses in which Zion was depicted as the destination city. The imagery intends for Zion to be recognized as gaining from the nations of the world.
In verses 17 though 18, we shift from the view of blessing from surrounding nations to blessing from God himself. Notice the contrast of gold vs. bronze and silver vs. iron. Immediately the contrast continues with bronze instead of wood and iron over stone. Literally, this makes little sense. If God is giving gold rather than bronze, what sense is there in saying God gives bronze instead of wood? Obviously, gold would be the final result instead of bronze or wood. But the verse involves imagery. The idea is that God will provide over and beyond that which normal or simply sufficient care would require. God always provides abundantly.
In these verses we see God’s care in providing peace, care, and protection—all qualities expressed over and over in the NT for those who belong to Christ. Even the walls that are built up and called “salvation” reflect the city boundary or limits that define inclusion. Thus, this image, as all the rest, showcases God’s care for his covenant people.
The last part of this chapter (60:19-22) expresses again the light of God on his covenant purpose. Verse 19 tells us there is no sun or moon. This should immediately put us in mind of Revelation 21. In describing, not merely a temporal kingdom, but the eternal state, God conveys in verse 23 that “the city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” We see even more correlation to the final state in verses 25-26 of Revelation 21 that correlate with verse 11: “Each day its gates will never close because it will never be night there. They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.” So clearly do we see in the correlation of Isaiah 60 with Revelation 21 that we are not speaking of a temporal state either in the premillennialist imaginings or the postmillennialist imaginings that is prior to ultimate fulfillment by God through Christ in sin-eradicated hope of eternal blessing. We have, for us, described here the ultimate. No PostM partial sin-suppressed state can satisfy this renunciation of darkness in the light of God’s supreme light. Here is glory! Here is sinless purity. Here is the realization of God’s covenant purpose—relationship, pure, unadulterated, as intended.
Verse 21 tells us that the covenant people will be righteous. This is no half-hearted pursuit of moral perfection. Righteousness is covenant faithfulness. If the covenant people are righteous, it means God has determined that the covenant people are faithful to the covenant. And this is so simply and wholly because of the work of the Messiah Servant Rescuer Jesus.
Yes, Christ’s children (those born of Christ) are righteous (faithful to the covenant). They possess the land. Think of land. Think of the Bible’s depiction and imagery of land. When Adam and Eve trusted in God for care, they possessed the land (Garden of Eden) which was the land of God’s providential good pleasure. When they removed trust in God, they were cast out—deprived—of the land. The children of Israel marched through the desert toward the land (the Promised Land of God’s care and covenant). But when they sent in spies and believed the reports of travail, they removed trust in God and were spurned—turned back to wandering in the desert while those whose lack of trust in God died away. Isaiah records the straining of political alignment to avoid catastrophe from invading nations, but because they did not trust in God, they were overcome and ended in captivity in Babylon.
All these examples are but examples. God created the whole human race. Our race falls when we look to other means for land—home—security. But those who trust God, those who trust in Christ, will receive the land, the home, the security promised in New Heaven and New Earth. This is God’s glory revealed, through Christ, to his children—only those of faith!
The end of this chapter states that God will accomplish this quickly. That statement seems rather matter-of-fact. Okay, so God will do this soon. Is that the intent in what God wants to convey? Not necessarily.
The word translated “quickly” is a word that carries intense feeling. It is almost onomatopoeic in delivery. The word is used a couple of other places in the OT. In Job 20:2 we read of Zophar’s internal agitation in wanting to speak. And in Eccl 2:25 we read, “who can enjoy life apart from him.” The internal agitation of Zophar and the enjoyment in Eccl 2:25 are the same word as translated “quickly” in Isaiah 60:22. The point is this: the word conveys anticipatory excitement as to what is in store. Therefore, in Isaiah 60:22, God is not merely categorically stating that he will accomplish something as soon as possible. He is saying that he wants to, is eager to, feels excited to accomplish the realization of this covenant relationship. Imagine that! It is not just us (as in Rev 22:20 who cry out, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”), but it is our God, our Father, our Redeemer, our hope who cries out in perfect, infinite, divine longing and excitement for the realization of our covenant union with him!! Even so, come Lord Jesus!