Isaiah 65: God on God’s Terms

This chapter helps us to understand the fullness of God’s planning, His blessings and the activity as it relates to both Israel and mankind under the new covenant.

Verses 1-7: Seek & Find

Chapter 65 resumes hot on the heels of chapter 64. In that chapter, we will remember how Israel called and called out to God, but was saddened when He did not answer. Israel’s plea ends with the last verse of chapter 64 and God’s response begins with the first verse of chapter 65. God’s response initially consists of a contrast between the nation of Israel and the gentiles (this latter group perhaps even includes the remnant). Israel had been looking for God, but they had not been doing so with the right heart: “I was sought by those who did not ask for me.” God tells them that they were not seeking Him in the correct manner. Where Israel had sought God disingenuously, God found a different population that had not even asked for Him. Because of their righteousness and because of His grace, He found them. This is an allusion to how God received gentiles and foreigners to Jerusalem and how all peoples will eventually come to Him through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The phrases “I was sought,” and “I was found,” can literally be translated from the Hebrew as “I allowed Myself to be sought,” and “I allowed Myself to be found.” God, through grace, made Himself available to us, but still turns away from the sinful and the corrupt.

While reading these verses, there is an important lesson to apply. In the midst of our lives, we need to remember that meeting God, having communion with Him and being in His presence always occurs on His terms, not on ours. We cannot just sidle up to our Heavenly Father when it suits us. We must prepare our hearts perpetually for Him, renewing our commitment and seeking Him while obeying all of His commands.

This passage goes on to list the instances of God’s unhappiness with the nation of Israel. They rebel and live as they judge right; not how God had instructed. Their sacrifices and practices are of their own devising and stray far from God’s commandments. They sacrifice and make unlawful offerings, they seek the dead and eat unclean things. What seems to sicken God the most is their righteous attitude built atop their sinful ways. God recognizes that that they are Israel, “Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day.” Surely God is fed up with such behavior.

Verses 6 and 7 show us that God is indeed fed up and that He will repay them for their iniquity. The recompense seems particularly troublesome, but also acknowledges the degree of the sin as God says that their punishment will be measured “into their bosom.”

Verses 8-16: True Servants are Blessed

The tone of the chapter changes notably here as God divulges that all will not be destroyed. Just as an entire bunch of grapes is not thrown out due to a few rotten ones, God will not dispose of the entire nation of Israel for the sake of the righteous remnant. The remnant saves in more ways than one: they save the nation of Israel physically through God’s grace (completed by Cyrus) and they save all mankind through the bloodline that leads to Jesus. Geographically, the locations mentioned in verses 9 and 10 represent the total expanse of the nation, a detail suggesting totality of reconciliation; the righteous remnant will inherit the whole land of God, which, in the new covenant, is suggestive of the righteous being recipients of the full blessings of God, particularly forgiveness of sins.

This blessing is restricted to the righteous, however, and God makes it clear. Their worship of false idols has angered God and He calls them out for worshipping Gad and Meni. Gad was a pagan deity whose name means “Troop” or “Fortune.” Meni was another whose name means “Number” or “Destiny.” In hindsight, it is fairly easy to see the source of God’s anger. God hands down true righteousness and blessings. With the choice of God’s perfect providence and the untrustworthy allure of ideals like fortune and destiny, Israel chose wrongly again and again. This is true despite all the ways He had rescued, cared for and loved them. In fact, after the mention of the nation following a god called destiny, God tells them that He will destine them for the sword and the slaughter.

God turns the seek and find paradigm back on the nation with this phrase in verse 12: “Because when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke you did not hear, but did evil before my eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight.” This proves to Israel that no matter how they may try to best or blame God, finding fault in Him is an impossibility. Because of these, God’s blessed servants will eat, drink, rejoice and sing while sinful Israel goes hungry, thirsty, is ashamed and cries. The fault lies with Israel, not with God; He had been speaking to them all along through prophets, directives, laws and commandments.

God seals this passage in verse 15 and 16 with more judgment of Israel and coming blessings to the righteous that cling to the true God. Seeking fortune and destiny will bring forth death, but those that would have a new name will be blessed and their sins will be forgiven: “Because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hidden from my eyes.”

Verses 17-19: New Creation

These verses are striking and memorable for their purity and joyous character. The “I create” found here can also be translated as “I am creating” or “I am about to create.” The new heavens and new earth are representative of the new salvation structure that God builds for us through Jesus Christ. For Israel, there is a new and exciting opportunity to be in communion with God. For us today, we have joy and satisfaction in Jesus as well as the hope for an eternal home with God. He will remove tears and He will rejoice in His people.

This brief yet powerful passage prompts us to look back to Isaiah 43:19, where the prophecy of Christ instills wonder, awe and worship: “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness andrivers in the desert.” It also prompts a look forward to Revelation 21:1-2, where John tells of the kingdom, the church, prepared as a bride for God: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

The idea of newness here deserves our consideration. This new salvation, new heaven and new earth all have their origin in God and His eternal plan for mankind. But the newness also originates in us when we are baptized into Jesus Christ: “Therefore, if anyone isin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things areof God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” God’s plan is not only a new creation, but we are too when we follow the gospel plan of salvation.

Verses 20-25: The Exceedingly Blessed

Now God begins to tell of the many rich blessings that will come to pass for the blessed that will live under the new covenant. Righteousness is valued and sin abhorred as blessings are described in terms of physical longevity: ““No more shall an infant from there live but a fewdays, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner beingone hundred years old shall be accursed.” Isaiah 65:20

Verses 21-23 continue the description of a happy, blessed and fulfilling life on earth. The meaning of all of these basic descriptions of agrarian life is twofold: one is for the new inhabitants of Jerusalem and the prosperity they will enjoy, surely. But the deeper, more expansive and ultimately more important meaning rests in the application of these carefree boons to spiritual principles. Theirs is a salvation that will not be taken away from them (They shall not build and another inhabit) and their work will bring great reward (They shall not plant and another eat). In the long term under the new covenant, those that are righteous and follow God’s plan will find safety and assurance. “Days of a tree” and “long enjoy” indicate successful longevity and a full life.

Notice the gracious contrast in verse 24 with the complaint Israel had previously of God not listening to them: “before they call, I will answer.” God is never far from those that seek Him. This statement confirms that Israel, who thought that they were reaching out in righteousness to God, were so infirm with sin so as to not elicit a response from God. Nevertheless, He had spoken and was still speaking to them through prophets, laws and commandments. They needed to only follow them for God to listen to and grant their petitions. The contrast that God will anticipate needs and answer accordingly in the new covenant is contrasted with complaints brought forth from Israel in chapter 64.

With so many references to the new covenant, the chapter concludes with a description of the peace that will come. The description is abstract, but it is not one that we are unfamiliar with as students of the book of Isaiah. Predator and prey feeding together and a vegetarian lion represent a peace that is so great so as to be striking in its appearance. The peace that is coming to Israel and mankind is such that they have never know or could not conceive. Consider this companion passage in Isaiah 11:6-9: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.the nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

The final word on this chapter is a condemnation of evil; once God has established His plan and created the avenue of salvation through Christ, it is a road that cannot be destroyed or blocked by the evil one and his machinations: “And dust shall bethe serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” says the Lord.”” This is an indication of prophecy fulfillment for the curse given to the serpent in Genesis 3:14: “ So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you arecursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.”

A valuable lesson to take from this chapter in general is to approach and appeal to God in conjunction with His directives and commandments. We cannot just come to the throne of God in prayer or with allegiance in the way that we think is best. He demands the respect, honor and understanding of His parameters outlined in His holy Word in order for us to reach His blessings. Considering the gift of forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heave, He is not asking a lot.

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