Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—A Glorious Future for the Righteous Remnant
We being the final section of Isaiah’s prophecy tonight. Chapter 65 begins God’s response to the prayer requests of the Judeans that began back in chapter 63. God answered the prayer of his people by offering a perspective on his past relationship to them. He then gave them a promise of better things to come.
I. A PERSPECTIVE ON THE PAST
- “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations— a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat; who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day. “See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps— both your sins and the sins of your fathers,” says the LORD. “Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains and defied me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment for their former deeds.” (Isaiah 65:1–7, NIV84)
- discovering God’s grace through prayer is not difficult
- the day would come when Gentiles who have not even sought his grace would discover it (Rom 10:20f.)
- “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” (Isaiah 65:1, NIV84)
- an if you remember, Peter was roundly reprimanded by his Jewish-Christian friends for doing so (Act 11:1-18)
- but when they heard his story they had no further objections and praise God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:18)
- “But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” [Deut. 32:21] And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Romans 10:16–21, NIV84)
- it’s the difference between Christ be a Savior of the Jews vs. Christ having a people gathered from every nation, race, tribe and tongue!
- “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—” (Isaiah 65:2, NIV84)
- they preferred to walk in a way that was disobedient, rebellious and evil
- they preferred to follow their own thoughts (65:1f.) than God’s ways
- the irony here is obvious
- Gentiles had not sought God, but would find him easily
- God sought Israel, but had been constantly rejected
- they openly provoked God and God offers the evidence in His response in vv. 3-5
- They were guilty of sacrificing in gardens
- burning incense on bricks, i.e., the tiled roofs of their houses
- sitting in the tombs practicing necromancy
- spending the night in secret places in order to gain wisdom from past worthies
- eating pork and other unclean meat
- thinking that they were holier than others
- I will tell you that scholars are not sure of the exact significance of some of these practices
- but like smoke in the nostrils, their behavior was a constant irritation to God
- their iniquities piled up from generation to generation
- first on God’s agenda was the recompense for these blatant transgressions
- “See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps— both your sins and the sins of your fathers,” says the LORD. “Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains and defied me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment for their former deeds.” (Isaiah 65:6–7, NIV84)
- ILLUS. Following the siege of 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar installed Zedekiah as a puppet-king of Judah at the age of twenty-one. However, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah and began a siege of Jerusalem in January 589 BC. The siege lasted about thirty months (Jeremiah 39:1-2; 8). In the book of 2 Kings we’re told that by the forth month of the siege famine became widespread throughout the city.
II. A PROMISE FOR THE FUTURE
- vv. 17-25
- for the unfaithful, however, the future was bleak
- but for those faithful few who cried out to Yahweh the future is much brighter
- God would spare a remnant, those stalks in his vineyard which gave some small promise of bearing fruit
- “This is what the LORD says: “As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and men say, ‘Don’t destroy it, there is yet some good in it,’ so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.” (Isaiah 65:8–9, NIV84)
- were God not to act to save the nation and bring from it a seed, there could be no seed
- seed here refers to descendants
- it would be from the remnants of the survivors of Judah’s captivity in Babylon that God would bring forth descendants of Jacob
- and from those descendants God say’s my servants shall live
- God’s true servants would inherit the Promised Land of peace and abundance
- “Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me.” (Isaiah 65:10, NIV84)
- “Sharon” and “Achor” represent the western and eastern extremes of Canaan and hence here symbolize spiritual Canaan, Messiah’s kingdom
A. THE SHOCKING CONTRAST IN THE DESTINIES OF “MY SERVANTS” AND “THE WICKED” vv. 11-15
- CONTRASTING DESTINIES Isaiah 65:13–15 God’s Servants
- Shall eat.
- Shall drink.
- Shall rejoice.
- Sing for joy of heart.
- Called by a new name.
- CONTRASTING DESTINIES Isaiah 65:13–15 The Wicked
- Shall be hungry.
- Shall be thirsty.
- Put to shame.
- Cry for sorrow of heart.
- Leave their name as a curse.
- what a glorious future the faithful could anticipate! Former troubles would be forgotten
- they would recognize Yahweh in that day as the God of Truth
- they would wish blessings upon themselves in his name
- “Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.” (Isaiah 65:16, NIV84)
- in vv. 17-25 he speaks of that time
B. A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH
- Isaiah called the future age of messianic blessings “the new heavens and the new earth”
- this spiritual era would be as much “created” by God as was the material universe
- “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17, NIV84)
- the One who created the whole universe is going to create a new one
- the word created in this passage is the Hebrew word bara and it means to create from nothing
- it means that God will not use pre-existing materials
- the new heavens and new earth and new Jerusalem is not make-over of the old
- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV84)
- the completion of that new creation will follow the final judgment
- “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:3–13, NIV84)
- “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11–15, NIV84)
- First, that would be a time of radical newness
- the “former things” would not be remembered with fondness
- Second, the new Jerusalem would be a place of unspeakable joy
- weeping and crying over the wretched condition of the city would not be heard
- Third, longevity would be another blessing of that day
- no premature deaths would occur
- old men would live out their days
- Fourth, life in the new day would be abundant and totally satisfying
- because of their longevity and the absence of war and calamity, God’s people would not be subject to the frustration of not living to enjoy the fruit of their labor
- Fifth, in that day God would answer their prayers before they are even uttered
- Sixth, messianic Zion would be a safe place
- former enemies would peacefully coexist
- ILLUS. Isaiah emphasized this in the picture of meat-eating predators grazing peacefully with domesticated animals.
III. Lesson from Isaiah 65
A. GOD’S KINGDOM IS A PLACE WHERE GOD WILL LIVE WITH HIS SAINTS
B. GOD’S KINGDOM IS A PLACE WHERE THERE WILL BE ETERNAL HAPPINESS
C. GOD’S KINGDOM IS A PLACE WHERE THERE WILL BE ETERNAL LIFE
Mr. Standfast, one of the great characters of John Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress, said these words as he was dying: "I am now going to see that head that was crowned with thorns, and see the face that was spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with Him in whose company I delight myself." That should be the anticipation of every Christian. But did you know that that's the anticipation of God? Psalm 116:15 states, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Do you know why? Because God wants to bring men to Himself.