Isaiah 66 – Rejoicing in God’s Ultimate Victory
A. The Lord will repay His enemies.
1. (1-2) The greatness of God, and proper response of man.
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.
a. Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool: Here, the Lord puts things back into proper perspective. We can never understand much of anything until we understand that the Lord God is enthroned in heaven, and that the earth is under His command – indeed, the earth is His footstool.
i. Stephen quoted Isaiah 66:1-2 in Acts 7:49-50, agreeing with Solomon and Isaiah about the greatness of God the Creator.
b. Where is the house that you will build Me?…. But on this one I will look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word: We may want to serve God – but serve Him our way. We may want to build God something, but what can we build that is worthy of God? Instead, what God really wants from us is a poor and a contrite spirit, and to tremble at His word.
i. Contrite is literally “‘lamed’ or disabled, here used with spiritual significance: one who is aware of the damage wrought by sin, of personal inability to stand upright before God.” (Motyer)
ii. Are you one of those who trembles at God’s word? “They tremble at the searching power of God’s Word. Do you never come into this place and sit down in the pew, and say, ‘Lord, grant that thy Word may search me and try me, that I may not be deceived’? Certain people must always have sweets and comforts; but God’s wise children do not wish for these in undue measure. Daily bread we ask for, not daily sugar.” (Spurgeon)
2. (3-4) God’s answer to empty religious ritual.
“He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck;
He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood;
He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.
Just as they have chosen their own ways,
And their soul delights in their abominations,
So will I choose their delusions,
And bring their fears on them;
Because, when I called, no one answered,
When I spoke they did not hear;
But they did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.”
a. He who kills a bull as if he slays a man: In the empty religious ritualism, God’s people thought they were pleasing God. But the Lord says that when a man kills a bull in sacrifice, it is as if he slays a man. Their religious ritualism added to their sin, it didn’t take it away.
b. Just as they have chosen their own ways…so will I choose their delusions: God’s people chose their rebellion against Him, and they persisted in it despite His continual warnings. As an extreme display of judgment, God will choose their delusions and send a delusion among them.
i. This is a sobering reminder of what God will do on the earth during the Great Tribulation, as described by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:11: God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie. But what will happen during the Great Tribulation is just the ultimate fruit of what God does all the time among men. When we reject God and seek our own delusion, He may send one to us.
ii. An example of this kind of delusion are those who believe that the world was created out of nothing or by chance. What could be more delusional than to believe that something can come from nothing? To believe that chance actually has some kind of “power”? Yet for those who insist on believing it, God will give them over to this delusion.
c. Because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear: How can we keep from being given over to a delusion? By answering the Lord when He calls, by hearing Him when He speaks. It’s really that simple.
3. (5-6) The Lord repays His enemies.
Hear the word of the Lord,
You who tremble at His word:
“Your brethren who hated you,
Who cast you out for My name’s sake, said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified,
That we may see your joy.’
But they shall be ashamed.”
The sound of noise from the city!
A voice from the temple!
The voice of the Lord,
Who fully repays His enemies!
a. Your brethren who hated you, who cast you out for My name’s sake, said, “Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.” Here, Isaiah shows how those with a shallow, empty religion mock those of genuine faith. First, empty religion hates genuine faith (hated you). Second, empty religion rejects true faith (cast you out). Third, empty religion acts in the name of the Lord (for My name’s sake). Fourth, empty religion mocks with spiritual sounding words (“Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy”).
b. But they shall be ashamed: Most importantly, empty religion will never ultimately triumph. At the end of days, if not before, they shall be ashamed, when they hear the voice of the Lord, who fully repays His enemies!
B. The Lord comes with fire.
1. (7-11) Rejoicing in the deliverance of Jerusalem.
“Before she was in labor, she gave birth;
Before her pain came,
She delivered a male child.
Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day?
Or shall a nation be born at once?
For as soon as Zion was in labor,
She gave birth to her children.
Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord.
“Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.
“Rejoice with Jerusalem,
And be glad with her, all you who love her;
Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;
That you may feed and be satisfied
With the consolation of her bosom,
That you may drink deeply and be delighted
With the abundance of her glory.”
a. Before she was in labor, she gave birth: Isaiah prophesies a day when the victory will come easily to Jerusalem, when she will be as the promise of Romans 8:37, more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Here, she gives birth – but without pain! Truly, who has heard such a thing?
b. Rejoice with Jerusalem: All God’s people are called to share in Jerusalem’s joy. The time of deliverance, victory, and vindication have come! Be glad with her, all you who love her! If God’s people will do this, it will be a blessing for them also: that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom.
i. This intense, great, rejoicing may sometimes make the world uncomfortable and make us the target of mocking. “Very seldom are believers nowadays charged with being fanatical, nor even with being too enthusiastic; and this is a sign that we are below the right heat. When the world calls us fanatics we are nearing that point of ardour which is our Lord’s due.” (Spurgeon)
2. (12-17) The Lord comes in judgment.
For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.
Then you shall feed;
On her sides shall you be carried,
And be dandled on her knees.
As one whom his mother comforts,
So I will comfort you;
And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
When you see this, your heart shall rejoice,
And your bones shall flourish like grass;
The hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants,
And His indignation to His enemies.
For behold, the Lord will come with fire
And with His chariots, like a whirlwind,
To render His anger with fury,
And His rebuke with flames of fire.
For by fire and by His sword
The Lord will judge all flesh;
And the slain of the Lord shall be many.
“Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves,
To go to the gardens
After an idol in the midst,
Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse,
Shall be consumed together,” says the Lord.
a. Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river: When the Messiah returns in glory and triumph, the peace of Jerusalem will be like a gentle, powerful river that is never disturbed. But not Jerusalem alone: And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.
b. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you: God speaks with supreme tenderness to His faithful servants. No one can comfort like a mother, and God will bring that kind of comfort to His people.
i. “This is a peculiarly delightful metaphor. A father can comfort, but I think he is not much at home in the work. When God speaks about his pity, he compares himself to their father: ‘Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth, them that fear him.’ But when he speaks about comfort, he selects the mother. When I have seen the little ones sick, I have felt all the pity in the world for them, but I did not know how to set to work to comfort them; but a mother knows by instinct how to do it.” (Spurgeon)
c. The hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants, and His indignation to His enemies: When the Messiah returns in glory and triumph, for some it will be a great blessing – and for others it is be nothing but judgment. Indeed, the Lord will judge all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many.
d. Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves, to go to the gardens, after an idol in the midst: When the Messiah returns in glory and triumph, He will see through those who practice empty religion. They “shall be consumed together,” says the Lord.
3. (18-21) The Lord gathers and restores His people.
“For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites,” says the Lord.
a. I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory: God has promised a great regathering work among Israel; but He will also do a regathering work among the whole world, some from all nations and tongues to see His glory.
i. One place this finds ultimate fulfillment is around the throne of God (Revelation 5:9-10).
ii. “God says that He will set a sign among the nations. This sign is the same as the sign of the Son of man (Matthew 24:30).” (Bultema)
b. Those among them who escape I will send to the nations…to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory: Isaiah makes prophetic reference to the missionary calling and work of God’s people. Of course, God had a missionary intent for Israel, that they would be a priesthood among the nations (Exodus 19:6) and a light to the Gentiles. But even more pointedly, God has commanded the church to the nations, to declare My glory among the Gentiles.
i. “They are sent to Tarshish (Spain, France and Italy) to Pul (a region in Africa) and to Lud, which according to some is the same as Lydia, though it seems preferable to take Pul and Lud together for all of Africa. Tubal was a son of Japheth, whose descendants settled in north-eastern Europe or Russia and Javan is the biblical name for Greece.” (Bultema)
ii. In a limited sense, this is fulfilled by the missionary outreach of the church through centuries. But this is only a partial fulfillment. Ultimately, these may be the 144,000 witnesses during the Great Tribulation; they may be Jewish evangelists in the days of the millennial earth.
c. Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations: As part of God’s ultimate work, as the missionaries go out, the people of Israel ultimately come back, in a magnificent regathering. This is partially fulfilled now in Israel’s regathered state; but will be ultimately fulfilled in the millennial earth of the Messiah.
i. Many years ago there was a remarkable example of modern-day regathering from the Arutz 7 news agency in Israel:
“Thirty-seven members of the Bnei Menashe tribe in India – believed to be descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes – arrived in Israel on Friday. The new arrivals, many of whom have relatives in Israel among the 450 Bnei Menashe who have arrived within the last five years, were brought to Israel under the auspices of the Jerusalem-based Amishav organization. Amishav is dedicated to locating descendants of the Lost Tribes and returning them to the Jewish people. ‘This is a historic moment for the Jewish people,’ said Amishav founder and chairman Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, who has devoted his life to finding and assisting the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. ‘After a lengthy and difficult separation, the Bnei Menashe are being reunited with the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. This is a triumph of faith. Their return to Zion marks the closing of a historical circle.’”
The Bnei Menashe, with a rich oral tradition tracing themselves back to the Israelite tribe of Menashe, continue to practice many uniquely Jewish customs. About 3,500 Bnei Menashe decided to formally return to the Jewish people about 30 years ago, and began living a fully Jewish life to the best of their ability in accordance with Jewish law. Rabbi Avichail learned of their existence about 20 years ago, and began to investigate their claims to Jewish ancestry. After making several visits there and carefully studying their claims and the relevant history, Rabbi Avichail consulted with leading rabbinical authorities and concluded that there is convincing evidence linking the Bnei Menashe with the Jewish people. Among the evidence, Rabbi Avichail notes their ancient tradition speaking of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; their custom of circumcising male children on the 8th day after birth; and their sacrificial ceremony on an altar reminiscent of the Jewish Temple in which the Hebrew Biblical name of G-d, Mount Sinai, Mount Moriah and Mount Zion are mentioned.
d. And I will take some of them for priests and Levites: The idea is that in that day, God will extend the priesthood beyond its previous boundaries. This is ultimately fulfilled in the church because saints are called priests (1 Peter 2:5-9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6).
i. “Just as in Isaiah’s day only some were priests and Levites, but through them Israel was constituted as the Lord’s priestly people, so now he foresees Gentiles incorporated on equal terms, into equal privileges.” (Motyer)
4. (22-24) The certainty of both the Lord’s judgment and His restoration.
“For as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord,
“So shall your descendants and your name remain.
And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.
“And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
a. And it shall come to pass…all flesh shall come to worship before Me: Here, God describes His ultimate triumph. Through the majestic book of Isaiah, the nations have been judged and often condemned. But God has an ultimate plan to reach the nations, seen in its ultimate fulfillment in Revelation 5:9-10. God will take people from every tribe and tongue, and “all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.
i. Isaiah puts it into the context of from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me. Significantly, Isaiah began the book with a condemnation of the shallow worship of God’s people at the time of the New Moons and Sabbaths (Isaiah 1:12-15). Now, after the greatness of the Lord’s work, all that is different.
b. And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me: Some from every tribe and tongue will have a destiny of ultimate triumph; some also will have the destiny – freely chosen – of ultimate tragedy. Using the images of eternal damnation (their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched), Isaiah describes the fate of those who reject God – even if they had the veneer of empty religion.
i. “After this life, and at the day of judgment, they shall go into eternal torments; where they will feel a work of conscience that shall never die, and a fiery wrath of God upon their souls and bodies that shall never go out.” (Poole)
ii. The book of Isaiah closes with a sobering contrast, revealing the ultimate, eternal importance of this present life. Each life can choose its destiny: worship or the worm. Which is it for you?
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org