Day 18      Isaiah 55 ... The End of It All

Even though Isaiah lived in tumultuous times, when the Jews were at the mercy odd foreign powers, his writing lacks the tone of impassioned complaint that sometimes colors the other prophets. Isaiah had seen a glimpse of the future, and that glimpse convinced him that good news lay ahead. No invading armies, no terrible calamities could interfere with God's final purpose for the earth.

"For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back," God says to Israel (54:7). Isaiah foretells a time when the ruined holy city, rebuilt, will achieve an unprecedented level of greatness. Yet the promise in these chapters goes far beyond what has ever been realized in Jerusalem. It merges into a vision of a future state where sin and sorrow no longer exist and we live in final peace with God.

The last part of Isaiah, addressed to a people facing deep despair, opens the door for the Jews to become a gift to all people. According to Isaiah, word about God will go out to nations nearby and faraway, and to distant islands that have never heard of Him(66:18-21). This prophecy saw fulfillment in Jesus, who recruited disciples to carry His message worldwide. Through his life and death, the suffering servant indeed introduced the gospel to the entire world.

In this and other soaring chapters, Isaiah described the future with such eloquence that New Testament books like Revelation could not improve on the language; they merely quoted Isaiah. Whatever longings we feel on earth - for peace, for an end to suffering, for an unspoiled planet - will some day be fulfilled. Isaiah assures us that one day our very best dreams, all of them will come true.

We may not understand the process the world must go through to arrive at that future time: "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord,'" But, as this chapter makes clear, God's covenant with his people is everlasting Nothing can cancel it.

Such visions of the future seeped inside the Jewish consciousness. As the decades, even centuries passed, empires - Babylon, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Syria, Rome - rose and fell, their armies chasing each other across the plains of Palestine. Each new empire subjugated the Jews with ease. Sometimes the entire race verged on extinction. Four centuries separate the last words of the prophets in the Old Testament and the first words of Matthew in the New Testament - "the 400 silent years," they are called. Did God care? Was he even alive? In desperation the common people waited for a Messiah; they had no other hope.

Point to Ponder: What would you most like to see changed in the world? Does Isaiah speak to that change?