This is a very positive chapter and it lays out many ways that God’s people will be blessed. Particularly as they return to Jerusalem and rebuild, they will experience many unexpected and for them what must have been surprising blessings in light of their troubled history.
While the message in this chapter is one addressed to Zion, we cannot help but notice the new covenant themes hidden in the descriptions of the blessings. The primary subject matter in the text deals in blessings of the physical variety, but we would be remiss to ignore the spiritual subtext that is present. When the content of chapter 60 is appraised as a whole, the following themes emerge:
– God’s blessings returning to His people
– God’s people returning to Him, by way of His providence
– Abundant blessings and mercies, the likes of which are peculiar and unexpected
When these themes are compared with the prophecies of the coming Messiah, the subtext of salvation through Jesus (available to all the world) is hard to miss.
Verses 1-3: Dark of the world/light of God
These verses constitute an opening for the coming blessings from God. Following the eventual theme of redemption in chapter 59, Zion (or Israel, God’s chosen people), is now suited to receive the blessings of God. The world is mired in corruption and darkness, and the people within are without light. The darkness is the absence of God and God’s commandments and influence, which bring light to the lives of those that love Him.
Zion comes to know that they are once more approved of by God; His anger has ceased and His blessings return. Within these blessings are some new ideas: chief of which is that gentiles will be drawn to the light of Zion. This light makes the nation of Israel attractive to the other nations, and it has its origins in God.
Verses 4-9: Blessings and exiles
Zion is described as the recipient of great material blessings. Not only will many gentiles come to Zion, but they will also bring their wealth: camels, gold, and incense. The arrival of these blessings is not merely mentioned in passing, but the poetry of the passage yields additional meaning. In other words, the description of these material blessings is interspersed with telling details. For instance, the camels are not mentioned as arriving, but the fact that they will “cover your land” suggests a veritable multitude of the beasts of burden. Gold and incense are mentioned in conjunction with praise to the Lord.
Perhaps most interestingly, the flocks and rams specified in verse seven do not make up the blessing; they are not an indication of gentiles or exiles bringing animals to Zion for altar sacrifice. Rather it is Kedar and Nebaioth that are the focus of that statement as these were sons of Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Sarah’s handmaid Hagar. Kedar and Nebaioth, representative of exiles, are returning to God and Zion. They will be enlarging the tent that we spent time discussing in chapter 54.
It is also worth noting that in verses 4 and 9, the exiles are mentioned as returning home from afar.
Verses 10-14: Total Reversal
Chapter 60 on the whole is highly encouraging and positive to the people returning to Jerusalem. As God proclaims His blessings; verse 10 holds the only reminder of God’s wrath in the entire chapter.
Where foreigners had been invading and enslaving, now they come to rebuild the walls, they come bearing gifts, and bowing in respect and obeisance. Where Zion would have felt the need to keep their gates closed continually against invaders and enslavers, now they feel the need to keep her gates open at all times, to allow for the procession of kings, gifts and fealty.
The cypress, the pine and the box tree will enter through these gates, but their purpose is not to serve the rebuilding of the walls. Instead, they will be brought in: “To beautify the place of My sanctuary; And I will make the place of My feet glorious.” They were to glorify the temple. There is a subtle reference here of the temple as “God’s footstool,” (I Chronicles 28:2). This is a memorable instance of how the physical blessings we enjoy are not the goal; instead they serve to support and uplift the spiritual worship of God.
Verses 15-22: Everlasting Light
Zion’s period as a nation where they had been forsaken and hated is now in the past. Alternatively, Zion will now enjoy rich blessings from God through the gentiles. This peace and prosperity will last many generations and will secure God’s place in their minds as “your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” God will not only increase their wealth and quality of life, but He will also increase justice and righteousness in Zion (verse 17). Violence and destruction will be no more and their habitation will be constructed of salvation and praise. This last point in particular points towards the Messiah as we know that there definitely would be violence and destruction in Zion’s future. The lack of violence and destruction (sin) within their borders (obeying the gospel call) will lead to their salvation (forgiveness of sin through Christ). During this intercourse (verses 17-22), God is speaking these blessings for all of mankind that comes to know, believe, follow and obey Jesus.
Moving forward, God will be their guidance and their “everlasting light”. The natural phenomena of the sun and moon are no longer integral to their prime existence as God will supply their light and glory eternally. This also, is a reference to the Messiah. Undeniably, the final two verses of Isaiah 60 refer to Christ as God reveals the progression and motivation for His plan: He will save them through a work He has made, and it will be for His glory, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed:
“Also your people shall all be righteous; They shall inherit the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, That I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, And a small one a strong nation. I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time.”” Isaiah 60:21-22