Isaiah Chapter 60

CHAPTER SIXTY

Jehovah shines on Jerusalem. Jerusalem shines on the earth.


This being the third section of this division of our book, the significance of that number is strikingly imprinted upon it; for "God is fully manifested" in His government of the earth by the glory that falls upon Zion, and which makes her in her reflection of it the glory of the earth. There is no clearly marked division throughout the chapter, but the one number "three" is evidently marked on the whole of it. The very words have a lilt that tell of the joy that the manifestation of God ever brings to His people. It is an everlasting gospel.

1: Arise! Shine! For thy light is come,
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
2: For gross is the darkness that covers the earth,
And dense is the gloom that enshroudeth the nations,
But upon thee Jehovah doth rise,
His glory doth shine forth upon thee;1
3: And the Gentiles are drawn to thy light,
And kings to thy clear-shining dawning.
4: Lift up thine eyes round about thee—
See how they all crowd together!
To thee they are coming!
Thy sons from afar come unto thee,
And thy daughters are borne on the hip.2
5: Then shalt thou see, and 'twill cheer thee,3
Thy throbbing heart shall enlarge;
For the sea's riches to thee shall be turned,
The wealth of the Gentiles come to thee!
6: Great are the herds of the camels that cover thee,
Camels from Midian, camels from Ephah,
They come all together, from Sheba they come;
Gold and sweet incense they're bringing,
And joyfully publish the praises of Jah.
7: All Kedar's flocks shall be gathered to thee,
The rams of Nebaioth shall serve thee,
They shall come to My altar accepted;
And glory shall fill the house of My glory.4
The previous chapter has given us those preliminary dealings with Israel that necessarily precede blessing; for never till the mouth is stopped can God pour out His unchecked love on man. But the last section of chapter fifty-nine shows how effectively that has been done, and now Isaiah the prophet is hidden altogether, but Isaiah the sign (chapter 8), Isaiah, the salvation of Jehovah, shines forth in exceeding brilliancy. For it is still night, the earth's dwellers have not been won to the gospel of grace; the "Sun" has not yet risen, although there must have been the harbinger of that sunrise in the bright Morning Star, and the heavenly redeemed have gone; but on that very account the shades hang thicker than ever over the earth. Like the little daughter of Jairus, Israel (whom she typifies) sleeps still. But the same Voice that awakened that sleeping damsel is heard, and in the first word of this chapter it utters precisely the same word, "Cumi," "Arise," and again, with the word, as in that chamber of grief, power for obedience comes with the command, and Israel, long in the sleep of death, awakes and rises!

What gracious intertwinings there are between the Old and New Testaments in these ways of God's dealings with men! In the Old, we have the earth alone in view, focussed and represented by one people; and that people focussed and represented by one city, Jerusalem, which shall express His ways of government. In the New, nations disappear, and the heavenly Church takes the place of Jerusalem. Thus the earth becomes a pattern of the invisible; and in Israel's awakening we may see that of many a poor sinner of the Gentiles, of many an unwatchful saint, as Eph. 5:14 shows.

Let us throw our vision forward, it will not need to be far, and look on the scene as depicted in these first verses. The gospel has been preached for 2,000 years with more or less clearness and fidelity; but that light of truth has been turned into a dense darkness that enshrouds the whole race of man, darkness the more dense because of the light rejected. Yet see that harbinger, the Star, has not given a false testimony, a dawn is breaking over Jerusalem—it is Jehovah-Jesus who is rising upon her, with that healing in His wings of which another prophet speaks (Mal. 4:2).

That light is from no withering, blasting fire; it is a gracious beam that attracts, for the chastened nations with their kings are drawn thereto as steel by a magnet. It is a strange picture! All the governments of earth wait upon Zion, and govern their conduct by her decrees! Not only are the Gentiles attracted, Jerusalem's own sons, who are still scattered, come from far, and her feebler daughters are pictured as children carried by their mothers on the hip.

When Zion, the personified, representative city of the nation, sees all this, a smile replaces the downcast look; her heart, filled with emotion, throbs, and her affections, no longer self-centered, give that delightful evidence of the work of God in all dispensations, for they are enlarged with unselfish joy to sing: "Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; yea, let all the peoples praise Thee!" (Ps. 67:3).

In that millennial day earth's metropolis will lack no temple, nor that temple lack an altar, nor that altar lack offerings. Ezekiel gives details of the ritual (chaps. 40-44), whilst Isaiah tells us that Kedar and Nebaioth shall send their flocks to provide these offerings; and they shall be accepted.

But will, then, animal sacrifices be renewed? Delitzsch says "No," and writes:

The sacrifice of animals has been abolished once for all by the self-sacrifice of the Servant of Jehovah, and by the spiritual revolution that Christianity has produced. . . . The meaning is that Jehovah will graciously accept the sacrifices which the church offers from the gifts of the Nabateans, etc.
Fair as this may look on the surface, it leads us into dense fogs, and worse. Delitzsch seems to allow that Jerusalem here refers to the literal city on earth, representing restored Israel; that the ships that bring them back to that literal land must also be literal, that wherever Tarshish and the isles may be found, they certainly are not in heaven, but on earth; that the flocks of Kedar could be nothing else than literal—all this is necessarily admitted. But as soon as it comes to making a worthy use of those flocks, then instantly Jerusalem on earth becomes the Church of the heavenly calling! Others carry this to the extreme till Israel is actually "exterminated" as a nation forever; and there is substituted for that people, ever beloved for the fathers' sake (Rom. 11:28), the Church, and these Jewish prophets are supposed to speak of a mystery which we are divinely told was completely hidden from them! (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:4; Col. 1:26).

The New Testament tells us all that we can know of the Church; and where is there the faintest hint of that Church offering sacrifices from the gifts of Kedar or Nebaioth? Her ministers, far from this, took "nothing from the Gentiles" (3 John 7).

On the other hand, no Christian will admit for a moment that any animal sacrifice can ever rival, and still less replace, that one Offering, the efficacy of which has abolished them in that sense of rivalry forever. That is surely true. But that must not be allowed to evaporate all meaning from what is here so clearly stated, that in a coming day Israel's sacrifices shall be accepted. Christians have the Lord's Supper, and in it they show the Lord's death with perfect acceptance. But we do not permit any sacrificial efficacy to be attached to that memorial; that error we leave to Jezebel-Rome (and alas, she wills not to repent). Nor will the enlightened Israelite (and they will all be thus enlightened) in the future permit any atoning efficacy to be attached to those sacrifices; they will also be memorials, and only memorials, of that same all-sufficient offering of Christ crucified. In this light there is no lack of harmony between the literal understanding of this prophecy and the basic word in Heb. 10. The entire absence of the veil in that future Temple will be evidence enough of the sacrifices being memorials and not propitiations. One can but have the fullest sympathy with the zeal for that one Sacrifice never to be repeated, but we also need zeal for the integrity of the Word, which is too clear to permit any other interpretation.

How beauteous the light that last line throws on our own abode, the Father's House. The word rendered "glory" is not the common one, but has at its base the idea of beauty, as in verse 13, and that, in its turn, of what meets and delights that aesthetic faculty of enjoyment that distinguishes man from all the creation below him. No blinding beam will that "glory" be, but of fair and holy attractions, so suited to the new nature that they shall thrill with such praiseful delight as can only find relief in worship. If He will thus beautify His House on earth, we can well leave it to His Love to make His House in heaven not less entrancing.

8: Who are these that fly as a cloud,
As doves wing their way to the dovecotes?
9: The isles are waiting for Me,
And the ships of Tarshish come first,5
To bring thy children from far,
And with them their silver and gold,
To the name of Jehovah thy God,
To the Holy One of Israel:
For He hath greatly adorned thee.
10: The sons of the stranger shall build up thy walls,
Their kings shall be at thy service.
For in My wrath I did smite thee with strokes,
But in My favor have had mercy on thee.
11: Thy gates shall ever stand ope,
Nor by night, nor by day shall be closed,
To bring into thee the wealth of the nations,
And their kings as though led in triumph.6
12: For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee,
Shall itself be brought to destruction:
The nations that will not freely serve thee
Shall themselves be utterly dried up.7
13: Lebanon's glory shall come unto thee,
Cypress and pine and box-tree together,
The place of My sanctu'ry thus to adorn,
My footstool thus to make splendid.
14: The sons of oppressors that once oppressed thee,
Shall approach with lowly obeisance,
And all who contemned thee shall themselves be ashamed,
To the soles of thy feet shall be humbled,
Jehovah's own city, thou shalt be called,
Zion, the city of Him,
The Holy One of Israel.
Zion is pictured as a woman looking seaward; a cloud appears on the horizon, which, as it draws near, resolves itself into a fleet of ships whose white sails are like a flock of homing pigeons flying to their cotes. Then she looks upward as inquiring, and Jehovah explains the marvel. The nations of the earth, He says, are all now waiting submissively upon Him and placing their ships at His disposal; and prominent amongst them are those sea-bordering nations (Tarshish) whose navies and merchant-ships have covered the seas.

No longer do thy people come back in unbelief as in those years of the twentieth century; but as those whose very coming will enrich thee, for they bring with them their gold and silver. Thy walls must be built; but thine own hands shall not labor; the sons of those very strangers who a short time ago were pulverizing those walls with their artillery, shall build them up. Even kings become thy servants; for when My face was turned away from thee because of thy crooked ways, then the nations carried out My purposes in chastening thee; but now, when I smile upon thee, even thy former enemies must give cheerful submission to thee and to thy King.

But should any refuse, they must perish, for it shall not then be as in that long day of unmixed grace; but perfect divine government shall then be in full exercise, with righteousness reigning all open rebellion will promptly be put down.

Every beauteous tree shall adorn that holy place where thy God touches, as it were, the earth, and shall make that "place of His Feet" glorious, so that from the beauty of the footstool men may gather what the beauty of the palace must be!

Thy former oppressors have been swept away, but their children shall come, and would have thee place thy feet on their prostrate bodies, so low would they make their obeisance, and they will salute thee with the cry: "O City of Jehovah! O Zion of the Holy One of Israel!"

This very word is repeated almost literally in that letter that our Lord sends to those who are living in "brotherly love" (for we may well insist that this promise is not addressed to any who are not living in Philadelphia, or brotherly love, in truth): "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee" (Rev. 3:9).

Who can deny the correspondence in the words used? But those words cannot refer to literal Jews surely. Israel was not, and is not, and will not be in Philadelphia, but in Palestine. And while there are striking correspondences, there are striking differences too, quite enough to save us from that double mistake, first, of taking the earthly promises away from the Jew, and then of putting the Christian in his place, as if he were a literal Jew. We see how sternly those are rebuked who, by act (not lip) taking their place under the law never given to them, say they are Jews. That is precisely what is being done all about us. Nothing in the Lord's letter is said about previous wrath or smiting; but enemies there are, nor are these the literal Philistine or Ammonite, Assyrian or Babylonian, but what answer to these in the spirit-world, various forms of superstition and rationalism, of legality and worldliness, the proud exponents of religious formality and error.

O sweetest promise! We ask not that others should thus abase themselves to our feet that do but too often wander, but no music could be so entrancing to us, as to hear one whisper from Him that should tell us of the "breadth and length and depth and height" of His own patient, tender love to such poor creatures as we. But must we not deduce, that if we are not despised now, if we are sharing in the honors of the world now, if we are not sharing in His reproach and suffering with Him now, how can we hope to have any part in this promise? O Lord Jesus, so draw the eyes of our heart to Thee that in these days of lukewarmness we may be whole-hearted and with no divided affection!

15: Whereas thou wast left alone, utterly hated,
And no one walked through thy desolate streets,
I will make of thee a splendor eternal,
Source of delight from age unto age!
16: Thou shalt suck too of the milk of the Gentiles;
From the breasts of their kings shalt thou nourishment draw,
Thus shalt thou learn I'm Jehovah thy Saviour,
Thy Kinsman-Redeemer, of Jacob the Strength.
17: Instead of the copper, I'll bring to thee gold;
Instead of the iron, I'll bring to thee silver;
Instead of the wood, I'll bring to thee copper;
Instead of the stone, I'll bring to thee iron.
I'll make peace itself fill the place of thy judges,
And righteousness be all the police-force required.8
18: Injustice shall no more be heard in thy land,
Nor waste nor destruction within all thy borders,
But thou shalt call Salvation thy ramparts,
Thy gates in their joyousness shall be called Praise.9
19: The sun shall light on thee by day nevermore;
Neither for brightness the moon shine upon thee;
But Jehovah shall be to thee light everlasting,
And thy God shall Himself be thy glory!
20: Thy sun—it shall nevermore set;
Thy moon—it shall nevermore wane;
But Jehovah shall be to thee light everlasting,
The days of thy sorrow forever be past!
21: As for thy people, they all shall be righteous,
And the land shall be theirs evermore:
A sprout of My planting,
A work of My hands,
That shall be for My glory!
22: The smallest one of them shall grow to a thousand,
The least shall become a strong nation.
I, even I, Jehovah, will speed it,
Will bring it to pass in due time.
Our prophet foresees a day in which Jerusalem shall be as glorious as she has been contemptible, as attractive as she has been repulsive. What a striking picture she is, in both respects, of us individually. She has long been in a figure, dead and buried, for as Abraham so pathetically said, the dead must ever be buried out of our sight; we cannot look on the progressive repulsiveness of dissolution in those forms that we have loved so tenderly. But this prophecy of Jerusalem's joyous recovery is a prophecy of the recovery of all who are "in Christ," and the glories that are here portrayed of that representative city, shall have their more exceeding beauteous counterparts in the bodies of glory like unto our Lord's and be as attractive as the dead were repulsive!

All the nations of the regenerate earth shall bring their riches to that city, and the very kings shall act as its foster-parents. When we read this chapter of Isaiah we have some difficulty in remembering that we are not reading the later chapters of Revelation. This in itself tends to confirm the conviction that there is a real identity between the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem, the former being the subject of the New Testament, and the latter of the Old, these unified in the Millennium, as all Heaven and all earth shall be in eternity (Rev. 21:3).

As in Solomon's day "silver was nothing accounted of," so what had been valued loses its place, and everything, except the four metals that figured the four world-empires in Nebuchadnezzar's vision, is put aside. This should not be pressed into strict literalness, so as to exclude even those beautiful woods that we have just been told shall adorn the Sanctuary; nor, on the other hand, does it justify a spiritualizing of everything so as to eliminate all reference to Israel, and the appropriation of all for the Church. It speaks of vast wealth in prophetic language, but it does not follow that we can insist that it is solely spiritual gold, silver, brass and iron adorning a spiritual "Zion," or Church. It is precisely that against which we are warned, for it has made us, Gentiles, wise in our own conceits (Rom. 11:25), since we ignore entirely the purposes that God still has for Israel. How far different from this beautiful picture is the condition of the professing Church of these last days. Alas, the ignored poverty, wretchedness blindness, and misery of Laodicea give a far truer representation than this splendor. By verse 19 we learn by what means Zion is to shine, and as we know not what we shall be in resurrection (1 John 3:2), so there are indefinable glories here. For who can speak of them? The heavenly Jerusalem is seen in the Apocalypse coming down from heaven, enlightened by no natural sun or moon, but the glory of God enlightens it and the Lamb is its light. It descends, and still majestically descends, till above the earthly city, now filled with its own corresponding beauty, it stays. Thus it shares its glory with that city on earth over which it forms a canopy (chap. 4:5, last clause), and the whole earth is enlightened by their unified beams which are still purely the outshining of God's glory. Here then, in that one spot during that millennial reign there is a "new heaven and a new earth" in this two-fold Jerusalem, but not outside its limit. That universal new heaven and earth must still await another and eternal day, at the close of the Millennium, when again that mighty Voice shall cry "Done," for, "Behold, I make all things new."

All the dwellers in that favored land shall not be merely relatively, but absolutely righteous: not only born again, and thus still having two divergent natures, the one evil and the other good, for that would still leave a further work to be done, as in Christians now; but all of them without exception shall be "Jehovah's planting, the work of His Hands," and so perfectly expressive of what He can do, so then there shall be no death there.

The last verse gives an intensely interesting suggestion: there shall still be growth. Even perfection does not forbid growth, as indeed we have seen in one lovely instance (see Luke 2:52). So on earth the little one becomes a thousand, and if there be one less esteemed than his neighbors, he shall become a strong nation. Let that pattern of earth throw its light on heaven; and we shall see that there too there is no banal limitation in which, having reached all that is possible in one burst, the redeemed have nothing before them for all eternity than to contemplate that with which they have already become familiar. No; there too, since the sphere of our contemplation is itself without any limit but infinite, since it is God as revealed in Christ, there must necessarily be constant and endless growth as here patterned for us in the earthly Israel. We do not enter heaven with nothing more to be discerned, with nothing to be hoped, with nothing to be attained beyond what flashes upon us in that twinkling of an eye. There is growth, aye, even without these limitations of earth, for the element in which we grow is boundless, for it is "the fulness of God."

Footnotes:

1 That is, Jehovah's glory not only shines upon Zion, but radiates for all to see.

2 As women often carry their children in the East.

3 There are two roots to the word here used, the first has been adopted by the translators of A.V. "to flow together," the other, "to shine," hence "to be glad," and this is, I believe, the sense here.

4 The word for "glory" here has in it the idea of beauty. The line might be rendered, "Beauty shall fill the house of My beauty."

5 As to the exact place that is here meant by "Tarshish," when Young tells us that this means "Tartessus" in Spain, or Carthage in Africa, or Ceylon in India; that the original Tarshish, son of Javan, settled in Italy, and there was a Tarshish on the Red Sea; whilst Knobel places it in Tuscany, and Josephus in Cilicia—we are disposed to gather that the word is to be applied to no specific country, but to the sea itself, and to those maritime nations that bordered it, being thus a parallel with "isles," in the first line. In the Septuagint (Isaiah 2:16) the word "tarshish" is rendered by "sea"; which confirms the suggestion.

6 Delitzsch and others translate the word to denote the kings being literally led as captured forces. It is not impossible, but seems hardly in line with the willing offerings of the Gentiles, nor does the word necessitate it.

7 The prime meaning of the word is "to be dried up," denoting the loss of water, as in Gen. 8:13. The verse throws its light on Rev. 16:12.

8 "The meaning is that righteousness is to Jerusalem what the whole body of civil officers are" to a city (Delitzsch).

9 Much too free as a translation, but giving the idea in the words literally rendered, "And thy gates praise."