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This is my 23rd message on the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Today I will continue to speak on last week’s topic. That is, God’s 3-part response to Isaiah’s prayer in chapter 65. The first part is this: God said that Gentiles will hear the good news and be included as his people. The second part is that the people of Israel will not be spared from judgment. Yet there will be a remnant of Israelites whom God will bless. Third, God declared that he will create new heavens and a new earth. Verse 17 says, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”
Last month, when I talked about the creation of new heavens and earth, I mentioned that the word “create” means to bring make something out of nothing. In this new heavens and new earth, there will be no tears or crying, says verse 19. Humankind will be freed from the curse of sin. They will no longer live under a curse but under God’s blessing. Verse 20 goes on to say, “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years.” In Old Testament times, a long life was seen as a sign of God’s blessing. In the new creation, we will enjoy long life under God’s blessing. Verse 24 shows how a close relationship with God will be restored. On top of that, verse 25 prophesies that the whole earth will live in perfect peace.
Now, we will learn more about God’s response, which continues in chapter 66. Chapter 66 is about the supremacy of God and worship of God. We will focus on the aspect of worship. May we hold on to God’s promise that he will make our name and our descendants live forever.
Chapter 66 verse 22 says, “‘As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,’ declares the Lord, ‘so will your name and descendants endure.’” He who will make the new heavens and earth also promises to make your name and your descendants live forever. As believers, we can experience the joy of salvation, fellowship with God, and worship that comes from the heart. What we see in Isaiah is, in a way, restoration of the Garden of Eden. But instead of the old garden, in this New Testament era it is an eternal heaven that we can enter through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Verses 22 and 23 show a worship of God that continues for all eternity. Our worship of God today is a glimpse of what eternity will be like. With that, let us go over chapter 66.
In verse 1, God says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?” No temple on earth or anything in creation is great enough to contain our God. In verse 2, the second half says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” Worshipping God requires a humble heart, gratitude that our sins have been forgiven, and readiness to receive his Word. May we not forget this posture of humility, broken-heartedness, and eagerness to hear God. Those who are broken-hearted lift up their eyes to God in worship. The place of worship doesn’t matter—whether it is in a temple, church, or your own home. That is what Jesus told the Samaritan woman (in John 4:5-26).
Jesus said, in John 4:21, “Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” Verse 24 explains, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” We now live in this time, and we can worship God anywhere we are. What matters in worship is the attitude described in Isaiah 66:2: “those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” May we come to God with that kind of heart.
Verses 3 and 4 tell us that offering animal sacrifices was not enough to please God. Furthermore, many worshippers of Isaiah’s time acted religious on the outside, but on the inside their hearts were not devoted to God. The words in verse 5, “Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!”, are the mocking words of someone who is proud and doesn’t truly worship God in their hearts. God spoke against such people who came to worship but were actually arrogant.
Verses 6 to 9 tell us that God can give birth to a nation in an instant. God can create for himself a nation of true worshippers. Verse 10 says, “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.” God will not abandon earthly Jerusalem. Isaiah prophesies that God will bring his servants to the new Jerusalem, where they will be comforted and prosper.
In verses 18 to 21, God promises to gather again people who fear him: “And I, because of what they have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations” (v18-19). This sign is the work of our Savior Jesus, I believe. These people God gathers are those who hear the good news, become worshippers of God, and are sent out from Jerusalem to the rest of the world. Out in the world, they will share the good news and bring new worshippers back to the holy mountain of Jerusalem. Verse 21 describes how some of these people will be chosen as “priests and Levites”. This prophesies that they are gathered from all over the world and formed into a new people who worship in Jerusalem.
In conclusion, Isaiah’s prophecy shows worshippers gathering in the new heavens and new earth, joyfully praising the one true God. Verse 22 promises: in this new creation, your name and your descendants will endure. We who worship God will live with him forever. “…from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,’ says verse 23. I pray we will experience the joy of worshipping God, even now, on our weekly Sabbaths.