Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 4 2019 - Isaiah 65 – Judgment and salvation

Isaiah 65 expresses both God's plan to judge those who have turned their backs implacably against him, but also his plan to bless beyond measure those who will turn to him in trust and in hope.

God's goodness and mercy has been snubbed by his people (verses 1-12). They have turned away from their God, even though he has stretched out his hands towards them (v. 2). They have offered sacrifices to other gods in their own garden shrines. They have abandoned God's law and enjoyed pork casserole like the nations around them! (v. 4). Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they have hidden away in terror from the approach of their God (v. 5). His disobedient people have felt God's judgment in exile but unless they now turn again to him, there will be worse judgment to come.

Yet in wrath, God remembers mercy. He will not utterly destroy his people but will preserve a remnant whom he will bring back home to enjoy his renewed blessing (vv. 8-10). The valley of Achor, on the Eastern border of the Promised Land, previously a place of Israel's disobedience (Joshua 7), will become "a resting-place for herds" and Sharon, on the Mediterranean coast, will be "a pasture for flocks"; the whole land will be fruitfully settled again.

But this blessing is not just for the remnant of the Jewish people, the physical descendants of Abraham. The chapter opens with the words:

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.”

The first two verses of Isaiah 65 are quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:20-21. Paul is showing that the refusal of the Jewish people of Jesus' day to accept him as Messiah was foreseen by God and even, paradoxically, formed part of his great plan. The Jews' rejection of the Messiah drove the Gospel to be preached to the Gentiles, those to whom God had not previously revealed himself. Those who previously had not sought out nor known the living God have come to know him and the salvation that is found in the Lord Jesus. We are the glad recipients of the blessings that flow from the crucified Messiah – the Suffering Servant of the Lord.

The chapter concludes with a glorious picture of the restoration that God is preparing for his people – Jew and Gentile (vv. 17-25). This is restoration on a grand scale for it encompasses both heaven and earth, affects Gentiles as well as Jews and the entire animal kingdom. The theme of wolf and lamb feeding together and the lion eating straw like an ox refers back to the promise in Isaiah 11:6-9 which speaks of the reign of peace that will be brought in by the Messiah. The promise of new heavens and a new earth are taken up at the end of the Book of Revelation (Rev. 21-22), which pictures the consummation of Christ's kingdom at his return. In that day all things will be made new, the consequences of human sin and rebellion will be reversed and creation will be restored to God's original purpose as it is filled with the presence and glory of God. The "no more death" of that day is anticipated prophetically in Isaiah 65 in the description of the great age to which people will live.

God's promise of restoration for his people exiled in Babylon is a foreshadowing of the salvation and restoration that shall at last be accomplished by the Lord Jesus and which will encompass all peoples on earth and the entire fabric of God's creation.

Father God, we thank you that your plan of salvation is no small thing but embraces all creation. We praise you that we who have no right to your blessings have received grace upon grace in the Lord Jesus. We thank you that we have been embraced in your love and made heirs of your kingdom. As we wait for and long for the day when Christ shall return to make all things new, help us to live lives which anticipate that day and to invite others to come into the embrace of your love.

Peter Misselbrook