God’s promises to his special people
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Isaiah chapters 58 to 66
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
Isaiah is passing on God’s message to God’s people. Their religion has become a mere series of ceremonies, for example, *fasts. But true religion should also affect how believers live their lives. Especially, they should behave in a manner that helps weaker people.
God uses ‘*fast’ as a picture word, to mean ‘not to do things only for oneself’.
· Although the law of Moses required only one *fast a year (see Leviticus 23:27-32), the *fast was important (see 2 Samuel 12:13-23; Zechariah 7:5).
To take care of poor and weak people in society is to practise *self-denial. This what the *Lord calls a true *fast.
· The *Lord approves of those who take care of other people in this way. They will find that the *Lord takes care of them (see Luke 6:38).
· Among his other benefits, the *Lord will protect and guide. This is what he did in ancient times, by cloud and fire in the desert (see Exodus 13:21; see also Isaiah 9:2 and 60:1-3).
Light is at its brightest at midday.
In a dry land like Israel, water is essential for life. It is not just essential for people. It is essential for everything that is alive. Without water, all die.
· Here ‘water’ is also a picture word for the *Lord’s free gifts. He provides all that is good and necessary for human life (see John 4:14).
· ‘Plenty of water’ means a supply that never ends.
The ‘ancient properties’ were buildings that the *Babylonians had knocked down a century earlier. The people had never repaired them, although Cyrus had given the order to do so (see Isaiah 45:13).
· To erect a building, people did not clear the ground first, as today. They simply knocked down the old property. Then they built the new building on top of the piles of rocks and stones of the old building. Because people did this, today great mounds (huge piles) mark the position of ancient towns. We call them ‘tells’. It would take many centuries to dig up the ‘tells’ of a large city like Babylon!
To ‘ride high in the land’ means ‘your happy life will attract favourable attention’.
· The *Lord promised to supply all that his people need (see Deuteronomy 32:13-14).
God’s character is perfect. He cannot change. Therefore we can always trust him completely (see Hebrews 13:8).
It is we who have to change. Then God will act on our behalf.
In this verse, parts of the body (blood, hands, fingers, lips, tongue) are picture words. Isaiah uses these words to describe evil behaviour.
In court, people accuse other people falsely, but without any real evidence. They just want to cause trouble.
People’s evil behaviour is as dangerous as the bite of a poisonous snake. One bite can cause death.
Only God’s love can provide real happiness. People who live wicked lives can never enjoy real happiness. That is not God’s fault, but their own. Evil actions can never produce anything good.
Isaiah’s list of wicked deeds is a great shock to the people. They suddenly recognise that they are guilty of all those actions. Now they can understand why the *Lord is not helping them. But merely to understand was without value, if it did not bring about a change of behaviour! (See verse 16.)
The *Lord’s people were those that God had chosen to carry out his great purpose. The people had not realised why God had chosen them. It was not simply for their own benefit.
· God’s purpose was for his people to be his witness to all the nations of the world. His people were to show by their lives how the holy God wants all people to live. And to show what wonderful benefits would follow when people obey him.
· The people’s evil behaviour meant that their lives had no value whatever as God’s witness.
These references to a soldier’s equipment are word pictures to describe the *Lord’s actions. The *Old Testament often uses word pictures that describe the *Lord as a soldier. (See Exodus 15:3-4; Numbers 21:14; Isaiah 42:13 and 51:9.) The words usually refer to the *Lord’s attacks against Israel’s enemies.
· Similar word pictures in the *New Testament describe the way for Christians to fight battles against evil powers (see Ephesians 6:13-17).
· Of course, God himself does not need protection as a human soldier needs protection. The picture language is a way to express God’s absolute power to win every battle.
God punishes evil behaviour wherever he finds it (see Isaiah 13:11).
God has created everything (see Job chapter 38). And what God creates, he continues to control (see Isaiah 43:1-2).
This repeats the *Lord’s promise of good gifts, at the beginning of Isaiah’s message (see Isaiah 1:19).
The *Lord is speaking to ‘*Jerusalem’. ‘*Jerusalem’ refers to both the city and its inhabitants. So, through this whole chapter, ‘you’ means both the city and its inhabitants.
· ‘Rise’ means ‘get up to act’. The action is ‘to shine’. That is, the people are to express bright hope for their future, because of God’s firm promises.
· When dawn comes in the East, it appears very quickly. The sudden sunshine on the white rock of the *Temple is a powerful contrast with the earlier black night. This provides a word picture of the experience of *Jerusalem and its inhabitants. The *Lord will suddenly act. He will free the *exiles from their hopeless darkness (despair) in Babylon. And he will bring them home to *Jerusalem.
God’s gift of special light is for his people when they obey him (see Isaiah 9:2 and 58:8). The ‘light’ refers to the witness that God’s people give to the nations.
Light attracts attention. Foreign nations will notice what happens. They will want to share the same experience.
The ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ refer to the families from *Jerusalem which were in *exile. Now the *Lord makes it possible for them to return home. This continues the word picture in Isaiah 49:17-21.
All the areas in this list were in the desert called Arabia. The people who lived there were called Arabs. They were busy merchants. They used *camels to carry their goods over long distances.
· People in Israel usually obtained gold (see Isaiah 2:7) and *frankincense (see Isaiah 43:23) by trade. And Sheba was famous for its supplies of these things. But the Queen of Sheba gave gifts of gold and *frankincense to Solomon (1 Kings 10:10). And the *New Testament mentions gifts of gold and *frankincense in connection with the birth of Jesus the *Messiah (see Matthew 2:11). Also, see Matthew 12:42.
As picture words, ‘ships, clouds, birds, nests’ describe a busy scene of action. Former enemies are now eager to bring back harmony and beauty to the city that once they tried to destroy. They do not stop to wonder why they have changed their attitude. It was the *Lord who caused this to happen.
The *Lord had been angry because the people refused to obey him. The people’s punishment was to become *exiles for many years in Babylon.
Normally, men shut the city’s gates each evening to give protection to the inhabitants. But now there is no danger. The *Lord is in complete control.
Only the very best materials are good enough for the *Lord’s *Temple. Centuries earlier, King Solomon obtained the help of the *Gentile people from Lebanon (see 1 Kings 5:2-9). They provided wood for the *Temple.
· The *Lord’s *Temple is holy, because the holy *Lord is there.
Whether people realise it or not, their deepest desires can find true satisfaction only in the God of Israel. That is true about the desires both of people, and of whole nations.
You will have all the materials that you need for the *Temple. This was what happened in the days of King Solomon (see 1 Chronicles 29:7).
To give names to the walls and gates is a double word picture. The first means that the *Lord himself will protect his people like a strong wall. The second means that the people will praise the *Lord because of his actions on their behalf.
This does not mean that the sun and moon will disappear. Rather, it means that God’s people will not need their light. Their light cannot compare with the *Lord’s far brighter light. And unlike the light of the sun and moon, the *Lord’s light will never end (see Zechariah 14:6-7; Revelation 21:22-25).
The ‘sad days’ refer to the people’s first sight of the state of their land. Enemies had ruined it while the people were away as *exiles in Babylon.
The *Lord made such a promise to Abraham many centuries earlier (see Genesis 18:18).
This chapter shows how God will achieve his great purpose for all the nations. His agent is *Messiah (verse 1-3a). The benefits that *Messiah’s people will receive will follow in verses 3b-7. (Note: ‘verse 3a’ means the first part of that verse. ‘Verse 3b’ means the second part.) In verses 8-9 God declares that his desire from his *covenant people is right behaviour. Verses 10-11 show the effect that right behaviour has on all the nations.
In the synagogue (meeting room) at Nazareth, Jesus chose to read these words as he began his public work (see Luke 4:16-22). This action by Jesus provides our evidence that Isaiah’s words refer to God’s agent, *Messiah.
It is God who has sent his Servant to bring the good news. So the Servant has authority to speak for God.
· The ‘good news’ is about true freedom, in every way that *Jews and *Gentiles alike may need it.
‘Trees of God’s Goodness’ is a word picture. This phrase expresses what God can do.
· Trees have life inside them. That life causes them to grow and to develop. As a word picture, ‘trees’ remind us about the nature of God’s free gift to his people. He gives them a life of beauty and growth and value.
The *exiles come back to rebuild the towns and villages that the *Babylonians ruined a century earlier. (See Isaiah 49:19 and 58:12 for similar declarations.) That is the primary meaning, but Isaiah also refers to God’s future plans for his people.
The *Lord will appoint some of his people to these jobs (see Isaiah 66:21).
This is the result of God’s actions to replace the people’s earlier pain and loss of land.
The *Lord loves *justice because he himself acts fairly (see Psalm 105:7). He works for *justice for all who suffer pain from enemies (see Proverbs 16:11 and Isaiah 45:21).
· But the opposite is also true. The *Lord punishes wicked behaviour.
The *covenant that God made with Israel included his promise of favourable actions for his people (see Isaiah 44:3 and 65:23). Other nations noticed. It changed their opinion both of the *Jews and of the *Jews’ God. He was clearly powerful.
A bride and bridegroom dress carefully for their wedding. They wear special clothes to show their character and serious intention.
· Another translation of verse 10 is, ‘I am now bursting with joy as I praise the *Lord. Because I am now as a bride who is wearing beautiful clothes. Or, I am as a bridegroom who dresses like a priest. And my clothes are called “Goodness” and “Security”.’ Isaiah uses these word pictures to suggest that God specially prepares his Servant for a most important task.
· But Isaiah’s words also describe *Jerusalem and its inhabitants. The city’s situation was hopeless. Enemies had ruined it. The city seemed like a widow who wore dark clothes to show her sad feelings. But God would make the city like a beautiful bride again. He would provide it with goodness and security. This would bring about great joy. People everywhere would consider this a good reason to praise God.
In this passage, ‘you’ means the city called Jerusalem and its inhabitants.
Both ‘not be silent’ and ‘nor rest’ are forms of words to express the firm intention to complete a task.
· God has made similar promises before about the wonderful future for *Jerusalem and its inhabitants. But that wonderful future never seems to come. So the Servant continues to urge the *Lord to act as he has promised.
· For ‘shines … sunrise’, see my notes on Isaiah 60:1-2.
Foreign nations will think seriously about God’s actions on behalf of the people from Judah.
· In the Bible, a ‘name’ refers to a person’s character. But a ‘new name’ means that the *Lord will bring about a change in the character of the inhabitants of Judah. Such a change will also mean a new relationship with the *Lord (see verse 4, below; see also Isaiah 60:14 and 60:18).
*Jerusalem is to be like a ‘crown’ in the *Lord’s hand. This is picture language, to mean that the *Lord will make *Jerusalem a royal city.
· *Jerusalem is very important in God’s great plans. Those plans are not only for the benefit of God’s special people. The plans refer to all nations. That is why God is sometimes called ‘King of all kings’.
The two names ‘Alone’ and ‘Empty’ express what the inhabitants of Judah thought about themselves. In Isaiah 49:14-23 and 54:6-7, the inhabitants of Judah complained that the *Lord had left them ‘alone’. And that enemies had ruined the land. They had left it ‘empty’ of crops and fruit trees.
· But the *Lord has completely changed that situation. The *Lord uses new names in picture language to describe a new relationship between him and his people. ‘Hephzibah’ and ‘Beulah’ are words in the people’s *Hebrew language.
In ancient times, official *look-outs stood on city walls. Their duty was vital. It was to warn the inhabitants when any danger approached. Or to signal urgent messages to another city. In this verse, ‘*look-outs’ is picture language for people who send urgent messages to God by prayer. They want him to carry out his promises for *Jerusalem’s wonderful future (see verse 1, above; see also Isaiah 60:3).
· God’s intention is that people will know his power. It is only God’s work that makes it possible for people to rebuild *Jerusalem. But many inhabitants of *Jerusalem had a more selfish attitude. They wanted other nations to see what a splendid city they themselves had built.
No foreign enemy will control the land ever again.
In the original language, ‘praise’ in this verse means more than the use of words. It includes a gift to God (see Leviticus 19:24).
· When the people returned from *exile, they would probably not be able to repair the *Temple immediately. But God promised that they would ‘drink the wine in my *Temple’. This would encourage everyone to believe that the repair of the *Temple would definitely happen.
This is not an instruction to prepare an actual road. The words provide a word picture. The meaning is that the citizens of *Jerusalem must give a very warm welcome to the *exiles on their arrival. And nothing should prevent this welcome.
The name ‘Holy Nation’ means that the people in Judah will be different from other people. The holy *Lord God has chosen them in particular to serve him in a special way.
These verses paint an impressive picture of God’s punishment for the country called Edom (see Isaiah, chapter 34).
Edom was the name of the country to the south-east of the Dead Sea. But the Bible often uses the name ‘Edom’ as a word picture, to describe the nations that do not obey God.
This picture of *Messiah’s action appears again in Revelation 19:11-18.
God often uses people to carry out his purposes. But the great God, who has all power, does not actually need human help. What surprises God is his people’s failure to understand the reason for his direct action. (‘Direct action’ means the action that he carries out himself, without any agent.)
· God’s special people have still not realised the purpose of their special relationship with the *Lord. He did not choose them merely for their own comfortable benefit. His people should be an active witness to all the other nations. They should show to the other nations the behaviour that the holy God orders.
Isaiah is speaking on behalf of God’s people. They can look back in their history and remember the *Lord’s many kind-hearted acts.
· In the original language, ‘kind-hearted’ translates a word that means ‘*covenant love’. The *Lord acts in this kind manner because of the *covenant that he made with the *Israelites (see Exodus chapter 24). This serious agreement established a strong relation between the *Lord and his people.
The *Lord’s hope in verse 8 was again in vain (see Psalm 106:40-43).
God’s choice of Moses as leader was plain to everybody (see Exodus chapter 14). But the purpose of Moses’ leadership was not to give fame to Moses. It was the *Lord who was Israel’s real leader. And Moses simply acted as the *Lord’s agent.
The *Lord’s gift to his people of a peaceful life came with the promise of a land of their own (see Deuteronomy 12:10).
The people’s relation with the *Lord in Isaiah’s day is not the relation that their *ancestors would have recognised.
· To use the two personal names, Abraham and Jacob (Abraham’s grandson), is a convenient way to refer to *ancestors in general. *Ancestors lived long ago, so they would not be aware of the people’s present situation. No *ancestor could act as a father and give them help. But God is much more wonderful than any human *ancestor. Through the centuries, he has continued to act as ‘our Father’.
· The *Lord’s promise always to be ‘Our Rescuer’ to his special people was an ancient promise. God made this promise at the time of Moses (see Deuteronomy 30:1-3). The *Lord rescued his people from Egypt (see Exodus 12:42). And later, he rescued them from Babylon (see Isaiah 11:11; Zechariah 10:9-10). God will never die. So God’s people can always trust him to be their Father, and he will help them.
The people may seem to be blaming God for their troubles. Such an attitude is not uncommon in the *Old Testament. People considered that God was the cause of even bad events (see Job 2:10; Amos 3:6). But at the same time, Isaiah’s people did realise their own failures (see Isaiah 64:6-7).
· We think it impossible to hold opposite opinions at the same time. But see the struggle between God and the Pharaoh (king of Egypt) in Exodus chapters 10 and 11. Many times God makes the king’s heart hard (see, for example, Exodus 10:1). But many times the king makes his own heart hard (see, for example, Exodus 10:11). (A ‘hard heart’ means attitudes that are unwilling to change. It is as if the person’s heart has become like stone, without normal feelings or reactions.)
Clearly, the people are praying this prayer because they are desperate. They have remembered how the *Lord acted to save their nation in the past. And now they need his help again. So they confess their wrong attitudes. And they urge him to rescue them.
God may seem to have cancelled his choice of the *Israelites as his special people. But God has not changed. If his people return to him, he will return to them (see Malachi 3:6-7).
This chapter continues the people’s desperate prayer, which began at Isaiah 63:7.
These verses contain a series of word pictures that describe the effect of God’s arrival.
The people’s desire was not merely for God to ‘look down’ from heaven (see Isaiah 63:15). The prayer is now the more urgent request to ‘come down’.
· A ‘hole in the sky’ expresses the thought that the sky hides God from human sight. So the sky seems like a curtain (see Psalm 18:9 and 144:5). To ‘tear a hole’ is a wish that is full of emotion.
· What seems solid and permanent, like a mountain, will shake powerfully (see Exodus 19:18; Psalm 18:7).
Fire is a sign that God is present (see Exodus 3:2; see also Acts 2:3).
But he is not there just to look. He comes to act. Like fire, he makes things happen. Fire causes bushes to burn and water to boil.
· However powerful nations may seem, God is much more powerful. So even powerful nations will shake with fear if God is suddenly present (see 1 Peter 3:22). The purpose of God’s activity is to cause nations to know his greatness. Then they will realise that he is in control of all people and events (see Daniel 4:35).
‘In the past’ refers in particular to the time of Moses when the people escaped from Egypt (see the Book of Exodus). The ‘wonderful deeds’ were all for the benefit of God’s people. God did these things as he carried out his purpose to rescue them.
Verses 4-5a (that is, the first part of verse 5)
God answers prayer. But he has made rules. First, one who prays must show God an attitude of trust (see Mark 11:24). True trust never puts a limit on what God can do. Secondly, one who prays must eagerly obey God’s instructions.
Verse 5b (that is, the second part of verse 5)
Although God’s people know these things, their personal behaviour has not changed. As a result, the people have broken off their *covenant relation with God.
The people’s efforts to carry out good deeds are without value. They cannot cure their relationship with God by means of kind actions to their friends.
The people use the family title ‘Father’ as they pray. They consider that this word expresses well their close relation with God. (See my notes on Isaiah 63:16.)
· The use of *clay is another word picture of the relation between the people and God. But this time the picture is of God as their maker (see Isaiah 29:16 and 45:9; see also Jeremiah 18:2-6).
Isaiah 49:19 describes the great damage that enemies have caused all through Judah. In particular, enemies have ruined *Jerusalem. They have even ruined the *Temple, which stood on the mountain called *Zion.
God has promised to replace all that enemies have destroyed. The *Lord’s people believe that he performs all his promises in the end. But they cannot understand why such a long delay continues (see Isaiah 62:1; 62:6-7).
· God’s delays are a frequent experience (see Psalm 6:3, among many examples). But God has a much greater plan than people can even imagine (see Isaiah 55:8-9). His measurements of time are not the same as ours (see 2 Peter 3:8-9).
Chapters 65-66 refer to subjects in Chapters 1-4.
· In chapter 2:1-4, the *Lord promises to raise *Zion to be the greatest mountain.
· In chapter 66:1-24, *Zion becomes the most important place in the *Lord’s ‘new heavens and new earth’ (see Revelation 21:1-3).
Every human society has always included some people that have supported completely the purposes of their society. But there are also a great many more people that are members only in name. That is, they are content simply to call themselves members. This distinction is also true about God’s church on earth. There are many members, but only a few that truly know God. They declare their genuine trust in God because they are eager to serve him (see Matthew 7:20-21).
These verses describe the same situation in the *Old Testament. There are many *Israelites who would consider themselves to be the ‘people of God’. But their daily behaviour does not agree with their words (see Jeremiah 35:15; Ezekiel 33:11).
The people are not content merely to leave God out of their lives. They are boldly insulting God on purpose. They say that they do not need God. They are self-sufficient (in other words, they depend only on themselves).
· They *worship their home-made *idols. The people know that their action is against God’s law (see Exodus 20:4-5). The people do not realise that they are in fact giving *worship to devils (see Leviticus 17:7; 1 Corinthians 10:19-21). Such people are therefore allowing evil spirits to control them. The result of such behaviour can only be a terrible end for these people.
Verse 4a (that is, the first part of verse 4)
God does not allow human efforts to contact the spirit world or to contact people that have died (see Deuteronomy 18:9-11). It is a very dangerous practice.
Verse 4b (the second part of verse 4)
The meat of pigs was in the list of foods that God’s people were not to eat (see Deuteronomy 14:8). God’s command about pig’s meat could have been for reasons of health. Pig’s meat contains toxic (poisonous) substances. If people do not cook the meat sufficiently, it can cause illness or even death.
· But God’s order about pig’s meat had a more serious reason. To eat pig’s meat was not only a *Gentile practice (see Matthew 8:30). It was part of *idol *worship.
· Only when God’s special Servant (*Messiah) came to offer his life as the one perfect *sacrifice, did the situation change. The death of Jesus the Christ (*Messiah) on the Cross opened heaven to the *Gentiles. So God cancelled the limit on what his people could eat (see Mark 7:19b; Acts 10:10-15).
Those who proudly pretend to be ‘holier’ than other people make God very angry. Such people proudly consider that they do not need God. The picture language of ‘smoke up the nose’ describes what God’s feels about such a vain opinion.
The only real judge of what makes a person ‘holy’ is the holy God himself. A holy person obeys God at all times (see Exodus 19:5-6). Any person who carries out evil behaviour is clearly not truly holy.
In this and the next verse, God uses the picture language of a debt. Punishment is due for the people’s evil deeds. And like a debt that someone must pay, the punishment must happen in full (completely).
God warned people long ago that their guilty lives will affect later *descendants (see Exodus 20:5-6). This means that later *descendants will copy the bad behaviour. Therefore they too will receive punishment.
The plain called Sharon is the level land that is south of the mountain called Carmel. The valley called Achor was famous for the great trouble that happened there (see Joshua 7:24-26). The whole region has very good soil for agriculture. Now the area will provide peace and plenty, both for God’s loyal people and for their animals.
False gods cannot decide the future of people who *worship them. The *Lord will make that decision. He alone is in complete control. And the *Lord’s judgement will be severe against those that deny his authority.
· Some people are loyal to God. But other people refuse to give him honour. And there is a clear difference between them. The different fates of the two groups do not happen immediately. A similar picture of the human relationship with God appears all through the Bible (see Genesis 18:23; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:1-11; Galatians 6:7-8; Revelation 20:11-15).
The form of God’s punishment is the result of the bad people’s own choice.
It is God who creates all things. When bad people cut off their relation with God, they cut off the source of their food. God’s loyal people have the opposite attitude. They obey God. So they benefit from all that God creates. The result is that they have plenty of food.
For another example of the use of a name as a *curse, see Jeremiah 29:22.
The ‘God whose name is Truth’ means ‘the *Lord is always true to his promises’. His people can trust him completely at all times. In the original language, the word ‘Truth’ is ‘Amen’ (see 2 Corinthians 1:20; Revelation 3:14).
· The ‘troubles’ of these people are what they had suffered because of previous bad behaviour. But now these people have turned to God. That changes the situation.
At the present time, the people can see nothing but the great damage that enemies have done. Those enemies ruined both the *Temple and the city. But this situation will not continue. The *Lord is making his preparations for new heavens and a new earth. That will include a new *Jerusalem.
· When God makes something ‘new’, he creates something of a nature previously unknown (as in the title ‘*New Testament’).
Verse 19a (the first part of verse 19)
So there is every reason for the people to be full of joy. And God himself will enjoy their delight.
Every part of life will bring complete satisfaction. And there will be total harmony (agreement, peace and happiness). There will not be any sad or painful memories from an earlier life.
The *Lord has prepared everything, even before his people pray.
The present natural habits of animals will also completely change (see Isaiah 11:6-9).
The *Lord divides the ‘people of God’ into two types. There are those people whose *worship is merely traditional and empty (without any real meaning). And there are those people whose *worship shows a sincere desire to love God (see Isaiah 57:14-21).
The *Lord uses picture language to teach an important lesson. Solomon made a great *Temple for God. But even Solomon realised that nobody could ever force God to stay inside man-made limits. Even a beautiful *Temple or a magnificent palace is not sufficient for God. (See 1 Kings 8:27; see also Stephen’s defence in Acts 7:48-50.) People cannot control God. And they cannot choose the limits for his activity. Many might like to do so – for their own purposes!
People who are truly humble in front of God are right to be afraid of his great power. They have seen something of God’s punishment against a nation that refuses to obey him. They are afraid that God may have to act again.
· But God will never disappoint people that firmly trust him. He will act on their behalf when they need his help.
Many of the people feel ‘great fear’ of something unknown. They do not know what it might be. So they give *worship both to the *Lord and also to their *idols. It is a kind of insurance! One thing is clear. They do not really trust the *Lord.
· Fear of the unknown is a very powerful enemy (see Job 3:25).
Verse 5a (the first part of verse 5)
The *Temple is not essential for true religion (that is, a right relationship with God). And the animal *sacrifices are not essential for true religion. In fact, both will disappear when enemies destroy the *Temple. But God’s Word is essential for true religion. Only people that are personally loyal to God will obey his Word.
· The *Old Testament *prophets knew this. (See 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-27; Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 40:6-8.)
The *Lord uses picture language to emphasise an important truth. In real life, for a mother to give birth without pain cannot happen. Were it to take place, it could only be by the *Lord’s powerful action.
· The *Lord does not perform his purpose only partly and then stop. What he begins, he always finishes.
The *Lord continues the word picture that describes *Jerusalem as a mother. So ‘she’ and ‘her’ in verse 12 mean *Jerusalem. And God’s people, that is, his holy nation, are like the child. God will provide for their complete satisfaction.
God had intended wonderful gifts of love to his people (see Isaiah 48:18). Now those gifts will become a reality. The *Lord will provide love and life, and everything that his people may need. The reason for their happiness will be to give a witness to other nations.
· The ‘good hand of God’ is a word picture. It expresses how God acts in order to show his kindness to his loyal people.
Fire is often a picture word. Frequently, it describes when God is present (see Exodus 13:21). And it is also a picture word that refers to Christ’s return to act as judge (see 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Peter 3:10-12).
God will punish evil behaviour wherever he finds it (see Isaiah 13:11; 30:27-33).
Verse 17b (the second part of verse 17)
To eat such meat was against God’s law (see my notes on Isaiah 65:4b).
The end of the Book of Isaiah returns to the subjects in Isaiah 4:2-6. These final verses leave *Israelites and foreigners alike with a serious question to answer. People can decide to live by God’s standard of right behaviour. Or they can simply continue to live in an evil manner. In other words, they can refuse to obey God’s orders. All people must remember that God’s judgement is a reality for everyone.
· Other *prophets make the choice very clear in their final verses (see Hosea 14:9; Jonah 4:11; Malachi 4:6).
People cannot hide anything from God (see Psalm 94:9-11; Proverbs 20:12; Luke 6:8).
· God’s action appears elsewhere in the Bible (see Ezekiel 39:25-29).
Not all *Israelites were bad. A small number continued to be loyal to the *Lord. He will give them a task that, as *Jews, they never expected. They will go to *Gentiles on the *Lord’s behalf and tell them about his greatness in *glory and actions. God will include each person who believes their message as a member of his family (see John 1:12). God will even appoint some of them to be priests and *Levites in his *Temple in New *Jerusalem (see verse 21).
· The countries that the *Lord mentions are examples. There is no limit. The *Lord’s loyal people are to take his message to all the nations in the world (see Matthew 28:19-20).
The words of this verse refer to all believers, *Jews and *Gentiles alike. They are all coming to *worship in the New *Jerusalem.
Jesus refers to the *Temple as the ‘House for Prayer for all nations’ (see Mark 11:17).
God will create New *Jerusalem. God creates new life in believers when they turn to him. All that God creates, he permanently supports.
That is, month after month and week after week. In other words, all the time.
This verse describes a terrible scene. It refers to the deep narrow valley called Hinnom. This valley is near to *Jerusalem, on the south side. (The *New Testament uses the *Greek word Gehenna for the *Hebrew word Hinnom – see Matthew 10:28). In the Hinnom Valley, two wicked kings of Israel burned their sons as a *sacrifice to false gods (Ahaz, see 2 Chronicles 28:3; Manasseh, see 2 Chronicles 33:6). And other people copied this wicked behaviour (see Jeremiah 7:32; 19:5-6; 32:35).
· Later, the inhabitants of *Jerusalem threw their rubbish into the Hinnom Valley. What worms did not eat, fire destroyed. The fire never went out. Soon, what happened became powerful picture language to describe Hell. Jesus uses this verse, to mean ‘to *destroy totally’ (see Mark 9:48). Isaiah 66:24 is describing those people who refuse to serve God. They refuse to obey God’s instructions. But God is the origin of life. So these people have removed themselves from the God who gave them life. The verse describes their punishment as the extreme opposite of life. They have brought about their own terrible punishment. And that punishment is death that lasts for all time. (See Luke 16:19-31; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10.)
altar ~ special stone where priests burned animals as a gift to God (or, to a false god).
ancestor ~ member of one’s family in the past.
Babylonian ~ a person from the country called Babylon; or anything that has a relationship with the country called Babylon.
break ~ not to obey a law.
camel ~ valuable animal that can carry heavy loads through the desert (see Genesis 37:25).
chariot ~ box (on wheels) that horses pull to carry soldiers into battle.
clay ~ kind of earth that one uses to make pots; clay is soft when wet, but dries hard.
covenant ~ special agreement that God made with Israel (see Exodus chapter 24).
curse ~ a word that describes an evil fate.
descendant ~ member of the later family of one father.
destroy ~ to carry out the most severe punishment possible.
Egyptian ~ a person of the country called Egypt, or anything that has a relationship with the country called Egypt.
exile ~ someone that an enemy takes away to a foreign country. Or, the place where such a person has to live.
fast ~ to choose not to eat or drink for a good reason.
frankincense ~ substance to burn for its sweet smell to give honour to God (or, to a false god).
Gentile ~ a person who is not a Jew.
glory ~ the splendid beauty and wonderful light of God’s most holy character.
grapes ~ small sweet fruit of the *vine; the fruit makes wine.
Greek ~ the original language of the *New Testament.
Hebrew ~ the original language of the *Old Testament.
idol ~ home-made image of a god.
incense ~ see *frankincense, above.
Israelites ~ *Jews; people who belong to the 12 *tribes of Israel.
Jerusalem ~ at the time of David and Solomon, the capital of the country called Israel. During the time of Isaiah, Jerusalem was the capital of the country called Judah.
Jew ~ a person who belongs to the 12 *tribes of Israel.
Jewish ~ a description of something that has a relationship to the *Jews.
justice ~ fair judgements.
Levite ~ a special servant in the *Temple.
look-out ~ a person whose job is to watch for anything that may cause trouble.
Lord ~ God’s name in the Bible. In the original language, God’s names mean ‘head over all’ and ‘God always’.
Messiah ~ *Old Testament title for Christ.
Mount ~ mountain.
New Testament ~ the final part of the Bible. It contains 27 books from the time of the first Christians.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible. It contains 39 books, all from the time before Jesus was born.
prophet ~ a person who speaks on behalf of God.
Sabbath ~ seventh (7th) day of the week, which the *Jews used especially to give honour to God. So the *Jews did not work on the Sabbath.
sackcloth ~ dress of rough material that people wore to show that they were very sad.
sacrifice ~ a gift of value to God (or, to a false god).
seize ~ to take a person as a prisoner or a slave.
self-denial ~ the opposite of self-interest. (Self-interest is the attitude of greedy people who care only about themselves.)
Temple ~ special building in *Jerusalem where *Jews praised God and offered him prayers and gifts.
tribe ~ group of the later family of one father.
vine ~ plant whose fruit makes wine.
vineyard ~ field where *vines grow.
wolf ~ wild animal, like a large dog, that eats meat.
worm ~ a small animal without legs that has the same shape as a snake.
worship ~ to praise God (or a false god) and to pray to him.
Zion ~ the mountain in *Jerusalem where God’s holy *Temple was.
© 2007, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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