Click to donate today!
Chapter 60 The Triumph Of The Seed of the Redeemer.
The coming of the Redeemer is to result in an everlasting kingdom. This chapter encompasses within it the shining of God’s light in the darkness (Isaiah 60:1-2) which Isaiah 9:2-6 reveals as indicating the coming of the great son of David, something fulfilled in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:12-17). It encompasses the response of the Gentiles to His light (Isaiah 60:4-10), and the need no longer for any form of protection (Isaiah 60:11), because this will be no earthly kingdom, for the sun and moon will no longer give their light upon it (Isaiah 60:19), but Yahweh Himself will be their everlasting light (Isaiah 60:20). And they will inherit the land for ever (compare Hebrews 11:10-14). It is this chapter that is very much in mind in the depiction of the new Jerusalem and the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21-22.
The call to ‘arise’ indicates a new section in the book describing something that follows what has gone before. When the Redeemer comes to Zion, Zion and His people are to arise and respond. They are to leave the past behind them. Much in this chapter reflects the words about the Servant in chapter 49. He comes to the peoples bringing light to their darkness (Isaiah 60:2-3, compare Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 9:1-7), His people will come from far and will gather themselves together to come to them (Isaiah 60:4, compare Isaiah 49:12; Isaiah 49:18; Isaiah 11:11-12), borne by the nations (Isaiah 60:4, compare Isaiah 49:22). Thus this is all to be seen as the work of the Servant.
And yet the light that shines on Zion will cause Gentiles to come to its light (Isaiah 60:3, compare Isaiah 49:6) so that the people will gather to it bringing the tribute of the nations. Men of all nations will come to Zion, and will be welcomed into Zion (Isaiah 2:2-4). Zion represents the King and the true people of God (Zechariah 2:7).
But we should note again that, while ‘Zion’ and ‘His people’ are sometimes almost synonymous, in this chapter it is the idea of the city of Zion in its Isaianic significance which is primarily addressed. It is the Zion to which the Redeemer has come (Isaiah 59:20). It is greater than and to some extent distinguished from the people, for His people are here in context clearly differentiated from Zion (Isaiah 60:21). Note the references to ‘walls’ (Isaiah 60:10), ‘gates’ (Isaiah 60:11), ‘the place of My Sanctuary (Isaiah 60:12), and ‘the city of Yahweh’ (Isaiah 60:14) which all serve to stress the distinction. So the concentration in this chapter is on the Zion which is the city of Yahweh, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 60:14; compare Isaiah 26:1-4), the eternal city (literally), seen as one whole, although very closely connected with His people. It is the place where God has His dwellingplace around which His people gather. This softens somewhat what might otherwise be seen as unacceptable ideas of humiliation and submission.
The submission of the Gentiles (Isaiah 60:14) is to be seen as to the Light of Israel, the One to Whom Israel points, not specifically to His people, although they will clearly have their part in it as His servants. It is to Zion that the ultimate Servant has come as Redeemer (Isaiah 59:20), and the submission is finally to Him as connected with that city. The theme is the restoration of that city (the harlot city will become the city of righteousness, the faithful city - Isaiah 1:21-27), and of the converted Gentiles joining with His people in that city in full submission and worship of Yahweh. It contrasts with Babylon (47) and the desolated city (Isaiah 24:10-12; Isaiah 25:2; Isaiah 26:5) which represents the world away from God. These people have metaphorically ‘fled from Babylon’ and ‘come to Zion’. They have left behind all idolatry, and all desires for the glory of the world, and have set their hearts on Him.
Furthermore the final part of this chapter makes absolutely clear that what is finally in mind here is the everlasting kingdom, the Kingly Rule of God. This is the true Zion. Sun and moon fade into insignificance, and will no longer wax or wane. They will no longer be needed. For it will be the glory and light of Yahweh which suffuse everything with light and glory (Isaiah 60:19-20). And His people will be Yahweh’s planting, and dwell in the everlasting land, where they will dwell for ever (Isaiah 60:21), including the resurrected ones (Isaiah 26:19).
The application of the ideas is twofold. Firstly there is reference to the true church of Jesus Christ, in both the Old and New Testaments, what is called the Remnant, the holy seed (Isaiah 6:13), who through the ages are God’s people and enjoy His protection and blessing, on whom God continues to shine and on whose behalf God regularly acts. They will enjoy being connected with the submission of the Gentiles and being priests to God (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9). In Revelation Zion has been removed to Heaven (Revelation 14:1-3), and the Temple is there (Revelation 6:9; Revelation 7:15; Revelation 8:3-5; Revelation 14:15; Revelation 15:8; Revelation 16:1; Revelation 16:17), and the city is there (Revelation 21:2). But finally it leads on to the final day when they will pass into the new heavens and the new earth, into the perfection of the heavenly city. As ever the future in Isaiah is telescoped together and seen as one.
We must recognise that what Isaiah was seeking to portray had to be expressed to his listeners in terms meaningful to them. The wider ideas of New Testament teaching were not available to them, nor would they have been able to comprehend them. But what he wanted them to see was a position where God was central and among His people, and a situation to which the nations could respond in adoration and worship, and to which all could gather in order to be His. Thus he pictured it in terms of a magnified Zion, in which all God’s true people would have full participation, and in which they could offer their true and full worship. As Paul, Peter and John would later bring out, it spoke of the glorious church of God consisting of His own true people, to which all may come to render worship and tribute to His name while also looking forward to its final fulfilment in the everlasting kingdom (e.g. Ephesians 2:11-22; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5).
‘Arise, shine, for your light is come
And the glory of Yahweh is risen on you,
For behold darkness will cover the earth (or ‘land’),
And gross darkness the peoples,
But Yahweh will rise on you,
And his glory will be seen on you.’
We find here an echo of Isaiah 8:22 to Isaiah 9:2. Here we have a further description of the coming King. His light will descend on Zion (Isaiah 4:5). He will come like a shining light among His own. And those who are His will respond to His light. They will see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). The Servant will be a light to them prior to becoming a light to the Gentiles. Thus will Jacob respond to Him, and Israel be gathered to Him (Isaiah 49:6).
Then the people who walk in ‘darkness’, who are in gross darkness like the ‘darkness’ that covers the earth as described here, will see a great light, and the light will shine on them (Isaiah 9:2). It will be the light revealed by Yahweh’s true people resulting from His having shone upon them. It was ever to be the prayer of the priests of Israel, that Yahweh would make the light of His face shine on them (Numbers 6:25), something symbolised by the lampstand in the Temple. This is an awakening call (compare Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 52:1). It will be similar for the people as it was for Isaiah in the Temple (Isaiah 6:1-7).
And those who are His chosen will respond. To men in darkness there is always the possibility of arising into His light, into spiritual understanding, into truth, into awareness of Him and His glory. The people who would be of Zion must therefore awaken because the light has now come, and that light is ‘the glory of Yahweh’ which has risen on them. The world will be in darkness, the peoples in gross darkness (Isaiah 8:22 to Isaiah 9:1), having the understanding darkened (Ephesians 4:18), being in the darkness of ignorance and despair, but on His own true people Yahweh will arise and His glory will be seen on them. And, as Isaiah 9:1-7 reveals, this light will come in the child Who will be born, in the Son Who will be given, who will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. He Himself is the glory of Yahweh arising on His people (compare Mark 9:2-8; John 1:14-18). In Matthew 4:16 the great light of Isaiah is applied to the fact that Jesus has come with the Good News. And constantly in John’s Gospel Jesus portrayed Himself in terms of a light having come (John 1:4; John 3:19-21; John 8:12; John 12:35; John 12:46).
Paul amplifies this in the New Testament when he declares, ‘if our good news is hidden, it is hidden to those who are lost, in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the good news of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God, shine on them’ (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The constant use of ‘light’ in this way is typical of Isaiah. It is found but rarely in the other prophets.
THE COMING OF THE DELIVERER AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF ZION ( Isaiah 59:15 to Isaiah 62:12 ).
Isaiah wanted them to know that God sees their desperate condition and determines to act. He looks for a man, someone to stand in the gap, but there is none. So He Himself acts. He will step in on behalf of His people. He will bring them a Deliverer, a Redeemer, One Who is clothed in righteousness and salvation, and also One Who is clothed in vengeance and zealousness for God. He is concerned with redemption in righteousness, and judgment on unrighteousness. On the one hand He will deal with their enemies and on the other He will come as a Redeemer to Zion, to those who turn from transgression in Jacob, and put His Spirit on them and put His words in their mouths, in such a way that they will never again depart.
But note how in parallel with God rising to act, there will be those who are turning from transgression in Jacob (in sinful Israel). His action and His people’s repentance go together. There can be no deliverance that does not result in repentance. He will not deliver an unrepentant people.
In these chapters Isaiah rises to a new height in his conception of Zion. And we have to stop and consider what he means by Zion.
In Isaiah Zion is looked at from different aspects. On the one hand there is the mundane city of Jerusalem which is fallen and rejected, and symbolic of Israel as a whole, although enjoying a certain measure of protection ‘for David’s sake’. This will eventually be restored (Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 1:8; Isaiah 2:1; Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 3:8; Isaiah 3:16; Isaiah 7:1; Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 14:32; Isaiah 16:1; Isaiah 22:10; Isaiah 31:4-5; Isaiah 31:9; Isaiah 33:14; Isaiah 36:2; Isaiah 36:7; Isaiah 36:20; Isaiah 37:10; Isaiah 37:22; Isaiah 37:32; Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 49:14; Isaiah 52:7-9; Isaiah 64:10; Isaiah 66:8), as indeed it was. Then there is the Jerusalem/Zion which is almost synonymous with the people (‘we’ Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 5:3; Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 10:10-12; Isaiah 22:21; Isaiah 28:14; Isaiah 30:19; Isaiah 52:2; Isaiah 65:18-19). Here it is not the city which is important but the people. (Compare how in Zechariah 2:6-7 ‘Zion’ represents the exiles). And finally there is the Jerusalem/Zion from which will go God’s message to the world (Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 62:6-7), the Jerusalem/Zion which is the city of God, the ‘earthly’ dwellingplace of Yahweh in which dwells His glory, with its central mount rising up to heaven (Isaiah 2:2), in contrast with the world city (often seen as Babylon) which is the seat of all evil, which will be toppled from its high place (Isaiah 26:5-6; compare Isaiah 24:21-22; Isaiah 25:2). Here Zion is the future glorious Jerusalem, which has eternal connections and will be part of the everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 4:3-5; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 26:1-4; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 30:19; Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 59:20; Isaiah 60:14; Isaiah 61:3; Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 62:11; Isaiah 65:18-19; Isaiah 66:10; Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 66:20). It is more than a city. It represents the whole future of the people of God, including their hopes of living in His presence, and takes in all God’s people. It is this last view of Zion which is prominent in Isaiah 62:12; Isaiah 62:12.
‘And nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.’
The result of the coming of Yahweh’s light in the child Who is to be born, and in the coming of the Servant of Isaiah 50:3-8; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12 (see Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6), and of the response of His people to Yahweh’s Instruction coming through Him, is that nations will come to the light of Zion, and kings to the brightness of its rising. They will seek the Lord of Heaven. And they will find Him through His people who will be like the sun rising to dispel the darkness. This will result because they carry God’s Instruction (Torah) to the world (Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 59:21), and reveal it in their lives. Their light will shine before men who will see their good works (resulting from their true obedience to the Instruction), and glorify their Father Who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
‘Nations’ and ‘kings’ together represent both peoples and the authorities who are over them. This process of God’s light shining on them began among the Jewish Dispersion as Gentiles sought light in the teaching of Israel and in the Scriptures. And it continued in the coming of Jesus Christ, in which it was fulfilled even more emphatically as nations and kings did respond to the word taken out, first by John, then by Jesus, and then by the Jewish Christian Apostles, (the Apostles saw themselves as the true Israel going out to the world from Jerusalem) so that John in Revelation could speak of redeemed kings bringing their glory into the new Jerusalem, a new Jerusalem founded on the Apostles, and with its gates named after the tribes of Israel, and with redeemed nations walking amidst its light (Revelation 21:24).
‘Lift up your eyes round about and see,
They all gather themselves together, they come to you,
Yours sons will come from far,
And your daughters will be nursed on the side,
Then you will see and be lightened,
And your heart will tremble and be enlarged,
Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you,
The wealth of the nations will come to you.’
The true people of God will be able to watch in astonishment as the nations and their kings gather to Zion (Isaiah 2:2-3), that Zion which is now the home of Yahweh’s Servant on earth, the true church of Jesus Christ. The world will respond to its light, the light of Yahweh.
‘Yours sons will come from far.’ Zion’s sons will come from far distances. This may refer to the return of His people from exile, or it may more probably have in mind His new children among the Gentiles. The coming of their ‘children’ is described earlier in Isaiah 54:1-4 where the idea was of such an abundance that Israel could not believe it. For Israel will be expanded by the ingrafting of those of the nations who respond to the call of Yahweh (Romans 11:13-24). And they will come from far (Isaiah 49:12; Isaiah 49:18).
All through history Israel was expanded by men of the nations uniting with them in the covenant as they recognised the distinctiveness of Israel’s message. Consider Eliezer the Damascene (Genesis 15:2) and Hagar the Egyptian (Genesis 16:1), two of many ‘foreigners’ who had become part of Abraham’s household; the ‘mixed multitude’ (Exodus 12:38); those in Exodus 12:48 and Numbers 9:14; while just as Achan was ‘cut off’ from Israel (Joshua 7:0), so Rahab and her household were grafted in (Joshua 6:25). Consider also the Kenites (Judges 1:16); Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11:3) and all whose surnames indicate foreign designation; and there were many more. All became seen as true Israelites and children of Jacob. And so will it be here. They will come to the light of the true people of God who will be made glorious by His glory which has arisen on them as a result of the coming of God’s great light (Isaiah 9:1-7). Compare 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2Co 4:4 ; 2 Corinthians 4:6.
‘And your daughters will be nursed on the side.’ That is borne in cradles slung in such a way that as babes they are kept safe and provided for (see Isaiah 49:22). The emphasis is on God’s care for His people’s welfare.
‘Then you will see and be lightened, and your heart will tremble and be enlarged.’ The result will be that Zion and God’s people will become radiant as they see the multitude of those who come to them. They will be filled with excitement, and a deep sense of satisfaction, and will be given a welcoming heart so as to receive the abundance of those who will come. The growth of that welcoming heart especially comes out in Acts 1-11.
‘Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you.’ The Gentiles will come bearing their riches. Zion will receive all that their hearts have looked for, the giving of tribute to Yahweh and to their King. Compare Revelation 21:26. The abundance of the seas may signify wealth such as that of the great maritime cities on the Phoenician coast, for example Tyre and Sidon, noted for scouring the seas and bringing back riches (see Isaiah 60:8), or it may be seeing the nations as ‘the sea of nations’, a picture later regularly used to describe them. Either way it is depicting the glorious future for Zion, with its benefits rejoiced in by God’s true people, firstly in terms of the riches that flowed into her from such as the kings of Persia (Ezra 1:4-11; Ezra 6:3-5; Ezra 6:8-9; Ezra 7:15-22; Ezra 8:25-30; Ezra 8:33-34), and through Herod as he built his Temple, and then to the true Israel, the church as it became that to which kings and nations gave their treasures, secondly in terms of spiritual provision now, and thirdly in terms of complete provision in ‘Heaven’, all described in terms which would be meaningful to people in those days.
Like all people the children of Israel had to be spoken to in terms of what they could understand. Not for them was promised a Heaven above, a spiritual existence, for these would simply not have been understood (and would have been mixed up with ideas of the gods). But the glory that was to come was expressed in terms of a new Zion, a gathered people, the amassing of wealth, total security, an all-powerful world king with the nations at his feet, all that the heart dreamed of. But as we have seen these were regularly put in terms that transcended earthly possibility if applied literally (see Isaiah 60:19). It will be the place where all are holy, where there is everlasting rejoicing, where all peoples will gather, where Yahweh will reign and His glory be revealed, where there is no light of sun and moon (Isaiah 4:2-4; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 26:1-4; Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 60:19-21; Isaiah 65:18-25; Isaiah 66:22-24; compare Joel 3:16-17; Psalms 50:2; Zechariah 14:0).
The idea was similar to that of the city of gold with gates of pearl founded on the Apostles (Revelation 21:10-27) and ‘the city that was to come’ of Abraham, whose builder and maker was God (Hebrews 11:10), and the Jerusalem that is above, of Paul (Galatians 4:26; compare Hebrews 12:22). Consider also the temple of Yahweh raised above all mountains connected with Jerusalem although raised above it (Isaiah 2:2), the temple of Yahweh set on a very high mountain in a holy portion well away from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:2; Ezekiel 45:1-8), depicted in the New Testament as a heavenly Temple in Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:19-22 and regularly in Revelation. The heavenly was being explained in terms of the earthly.
‘The multitude of camels will cover you,
The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah,
They will all come from Sheba,
They will bring gold and frankincense,
And will bring good tidings of the praises of Yahweh.
All the flocks of Kedar will be gathered together to you,
The rams of Nebaioth will serve you,
They will come up with acceptance on my altar,
And I will glorify the house of my glory.
This is but the beginning of the list of those who are seen as responding to the people of God and the new Temple of God. It first looks to the east, to the fabled wealth of Arab and related nations, the travellers of the highway who trade and bring prosperity. Midian are regularly found south and east of Palestine, and were infamous for their subjugation of Israel in the days of Gideon, something of which Isaiah was very much aware (Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 10:26; Judges 6:0). Now they themselves will come in subjection and worship, bringing their wealth with them. Ephah were east of the Persian Gulf, north east of Palestine. The combination with Midian would suggest inter-reaction between them as fellow trading nations. Sheba in the south east was famous as the place from which the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon in all his splendour, and was fabled for its wealth (1 Kings 10:0). Kedar in the east was renowned for wealth (Isaiah 21:16-17; Isaiah 42:11). Nebaioth are named together with Kedar in Assyrian records and may be the ancestors of the later Nabataeans.
And these will flock on their camels to ‘Zion’ in all its mysterious splendour bringing their riches there so as to present them before Yahweh, and telling of the triumphs of Yahweh as they speak of the wonderful things He is doing in men’s lives, ‘good news of the praises of Yahweh’. These travelling men were regularly those who carried good news (and bad news) from nation to nation. And they will bring of the abundance of their flocks and rams for offerings to Yahweh in His temple, and there those offerings will be acceptable to Him, a sign of the acceptability of those who brought them. And thus the house that contains His glory will be glorified and beautified.
The picture is one of triumph for Yahweh’s new Temple, seen as now standing, and therefore of triumph for Yahweh, and compares with Isaiah 2:2-4 as the nations stream to His house. It should certainly be seen in that context, as depicting something beyond present reality, and the same may be seen as applying here.
How then is this to be fulfilled? Firstly, as we have already seen, it was fulfilled through the returnees from the Exile loaded with Babylonian and Persian gold (Ezra 1:4-11; Ezra 6:3-5; Ezra 6:8-9; Ezra 7:15-22; Ezra 8:25-30; Ezra 8:33-34) and what they were to receive out of the tribute of the nations (Ezra 6:8; Ezra 7:21-22) and through wealth that flowed in during the more successful times of the Maccabees, to say nothing of what flowed in when Herod built his massive Temple. Many Jews, remembering this, saw it as something that would be fulfilled when the Messiah came and defeated their enemies and brought them in subjection to Israel. But they had not noted the nuances of Isaiah. For this was being brought to the everlasting kingdom, that kingdom whose light is the light of God Himself.
Many Christians see it as to be literally fulfilled in what they call a Millennium. But no millennium is in mind here. It is something which is eternal (Isaiah 60:20-21). Besides the thought of such an abundance of animal sacrifices (Isaiah 60:7), if taken literally, hardly accords with the picture of the non-bloody world described in Isaiah 11:6-9, and as we have already seen, the idea of ‘Zion’ in Isaiah regularly goes beyond the earthly. These sacrifices surely rather represent the Holy Spirit’s way of indicating the spiritual sacrifices of the New Testament Christian church brought to the feet of Christ (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 13:15), being here represented in Old Testament terms, (compare swords into ploughshares which we would have to modernise into tanks into tractors), together with their appropriating of the One great Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, made once for all, as the word of God went out to the Arab nations and many flocked to Christ in the centuries prior to their engulfment by Islam (after the light came the darkness), so that they gave their response to the heavenly temple as true worshippers of God. And finally it points to our eternal worship in heaven, and in the new heaven and the new earth, as we offer up to God our worship. The point being made is that they will make provision for the full worship of God in accordance with all that He requires. (It should be noted that in Isaiah 65:25 the non-bloodiness of Zion is specifically referred to).
‘Who are these who fly as the clouds,
And as the doves to their windows (openings in the dovecotes).
Surely the isles (coastlands) will wait for me,
And the ships of Tarshish first,
To bring your sons from far,
Their silver and their gold with them,
For the name of Yahweh your God,
And for the Holy One of Israel, because he has glorified you.’
Eyes now turn to the west, to the nations across the seas. The picture of ‘flying as the clouds’, and like white doves to their dovecotes, probably depicts the white billowing sails of the ships coming from far. Although the thought may be of the speed and freedom of movement of the clouds and the doves. The peoples of those nations, and the great ships of Tarshish (the largest ships of the day, the great ore carriers of the Phoenicians) will wait on Yahweh ready to bring back His people to Him, loaded with wealth. And it will all be for the honour of Yahweh and the glorifying of His name, and for the sake of the Holy One of Israel Who has glorified His true people.
Thus both east and west will in the future seek God, the only God, through the ministry of His people because the glory of Yahweh has risen on them (Isaiah 60:1-2). And the result will be that large numbers are added to the people of God from nations worldwide.
The continual emphasis on wealth has a twofold purpose. Firstly it reveals the true dedication of those who bring it. It is not brought to Israel, but to Yahweh. If we come to Christ without bringing Him all our wealth our coming is in vain, as the rich young ruler sadly discovered (Mark 10:17-23). But the wealth is not a means of obtaining salvation. It is the gift of grateful hearts because of His grace freely bestowed (compare the woman who gave because she loved much (Luke 7:47)). And secondly it was a picture of richness of blessing for His people. It is a way of depicting fullness of blessing. (Once, however, the sinful human heart got to work on it men began to dream of great wealth for themselves. Rather than thinking of the glory of God they thought only in terms of personal aggrandisement, something which could only be detrimental to them).
‘And strangers (literally ‘the sons of the stranger’) will build up your walls,
And their kings will serve you,
For in my wrath I smote you,
But in my favour I have had mercy on you.
Your gates will be open continually,
They will not be shut, day nor night,
That men may bring to you the wealth (or ‘army’) of the nations,
And their kings led along.’
For that nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish,
Yes, those nations will be utterly wasted.’
These words are addressed to Zion as the city of God where Yahweh dwells in His Temple on Mount Zion. They depict God’s final victory. All eyes are on Him and His service. The aim is not the aggrandisement of the people but of Yahweh. The aim is the worldwide impact of His glory and His word. And that is what all will seek. All who respond to Him will partake of Hi future glory.
‘And strangers will build up your walls, and their kings will minister to you.’ There is a contrast here with nations knocking down its walls. Instead of alien nations coming to batter down Zion’s walls, they will come as its servants to build them because they will want to glorify Yahweh. For this building of the walls compare Psalms 51:18; Psalms 147:2, in both of which examples it is an example of care for their wellbeing. God’s people will watch in wonder as (uncircumcised, contrast Isaiah 52:1) nations and kings come to serve Yahweh (compare Isaiah 56:6 where the same verb is used) and see to the welfare of Zion. Instead of war there will be peace, and all will seek to uphold that peace. This picture is on a par with Isaiah 19:23-25. Even today we are building up the walls of Zion as we win men and women to have their part in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21-22).
Earlier Isaiah has stated that the stranger who has joined himself to Yahweh will have equal part in the worship of Yahweh (Isaiah 56:3-8). We are probably therefore justified in seeing these strangers as such worshippers, for the building of the walls is in order to ensure the peace and safety of the city, part of their service for Yahweh. Thus the thought is that ‘strangers’ and their kings have been conjoined with Yahweh, and with the people of God in the city of God, and share with them the task of ensuring the safety of the city and of the service of Yahweh. Here we have God’s universal people described. They have become one with Zion, and they are building up God’s new city, God’s people (compare Revelation 21:2).
In contrast in Ezekiel the cities are unwalled (Ezekiel 38:11), but that too is in order to depict that they are protected by God. There is only a contradiction here if we require slavish literalness. In neither case are the prophets interested in architecture. They are concerned with picturing a city of His people trusting in God and under full protection by God and the details are not important. (The walls and lack of walls are not literal in either case. Paradoxically in both cases they emphasise the security of the city but in different ways).
‘For in my wrath I smote you, but in my favour I have had mercy on you.’ And this will be because Yahweh has revealed His favour towards His chosen place which reflects His elect people. Having first had to smite them in His wrath, as previously described by Isaiah, He is now revealing His mercy and grace, and multiplying them as He promised (Isaiah 54:2-5).
‘Your gates will be open continually, they will not be shut, day nor night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, and their kings led along. For that nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish. Yes, those nations will be utterly wasted.’ Indeed the gates of Zion will be constantly open so that the wealth of the nations may pour in both day and night, and their kings will come in submission, whether gladly or otherwise. This also indicates the perfect safety of the city (compare Revelation 21:24-27). It has no need to close the gates for it is protected by Yahweh, and they need to be constantly open because of the fullness of God’s provision. There will be a constant stream of traffic. Alternately it may signify the armies of the nations and their kings brought in as captives. For all nations will serve God and His true people on pain of perishing, under the threat of being totally wasted if they do not. This last punishment clearly results from the failure of their attitude towards God, and only secondarily of their attitude towards Israel, which latter is heinous because they are God’s representatives.
The wealth of the nations is not, however, coming in order to make the people rich (that was the mistake made in some later interpretations). It is coming to the city of God in order to be offered to Him. All submission and homage will be to Him and to His anointed King. It is tribute to Him. It is His wealth. Yet that His people will enjoy the ‘benefits’ is also apparent, although it will be all His true people, not just those ‘homeborn’.
‘Their kings led along.’ This could be as captives, with the peoples ensuring the submission of their kings, or it could be because they are led along by their people in triumphant procession because they are welcome there. Either way the kings are seen as coming to Yahweh, bringing not danger, but submission and worship.
‘That nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish. Yes, those nations will be utterly wasted.’ The basic principle is that those nations and kingdoms who do not contribute to the welfare of God’s Zion, and do not submit themselves to Him, will be destroyed. Again we are reminded that this Zion is the place where God is worshipped, and where He has gathered His people, and to which the nations have streamed in response to the word of God, and where His king rules (Isaiah 2:2-4). Here it is loyalty to Yahweh that is in question not the physical benefit of an earthly city. The only way the prophets had of depicting Heaven and the new Heaven and the new earth in meaningful terms was in terms of this ideal Jerusalem.
It should be apparent to the reader that we have depicted in all this, from Isaiah 60:5 onwards, a picture of the ideal world of the future as it would be seen by people in Isaiah’s time. As they surveyed the past and how they had suffered, this was what they longed for life to be like. It is, of course, an ideal picture. It is therefore declaring that God will give to His people the ideal existence. It has finally in mind the heavenly everlasting kingdom.
We may see as a comparison how ‘the whole world’ came to Solomon in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:24) seeking his wisdom. That was a fore-glimpse of this picture. It was he who received the tribute, the people shared in his reflected glory. It was to him that every knee bowed. So here it is to Zion as the Servant that the peoples come in obeisance, bringing their wealth. They are coming in submission to Yahweh and His great representative.
That great blessing would come to the people of God as a result of all this is apparent. But the emphasis here is to be seen as on Zion as the city of God. Once Israel began to see it as referring to themselves as a nation the idea became dangerous. It was one thing to see themselves as enjoying, along with all His people, part of the benefit from what was brought to Yahweh, coming to them as part of His gracious blessing. It was another when they began to think of the Gentiles as submitting to them and making them rich. The tendency would then be for them to become overbearing, arrogant, unbearable, and tyrannical. The danger would be that what was intended to uplift their hearts, and make them grateful, and fill them with a worshipful spirit, could in the end, if wrongly interpreted, make them unbearable. Such hopes and aspirations would be the exact opposite of the teaching of Jesus and of the New Testament, and indeed of the Old Testament as well where the poor, and meek and contrite are praised. Thus literal fulfilment simply to Zion as a people amassing wealth for themselves and being treated as masters would go contrary to the whole moral basis of Scripture. But once seen as submission to God going along with spiritual blessings poured out on God’s people, followed by fulfilment in the perfect state once man has been perfected at the resurrection, it ceases to do so and becomes reasonable, acceptable and desirable.
‘The glory of Lebanon will come to you,
The fir tree, the pine and the box tree together,
To beautify the place of my sanctuary (‘my place of holiness’),
And I will make the place of my feet glorious.
The point here is that just as Solomon’s Temple was built from the trees of Lebanon so will it be again. But this time the providers will come gladly because of their love for Yahweh. There will be no charge for the supply here, and they will provide the very finest. The desire of all will be to make God’s dwellingplace beautiful and glorious, for it is His holy place, the place where He puts His feet (His footstool). It is His place of contact with man (compare Psalms 99:1; Psalms 132:7; Isaiah 66:1; Lamentations 2:1).
This may partly be seen as partly fulfilled in the building of the Second Temple and of Herod’s Temple in all their glory, for both of which timber flowed in from the Lebanon making the place of His Sanctuary beautiful (see Ezra 3:7), but it goes on to express the idea of the Temple of His people, built up of all that is precious (1 Corinthians 3:10-16) and the final idea lies in the Sanctuary of the heavenly kingdom which will be blessed in the wholehearted worship of His people, founded on the Apostles and prophets, and built up from His people (Ephesians 2:12-22; Revelation 21:0). There will be no Temple there for YHWH Himself will be its Temple (Revelation 21:22). It will, however, be His sanctuary, the place of His holiness..
The trees are not strictly identifiable although the general idea of what they were is known. They were the trees of Palestine and Lebanon, not of Babylon.
‘And the sons of those who afflicted you,
Will come bending to you,
And all those who despised you,
Will bow themselves down at the soles of your feet,
And they will call you ‘the city of Yahweh’,
The Zion of the holy One of Israel.’
Again we note that the subservience is due to what the city is in relation to Yahweh (but compare Isaiah 49:23 where the point is that those who had demanded their obeisance would now bow down to them. However, it is reasonable to assume that this is because of the status they will have as priests of Yahweh, see Isaiah 61:6-7). It is because it is the place where Yahweh is that they will bow down, so in reality it is before Yahweh that they will bow down in order to receive His verdict on them. The oppressors, those who have badly treated God’s people, will find themselves called to account. But those who are there, who have borne their suffering because they were His people, will have the satisfaction of seeing their former oppressors having to submit to God, the Holy One, and having to yield before the heavenly existence of the people of God (compare Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 49:23). All rebellion will be over and God will be all in all.
‘Whereas you have been forsaken and hated,
So that no man passed through you,
I will make you an everlasting excellency,
A joy of many generations.
You will also suck the milk of the nations,
And you will suck the breast of kings,
And you will know that I, Yahweh, am your Saviour,
And your redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.’
This new Zion, once forsaken and hated and avoided by men, will be given everlasting excellency, it will be the joy of the people of many generations. The nations and kings will see that it is amply supplied with nourishment and with good things. There may also be the suggestion that its very inhabitants will be fed by nations and by kings for they will know that Yahweh is their Saviour and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
This Jerusalem represents the centre where God is seen to be with His Servant, and includes the purified remnant who remain after God’s judgments as described earlier in the book, the people who as a result of God’s active grace have sought His face and found forgiveness and mercy (Isaiah 57:17-19). And as we have seen above and elsewhere they include among them people from many nations, ‘strangers’. It represents the faithful in Israel. It includes all who have responded to Yahweh. And it must include all who have been raised from the dust (Isaiah 26:19). It represents all those incorporated into the Israel of God from wherever they come (Galatians 6:16). Thus it portrays the called out and chosen people of God through many generations (Galatians 4:26; Galatians 4:31; Hebrews 12:22), both the old and New Testament churches. It is the multitude which no man can number (Revelation 7:9).
‘You will also suck the milk of the nations, and you will suck the breast of kings.’ here is a clear example that Isaiah is not speaking literally. They would not get much milk from the breasts of kings! But the idea is of maternal care and provision which they will enjoy from nations and kings, including the cup of cold water in His name, as all become one with God and with His people. This may partly represent care from those who have conjoined with them in the new Israel, as the Gentiles flock to Christ. We may compare here ‘the collection’ made by the people of God around the world for the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea (1 Corinthians 16:1; 1 Corinthians 2:0 Corinthians 8-9). Or it may represent the care of God’s chosen ones by some of the outer world whose hearts He would move. God’s people were not always to be persecuted, there would be times of refreshing and even acceptance by kings and their people.
Note that He is ‘the Mighty One of Jacob’, which certainly expresses His great power, possibly in contrast with the weakness of His people (‘you worm Jacob’ - Isaiah 41:14), or there may be the hint behind this title of the fact that they are Jacob His chosen, and not Esau the rejected (see Isaiah 63:1-6; compare Malachi 1:2-3).
‘For bronze I will bring gold,
And for iron I will bring silver,
And for wood, bronze,
And for stones, iron.
I will also make your officers peace,
And your exactors (taskmasters) righteousness,
Violence will no more be heard in your land,
Desolation or destruction within your borders,
But you will call your walls, Salvation,
And your gates, Praise.’
The catalogue of perfection for the new Jerusalem continues. Gold and silver instead of bronze and iron; bronze and iron instead of wood and stones. All will be better than it has ever been before. Peace will be its overseers and righteousness its exactors, that is it will be controlled in all things by peace and righteousness, and as they enjoy and delight in both of these, their ‘subjection’ will be their joy.
There will be no more violence, no more desolation, no more destruction. All the forces of disorder and chaos will be gone. They will be guarded by the walls of salvation, and shut in by the gates of praise (compare Isaiah 26:1-4). Peace, righteousness, salvation and praise will be their inheritance. A wondrous city indeed is this.
‘The sun will no more be your light by day,
Nor for brightness will the moon give light to you,
But Yahweh will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory.
Your sun shall no more go down,
Nor will your moon withdraw itself,
For Yahweh will be your everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning will be ended.’
If we had any doubts previously that this Zion is finally not earthly but heavenly it is made clear here. They will have no need of sun or moon (Revelation 21:23) for Yahweh will their everlasting light, and their God will be their glory (Revelation 22:5). He will be their sun and their moon, thus the lights of sun and moon will no more go down or in some way hide themselves. There will always be light, for Yahweh Himself will be their everlasting light, and all their days of mourning will be over. The new earth that Isaiah envisages is nothing like any previous earth.
(Such a world of continual everlasting light will be fine for those who have been raised with spiritual bodies, but would hardly suit those who have to sleep and are unable to do so because of the radiance of the light. This description has to be idealistic, not realistic).
In the old world the sun and moon ruled day and night and determined times and seasons. But now God has replaced both sun and moon. All is now determined by Him. There will be everlasting light from Him, all that is needed for the heart of man. And there will be no more sorrows and no more tears (Revelation 20:4). The picture is again one of perfection. Instead of depending on creaturely supply, all we need will come directly from the Source of all things.
‘For Yahweh will be your everlasting light.’ In this is summed up Yahweh’s blessing on His people. They will dwell in ‘Zion’ and His light on them will be everlasting. No more cloud to hide Him, no more sin and darkness, no more dependency on the vagaries of earthly weather. The light will be permanent and complete (see Revelation 21:23-24).
‘Your people also will be all righteous,
They will inherit the land for ever,
The branch of my planting, the work of my hands,
That I may be glorified.
The little one will become a thousand,
And the small one a strong nation,
I, Yahweh, will hasten it in its time.’
And this will be reflected in the people. They will be righteous, all of them. They will be the branch which He has planted, the work of His hands. Compare for the branch Isaiah 11:1 and John 15:1-6. They are the branches that come from the Branch. And they will inherit the everlasting land for ever. All with a view to Yahweh’s glory. Even the smallest planting will become a thousand, the tiniest will become a strong nation. It is a picture of fruitfulness and blessing, the Israelite ideal. And Yahweh will hasten this on once the set time comes.
So as we come to the end of this description of the future of God’s ‘Jerusalem’, of that ‘portion’ which He has set apart for Himself and which He has peopled with His own people, of that which sums up the future of His true people through the ages, culminating in the everlasting glory, we have Isaiah’s picture of the ideal future. We see in it his attempt, in the light of the limitations of his day, to portray the eternal triumph and the eternal glory. But Who will bring all this about? The answer is found in ‘the Anointed One’.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 60". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany