Today’s reading: Isaiah 23-27.
In Dickens’ saga of the French Revolution it was the best and worst of times simultaneously, but in Isaiah’s vision the worst comes first. Only after the destruction of the disobedient world does the vision turn bright. But like Dickens’ classic, there are two cities – the disobedient city of the world destined for judgment, and the blessed city of the faithful that will endure forever.
The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth. The city is left in ruins, its gate is battered to pieces. So will it be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest. Isaiah 24:10-13
Isaiah speaks in generalities rather than specifics. The city isn’t named; it consists of all cities throughout time that have or will abandon God. The time isn’t given since these judgments have taken place in the past and will occur again in the future. One thing is clear, however – the vision includes a final judgment that will encompass the entire earth.
- God says the devastation will be complete and total.
- The world, not just a particular part of it, will wither.
- The judgment is for breaking the “everlasting covenant,” which I take to be man’s failure to acknowledge God’s claim as creator and Lord.
- No sinner will escape the judgment.
- The supernatural forces of evil will be punished at that time along with the earthly leaders who serve them.
A remnant of faithful believers survives the destruction. God prepares a new city for them. “We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts” (Isaiah 26:1). He prepares a feast there. He removes the veil of death that has hung over all men since Adam’s transgression. He wipes away every tear. He gathers his people from all the places they have been exiled and they worship him together on the holy mountain.
Isaiah’s vision is consistent with the other end-time prophecies of the Bible. A day is coming, the day of the LORD, when God will judge the wickedness of unbelievers and Satan himself. The earth will be shaken and everything ungodly will fall down. Out of the rubble God will build a new Jerusalem for his faithful ones, both Jew and Gentile. Isaiah spoke these words to comfort the Jews who would face exile to Babylon, but they also comfort believers who face affliction today. All that God requires is that we believe in him and turn away from our sinful rebellion.
In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9
Image by Jim Nix on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0