Isaiah 64-66
(A New Heaven and Earth)
August 2nd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

For I am about to create new heavens
    and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
    or come to mind.

- Isaiah 65:17 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

These chapters conclude the book of Isaiah. Chapter 64 begins in a spirit of humility, as the prophet asks God to come to earth to make the mountains and enemies tremble. He admits that he and the people have sinned and thus “Our best efforts are grease-stained rags (Isa 64:6 - MSG).” The prophet acknowledges that he and the people are “the clay” and God is the “potter,” then he asks God not to be angry or silent anymore, but to restore Jerusalem and the people.

In chapter 65 the LORD responds with his plan for judgment and salvation. He points out that he has been available but the people have ignored him and provoked him with their idol worship, eating of unclean food, and drinking of witches brew. Nevertheless, he will save some of the people. God makes this point using the image of a cluster of grapes that has a mix of good and bad ones.

    This is what the LORD says:

        “As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes
        and people say, ‘Don’t destroy it,
        there is still a blessing 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 (NIV)

Those who continue to forsake the LORD will be slaughtered, “ ‘for I called, but you did not answer, I spoke, but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me’ (Isa 65:12 NIV).” But the ones that he calls his servants will be spared.

The LORD then describes a future of a new heaven and earth where no one cries, no infants die young, and the good people live beyond 100 years. The work of the faithful people will result in good food and their children will be a blessing. The LORD will always be at hand. “ ‘Before they call, I will answer, while they are still speaking, I will hear’ (Isa 65:24 - NIV).” The world will be at peace and even “ ‘the wolf and the lamb will feed together’ (Isa 65:25 - NIV).”

The final chapter of Isaiah records the words of the LORD as heard by the prophet. The LORD says he values those who are humble, not those who make sacrifices when their hearts are not in it. He compares the re-birth of Zion with the birth of a child – there is some pain, but eventually great joy.

The LORD reminds the people that he is coming to judge those who did not listen. He will bring together all the nations and then send the survivors to other nations to spread the word. They will be sent to Tarshish, Libya, and “distant islands.” The people will come to Jerusalem and their descendants will endure, but those who rebelled will be subject to death and eternal suffering of their soul.

Reflection and Application

The book concludes as it began, with a discussion of rebellion, insincere sacrifice, and worship of false idols. While God has a forgiving heart, he is making clear that these three activities are among the most detestable. We should take great care to ensure we are doing all we can to avoid these three, or correct ourselves if we have not avoided these temptations.

The acknowledgement from the prophet that God is the potter is a significant one. In a number of places in Isaiah and earlier books God has noted that people have been acting as if they are the potter and can control God or create their own gods. By admitting our position, the prophet puts himself in an appropriate state of mind for prayer and discussion with God. This is a good model for us to remember when we stop to pray – begin by acknowledging the divine hierarchy.

God will always be open to saving the good grapes. Let us make sure we do not become soured, spoiled, and rotten, so that he will chose us. The LORD says he called and people did not listen. We ought to pray to him that he helps us to attune ourselves to his call and respond to it. We may not like what he calls us to do, but we can pray that he helps us say “Yes” to his will.

    Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God.

    - Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)

The new heaven and earth are hard to fully imagine. It might bring to mind the mythical locale of “Lake Wobegon” on the PBS radio program, “Prairie Home Companion,” where the men are strong and the women are beautiful and all the children are above average. Wobegon is a fictional place created by the radio host, but the place described by the LORD is real and will be available to those who believe and follow him.

What are the distant islands mentioned in Isaiah 66?

    For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. From them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud—which draw the bow—to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations.

    - Isaiah 66:18-19 (NRSV)

Maybe the reference islands include Cyprus, or the coastlands far away from Jerusalem that we know now as Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, Britannia, and Ireland. This call to evangelism at the end of the book foreshadows the great commission from Jesus in Acts, who calls us to spread his word to the ends of the earth.

    When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

    And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

    But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

    And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

    - Acts 1:6-8 (KJV)

Even during the time of Isaiah, God knew that one day he would use the Roman Empire as a vehicle to spread his Gospel beyond the Mediterranean, into the northern reaches of Europe and other distant islands. He knew this would happen and that the word would eventually reach you and me in the time and place where we live. For God, the history, present, and future are one continuum that he see all at once, for he has divine capabilities that we cannot fathom.

We have now received these ancient but timeless words that have been passed down to us. How do we respond?

Our job is to pass it on so that others can avoid eternal suffering. Are you ready to step out today and share the word? For example, if someone asks if you read any good books this season, are you prepared to say in a matter-of-fact tone, “Yes, I read the book of Isaiah,” and then summarize it for that person, in your own words?

You don’t have to convince anyone about anything. We are on a team where everyone has a role. It’s like a baseball team, where one player gets on base with a solid hit and another player brings him or her home with a sacrifice. Remember, it’s not our job to single-handedly save others, but merely to share the word. God provides the sacrifice and he is the closer who will earn the save.

What are the words that you remember the most from Isaiah? Give it some thought then check out a word cloud from the book of Isaiah to see which one word stands out above all others. A word cloud is a graphical and artistic representation of the relative frequency of word counts. The website "Sixty-Six Clouds" has one for every book in the Bible. You can click on the following link to see the one for Isaiah: Isaiah Word Cloud

Let us reflect on these ancient words as we listen to the song titled "Ancient Words," a song written by Lynn DeShazo and performed here by Michael W. Smith. Just click on the YouTube object below to hear the song and see related images:

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions

  1. What types of grapes do you like best? Do you prefer green or red, seedless or with seeds? Cut up or whole?
  2. To which distant island is God sending you to share the news about him?
  3. How would you summarize the book of Isaiah to a friend?
Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we acknowledge that you have sent us these ancient words through your prophet Isaiah and other servants. Forgive us for the times we chose not to listen and imbibed in the fruits of the world instead of the fruit of your spirit.

Suggested Prayer Concerns

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Jeremiah 1-3 (Paging Jeremiah)

Comments and Questions
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