Instead of being abandoned,
hated, and forbidden,
I will make you majestic forever,
a joy for all generations.
You will suck the milk of nations,
and nurse at royal breasts.
You will know that I am the Lord, your savior
and your redeemer, the mighty one of Jacob.
Instead of bronze I will bring gold;
instead of iron I will bring silver;
instead of wood, bronze;
and instead of stones, iron.
I will make peace your governor
and righteousness your taskmaster.
Violence will no longer resound throughout your land,
nor devastation or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls Salvation,
and your gates Praise.
The sun will no longer be your light by day,
nor will the moon shine for illumination by night.
The Lord will be your everlasting light;
your God will be your glory.
Your sun will no longer set;
your moon will no longer wane.
The Lord will be an everlasting light for you,
and your days of mourning will be ended.
Your people will all be righteous;
they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot that I planted,
the work of my hands, to glorify myself.
The least will become a thousand,
and the smallest a powerful people.
I am the Lord; at the right moment, I will hurry it along. (CEB)
The people of ancient times typically had a love/hate relationship with prophets. After all, the Lord’s messengers gave verbal punches to the gut with bad news of judgment. But they also were bearers of good news, as well. So, it is important to hold both judgment and grace together. We need to always keep in mind that, despite human foibles, grace exists and is the grand operating force in God’s big world.
Good news turns to great news when there is a realization that judgment is deserved, yet it won’t have the last word. God’s grace always prevails in the end. God has a tenacious resolve to work out good for people, not ill. Although the Lord dispenses justice, sometimes with a firm hand, there is an unflagging commitment to divine love which will shine through the darkest of times.
God expertly knows how to make a reversal in people’s situations from hopeless despair to incredible fortune (and, I might add, vice versa). The Lord truly has plans of goodness and well-being for humanity. Humiliation and powerlessness will give way to exaltation and empowerment. Peace will eventually overcome both the human heart and human institutions.
Salvation and deliverance from the ills which plague both body and soul comes from the God who specializes in penetrating the blackest darkness with overwhelming light. And it is much more than personal well-being. Isaiah’s prophecy communicates a cosmic vision of peace which thoroughly works its way in all the shadowy places of the world. It is a vision of a new world and new life.
Because of God’s action in a broken and bruised world, we can make some bold and hopeful theological claims for God’s people:
- God’s good grace and steadfast love are the superior forces in the church and the world. Because grace and love are pure gifts from the Lord, they are not dependent upon whether we deserve them, or not. The sheer fact that we need them is what prompts God to give generously and unsparingly. A new heaven and new earth are coming. Sin and death are not permanent.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Revelation 21:1, NRSV)
- God is the center of every good thing that was, is, and is coming. God’s world runs on God’s providence and power, and not on human agency. God is in control. All the Lord’s good promises shall not fail but will be realized. For the Christian, those promises are ultimately fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When circumstances are at their worst, faith is at its best.
In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Romans 8:37-39, CEV)
- God’s promises extend well beyond the “spiritual” to all of life. God’s peace will work its way into the fabric of the whole world, not just individual hearts. God’s benevolent kingdom and ethical will shall be done on earth as it is always done in heaven. Just as every human institution and all creation have been profoundly touched by sin, so everything will be touched by grace and renewed. Our prayers are to encompass this grand scope of God’s renewing vision for the world.
May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:11, NLT)
God’s plans are more than good and gracious; they are cosmic in their scope and include an expansive realm of peace which is so incredible that the Lord’s glory will overwhelm all darkness and shall shine forever. Human sin might seem as though it is so pervasive as to win the day, yet it will not always be this way. God’s light will penetrate, overcome, and dispel guilt, shame, and disobedience. And it has already begun…
Almighty God give us a new vision of you, of your love, of your grace and power; and then, give us a new vision of what you would have us do as your people, and an awareness that in the strength of your Spirit we can do it to your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.