Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—“A New Day Dawns”

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In her book “Let Me Grieve, But Not Forever,” Verdell Davis tells the story of her husband’s death, and finding the hand of God in that tragedy. Her husband and three other men were killed when their private plane crashed in Montana. They had been there attending a Focus on the Family men’s retreat. Three days of searching finally found the fragments of the plane. During that time, Verdell waited anxiously and prayed for her missing husband. She also prayed that somehow her children would see the hand of God in what was going on. Her daughter Shawna held faithfully to her conviction that her father would be found alive and all would be well. Then the news came. Verdell had to place her arms around her daughter and relay the news that her father was dead. Shawna replied in anger that she didn’t believe it.

Three days later in their church, waiting for the funeral to begin, Verdell noticed her two boys kneeling in front of their father’s casket. They had their arms around their sister, who knelt between the. She overheard her children praying to God that he would give them the kind of love for him that their father had had. This assured Verdell that God had answered her prayers and that she and the children could see the hand of God even in this tragedy.

Similarly, God tried to help Israel see the good that was coming from their tragic loss of Jerusalem and the years spent in exile. God was ready to begin all over again with Jerusalem and to bring all the nations to her gates to worship him and see his splendor. The question was: Would the people of Jerusalem see God’s hand in tragedy and heed his call to mission?

Chapters 60-62 are the heart of the third section of Isaiah (56-66). The community of returned exiles is struggling to believe that God was still working in their midst. The promises recorded in the 40th to 55th chapters of Isaiah had pointed to a great future for God’s people. They had regained possession of the land as promised. But they were barely existing. The community of God’s people was in no condition to be a light to the nations.

Throughout these chapters, prophetic interpretations of actual historical events are interwoven with visionary descriptions of the working out of God’s purpose in history. The language in this chapter is highly poetic, painting a glorious word picture of the restoration of Jerusalem.

In chapter 60, the prophet renews the promises of a new day for the community of faith. He assures the people that God has not forgotten them and that their mission as a light to the world has not changed.


            1. in these verses we see that God will glorify his people by making them a witness of the grace of God
                1. the historical background of this passage concerns the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah
                    1. the Hebrew people have been captives in Babylon for 70 years
                    2. Babylon fell to the armies of Cyrus in 539 B.C.
                        1. Cyrus was welcomed in the city as a liberator
                    3. the Scripture states that “Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus” to issue a proclamation which allowed those Jews who wished to return to their homeland to do so
                        1. how Yahweh stirred up Cyrus is not stated, but Jewish tradition says that the Jews showed him the prophecies of Isaiah 44–45 which named Cyrus as the one who would liberate the Jews which he did
                    4. this was the First Return that took place and is sometimes called the Zerubbabel Return since he was prince of the house of David who led the return, and just over 42,000 Jews returned to Judah
                        1. the first project after returning was the reconstruction of the altar so they could offer sacrifice
                        2. then immediately materials were gathered for rebuilding the temple
                        3. the foundations were laid, but opposition from the non-Jews who were living in the area caused the work to cease for about sixteen years
                        4. then due to the preaching of two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, the work resumed and the temple project was completed, and it is commonly referred to as Zerubbabel’s Temple or the Second Temple
            2. but the returned exiles are still struggling and there is severe opposition from surrounding peoples
                1. a hiatus of fifty-eight years exists between Ezra 6 and 7
                    1. nothing is known of the Jews in Judea during this period except that local enemies wrote yet another accusation to the Persian authorities concerning the activities of the Jews (Ezra 4:6)
                    2. an effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem failed (Ezra 4:8–23)
                2. in the year 458 B.C. Ezra led a group of Jews back to the homeland
                3. he was commissioned by the new Persian King Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem to secure the welfare of the city
                    1. he funded Ezra’s mission and ordered the provincial treasurers to provide Ezra whatever he needed. Specifically mentioned is the intention to "beautify the house of the Lord in Jerusalem"
            3. it is the period between these two returns that Isaiah is preaching about
                1. Isaiah acknowledges that it’s a “dark time” but soon the “glory of the Lord will rise”


    • “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1–3, NIV84)
            1. God’s people had returned to their city and had tried to rebuild it and the temple
                1. but something was missing
                2. their hopes and dreams had not been brought to reality
            2. despair and frustration began to set in
                1. the prophet’s words reassured his people and called them to attention
                2. God was going to act for them on their behalf
            3. the darkness of despair and defeat would cover the earth
              • ILLUS. One of the greatest fears people have is that of being n the dark. Why do you think that a majority of scary movies are set during the nighttime hours? Darkness causes people to be uneasy. They’re unsure of what’s around them, and most bad things seem to happen when it’s dark out.
                1. Isaiah draws us into an eerie, gloomy, and frightening picture when he writes:
                  • “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,” (Isa. 60:2a)
                2. the Prophet is using the metaphor of darkness to picture sin and the gloom and death that result from it
            4. but God would shine his glory upon them so that the light of his glory would attract the nations to Jerusalem
                1. Isaiah begins with two effective imperatives—Arise, give light
                    1. Jerusalem is here personified as a woman either sitting in dust and ashes or prostrate because of her sins
                    2. the command to arise is accompanied by the strength to fulfill the order
                        1. of herself Jerusalem could not arise, for her sins had separated her from her God
                        2. when Christ commands the leper, “Be clean,” the leper does not have the power to obey, but as Christ speaks the leper is cleansed
                    3. so, when God through the prophet cries, Arise, He enables Jerusalem to arise
                        1. it is a word of power
                2. the second command is be light
                    1. just as darkness is a metaphor for sin in the bible, light is a metaphor for God’s presence
                        1. the glory of God is displayed in the whole of the created universe, but was manifested in particular in the history of redemption, as the Shekinah which was witnessed in the pillar of cloud and fire and later descended upon the Temple that Solomon built
                    2. having received from the Lord His own perfect, holy light, her true salvation, Zion is to radiate that light
                        1. imagine if you will Crepuscular rays of light shining through the storm clouds to illuminate patches of earth
                        2. they are an illustration of God’s presence that shines through the storm clouds, giving us light, that we then reflect into the culture around us
                          • “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, ... “ (John 1:4–5, NIV84)
            5. the glory of the Lord will attract the nations of the earth to Jerusalem


    • “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD. All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple. “Who are these that fly along like clouds, like doves to their nests? Surely the islands look to me; in the lead are the ships of Tarshish, bringing your sons from afar, with their silver and gold, to the honor of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” (Isaiah 60:4–9, NIV84)
            1. the nations wold bring the remainder of the exiles back to Jerusalem and they would also bring rich tribute
                1. here in verse 4 Isaiah pictures Jerusalem as a mother who looks about with love and tenderness as her children are gathered again unto her
                2. here the prophet refers to the heathen who have been converted and are coming from afar in all directions
                  • ILLUS. We catch a glimpse of this in the New Testament with Cornelius and men like him who had become “God fearers”—Gentiles who had converted to Judaism or at the very least had come to believe in the One True God. While we don’t know exact numbers, we know that in the ancient world this was a sizeable group, and with the coming of the Gospel, many quickly became Christians.
                    1. the result of this great influx will be a wondrous and fearful rejoicing on Zion’s part—you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy
                    2. Isaiah writes that the people’s faces will light up with joy, and their hearts will burn with happiness or gladness when they see the response of the nations
            2. v. 5-9 refer to the wealth on the seas, and the riches of the nations that will be used to rebuild the city in all its glory
                1. the nations included all those known to Israel form as far away at Tarshish which some biblical scholars identify as Spain
                2. this literally came true when King Artaxerxes commanded the provincial governors around Judah to provide the necessary funds for the Temple to be rebuilt
            3. yet the people of Zion must accept one small detail
                1. these foreigners would also come to worship in the temple, and God would accept them
                2. they come to honor the Holy One of Israel as the nations saw how he had endowed Zion with splendor
                3. would the Jews be willing to accept them?



    • “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion. Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations— their kings led in triumphal procession. For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. “The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet. The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”/ (Isaiah 60:10–14, NIV84)
            1. Israel would no longer have to labor to rebuild her city and temple to their former glory
                1. foreign nations and kings would supply the necessary financial resources and the manpower to rebuild the walls
                2. how could this be?
            2. God had turned away from his anger toward his sinful people
                1. now he would show them compassion
                2. again, this literally came true
                  • Ezra 6:1-12
            3. Zion would never again have to shut her gates in fear
                1. rather, she would have to keep them open twenty-four hours a day to accommodate all the people bringing her gifts
                2. any nation that did not join in the procession to Zion would be utterly ruined
            4. Lebanon will be a special blessing because of her natural resources that will provide materials for re-building the Temple
                1. the Temple is the place of God’s feet, i.e. His dwelling place and His mere presence will glorify it


    • “Although you have been forsaken and hated, with no one traveling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations. You will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.” (Isaiah 60:15–18, NIV84)
            1. God’s marvelous new day of salvation would not be a passing fancy
                1. it will be an everlasting new day
                2. self-esteem and joy would again mark the people of Jerusalem
            2. all of this will come to pass so Israel might know Yahweh their God and rest assured that he was their Savior and Redeemer
                1. and guess what? It did!
                  • Ezra 7:11-27
                2. God remains the Mighty One of Jacob
                    1. this means that God had been Israel’s God as long as there had been an Israel
                    2. if you remember it was Jacob, who after wrestling all night with God, was renamed Israel
                    3. from his twelve sons came the twelve tribes of Israel
            3. peace and prosperity and righteous will govern the land


            1. Israel’s salvation will be so complete that Zion wold no longer have to depend upon unpredictable natural phenomena for weather and light
                1. God’s glorious presence would outshine the sun, so that darkness will be no more
            2. Israel’s days of sorrow will end
                1. but such marvelous new promises were possible only under one condition
                2. the people themselves must be totally different
                    1. they must live righteously, turning away from the sins they had confessed in chapter 59
                    2. then they would be able to claim possession of their land forever, without worry that an enemy might take it away or that God would again punish them for their sins
            3. under such conditions, the promise to Abraham of many descendants would be fulfilled
                1. such promises depend not upon human effort, but upon God’s power
            4. in the end, His people will gather for the glorious day when He will display his splendor among them



            1. I am fairly well convinced that vv. 19-22 look much further into the future then even Isaiah could imagine
                1. I think these closing verse see the New Jerusalem at the end of the age
                  • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earthhad passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1–4, NIV84)
                  • “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.” (Revelation 21:21–26, NIV84)


            1. a more literal translation of Arise, shine in verse 1 is Arise, give light
            2. Jesus is probably thinking of this passage when he says:
              • “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”/ (Matthew 5:14–16, NIV84)


            1. nations that have been Israel’s enemies are now moved by God to be their benefactors


    • Psalm 103:1-5; 8-14

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