From verse 17 onwards we have a magnificent vision of God’s people restored. From the perspective of Isaiah and the later generation who came to be in exile in Babylon, the idyllic picture of prosperity, peace and harmony for God’s people in Jerusalem would represent for them their great hope for the future and in poetic and metaphorical terms such a day would be as if things had been remade, in effect “a new heavens and a new earth” (verse 17).
As we are seeing again and again in the latter part of Isaiah, such grand hopes stand to find their fulfilment not in the geo-political restoration of the exiles back to Jerusalem but beyond that in something of an entirely different order. The visions from the prophet of a people secure, favoured and beautified in Jerusalem speak of at the least the New Covenant people of God, the Church, in this age but usually beyond that still to the Church in the age to come as the New Jerusalem and the bride of Christ as portrayed in Revelation 21. We have the benefit of another perspective of how the true new creation with the new heavens and the new earth stands to be realised in an utterly literal way only at the return of Jesus!
This creation of the new heavens and earth is the climax to a succession of newness of which Isaiah speaks – “new things” (42:9) / “a new song” (42:10) / “a new thing” (43:19) / “new things” (48:6) / “a new name” (62:2). This renewed Jerusalem made up of God’s people will be something that God himself rejoices in (verse 19). The mark of the people of this renewed Jerusalem will be the blessing of long life (verse 20). The portrait of the inhabitants living in their homes and enjoying the fruit of their vineyards (verse 21) signifies the realisation of the covenant blessings of security and prosperity in the land for God’s people, representative of the ultimate heavenly reality of peace and perfection to come. The picture of the peace between animals (verse 25) is reminiscent of 11:6-9 and denotes the harmony of God’s kingdom. The reference to the serpent (verse 25) is based on the curse of Genesis 3:14, where eating the dust is a way of expressing the abject humiliation awaiting Satan.
Isaiah envisions something amazing, a restored Jerusalem characterised by extraordinary blessing but even as it points ahead to the ultimate restored Jerusalem of the age to come, presented for us in Revelation as God’s people in the new creation, it still falls short: true, there will be no more “weeping” (verse 19) in the age to come, but people will live beyond the good old age of one hundred (verse 20); they will live for ever!
PRAYER: The passage below is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. Use this as a prayer over yourself and us as a church, that we might grasp the enormity of the hope and future we have in Christ.
SONG: I can only imagine