Jerusalem as Joy
(17) "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
(18) But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.
(19) I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.
(20) No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
(21) They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
(22) They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
(23) They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them.
(24) Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
(25) The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain," says the LORD.
On August 24, 79 AD, a small town in the Roman province of Campania, on the western shore of Italy, was obliterated by the violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The city of Pompeii was buried beneath several feet of ash and mud. It was not rediscovered until modern times.
Pompeii was a prosperous city, farming grapes from the fertile hillsides of Mount Vesuvius for wine, fishing the nearby sea. It produced bread for export and had a thriving wool industry. Everything seemed to be going pretty well in Pompeii—until Vesuvius blew its top and spewed hot ash and gases several miles into the air. The crater left behind from that eruption is still visible today.
The people of Pompeii had little time to escape. Some tried to protect themselves in their homes; some tried to flee the city. Unfortunately, the hot gases and ash overcame them, and many suffocated or were buried alive. We have found their bodies in the ash, frozen in time. Men, women, children, dogs, slaves—one moment they were living, breathing, the next they were gone. Everything had seemed so normal only a few days earlier. People were going about their business never giving a thought for tomorrow, until suddenly there was no tomorrow. It was all over. Sometimes in church, we talk about the end of the age or the end of time. The end of the age certainly came for Pompeii in 79 AD. (The above is summarized from the “Pompeii” article in Wikepedia.)
In one way or another the end will come for us one day, and it is sad that we must leave our earthly home, but there is joy also, for we have a new home. We have a future.
It is a strange thing but in church, we often do not talk much about the future. This reminds me of a conference I went to many years ago at Emory University in Atlanta. It was free, so the price was right. This was one of those multi-disciplinary conferences that was supposed to bring the best of science and religion together. All the speakers were teachers at Emory. One was a Bible teacher, who did an excellent job of tracing all the current trends in biblical research. As you can imagine that pretty much put everyone to sleep. Another speaker was a theologian from Emory. He reminded us of our religious heritage. The third speaker was a scientist. She talked about advances in science. She listed all the inventions and discoveries of the last 50 years, and then she began to talk about what is to come. You could tell that she was excited about the future. She said something like, “Knowledge is exploding, and the best is yet to come.”
Now I participated in discussions after the lectures, and several people remarked that the only lecturer that talked about the future was the scientist. She not only talked about the future; she was enthusiastic about it. Maybe there is something to be learned from that scientist. We spend too much time looking back, talking about the past. We need to look forward and offer a vision of hope to the world.
That is what Isaiah did. In chapter 65, we have a great vision of hope. This chapter is from that part of Isaiah called Third Isaiah, or the Isaiah Apocalypse, which was written during a time of very little hope. Most scholars say that it was written after the Babylonian exile. Jerusalem had been captured; the temple had been destroyed. Many residents of Judah had been hauled off into captivity in Babylon. The people had been confronted with one disaster after another. Yet, against the backdrop of all those horrible events, Isaiah still has a beautiful vision of the future, a vision overflowing with joy, hope, and peace. God, says the prophet, is going to act in a wonderful and surprising way. God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth and a new Jerusalem, and we can be part of that.
The prophet then describes something of what the new creation is going to look like: there will be no more weeping and crying, no more tragic deaths of infants, no more premature deaths of adults, people will enjoy building and living in their houses—no more homeless people, people will eat the fruit from their vineyards—no more hungry people. God will bless us all. This is a picture of a society where perfect equality, freedom, justice and peace prevail. Even the whole created order of nature shall be changed as enemies become friends. Wolves and lambs, lions and oxen, shall live in harmony.
This is a beautiful vision of a future bursting with perfect peace. This is the same vision that we find in the NT in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross and God’s mighty act of raising him from the dead three days later. The resurrection of Christ is God’s sign to us that a future of perfect peace is possible. One day, we too shall share in a resurrection like that of Jesus and live with him in perfect peace.
Until then, we are blessed with small glimpses of that future whenever and wherever Christ’s love and peace shine in us and through us. In Jesus, our Prince of Peace, we look forward to that future time; that day of our resurrection; when all violence, hatred, sin, death and evil shall end; when, “They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.”
Isaiah chapter 65 is a picture of what God’s kingdom will be like. This picture shows us that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives. This plan gives us hope for the future and guides the way we live now. These verses answer the questions Isaiah raised in the first 65 chapters. Why should I abandon my life of self-centered materialism? Why should I live a life of justice and righteousness? Why should I accept God’s holy servant Jesus as my Savior? The answer is because better days are ahead for those who are in God’s grace. In verse 16, the prophet says, “The former troubles are forgotten and hidden from sight.” Then God says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” In other words, God’s new world will be so wonderful that the problems of the past will not be remembered, and will not be repeated.
Those of you who are suffering from the loss of a loved one will never feel the pangs of loneliness again.
Those of you who are ravaged with arthritis and osteoporosis will never feel pain again.
Those of you who are worried will never feel insecure again.
In God’s new world, there will be no more sleepless nights, no more sluggish days, no more sickness.
In God’s new world, there will be no more guilt, no more greed, no more worry.
In God’s new world, there will be no more heartaches, no more heart attacks.
Revelation 21:4 says, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Instead of a world characterized by grief and gloom, God is preparing for us a world characterized by joy and gladness.
Have you ever watched the celebration in the locker room of the winning team after the Super Bowl? Grown men jumping up and down, spraying bottles of champagne all over the locker room, doing funny little dances, shouting “We won! We won! We won!” In that hour of triumph, no one is upset about how hard the season was. No one is crying over the fumbles and the interceptions of the past. They are basking in the glow of victory. It is a time to party. That is what it will be like when God sets up his kingdom on earth. We will not be thinking about the things that hurt us or harm us today. We will not be dwelling on the heartaches of the past. Instead, it is time to celebrate Abraham will be running around giving everybody high fives. Peter and Paul will pat you on the back. You will see all your loved ones in the Lord singing, shouting, and celebrating. Jesus will be there to wrap his arms around you, saying “Congratulations! You made it! Welcome to your reward!”
Furthermore, if you ask Jesus to become the Lord of your life, you can enjoy a taste of the world to come right now. II Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation! The old has gone, the new has come.” In other words, if you are a Christian, you are already a new creation. Your sins are already forgiven and forgotten. You do not have to wait until later to experience the joy of being close to God. You can experience the joy of the Lord right now. You can have joy in your life just by knowing that you are already a member of God’s new society.
God’s vision for a better world includes joy, and longevity. Isaiah 65:20: “No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.” UNICEF reports that in the year 2006, 10 million kids worldwide died under the age of five. Four million of these kids died before they were 30 days old. The prophet says that is not going to happen anymore. God is making a New Jerusalem where everyone will have the opportunity to live out their years. God is making a world where someday, no one will ever die.
I was reading about a guy who was celebrating his 100th birthday. A reporter asked that question that they always ask older people: “How did you manage to live so long? What’s your secret?” The man said “"Well, son, I got married when I was 21. The wife and I decided that if we had arguments, the loser would take a long walk to get over being mad. I guess you can say that God has blessed me with 79 years of fresh air." Someday, we are all going to be blessed with fresh air. We are all going to be blessed with long lives.
So as members of the new world, we have joy and longevity. Furthermore, We have prosperity, Verse 21 says,” They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” In other words, eternity is not just an endless church service. Eternity is an opportunity to enjoy creation. It is a chance to sit back and say “Yes, I did a good job planting my vegetable garden. The corn on the cob is so sweet and juicy I feel like I am eating candy. Moreover, the tomatoes are so tasty; I can eat them for hours. There will be no more of those cardboard tomatoes like you buy in the store, and the grapes will taste like heaven—because that is where you are.
Now do not get me wrong. I think that we will worship God in the new heaven and the new earth. I am excited about getting close to God without the hindrances of sin and sleepiness and sluggishness, but I am also looking forward to experiencing more of the new world that God has created. I have no idea of what it is going to be like. Better that we can imagine I think. I am looking forward to the streets of gold and the river of life and the light of God shining on the waters.
As members of God’s new world, we have a close friendship with God. Sometimes, it is hard to pray because we are stressed out and tired out. But according to verse 24, we are going to be so close to the Lord that God will answer our prayer even before we finish the prayer. God will be so much a part of us, he will complete our thought for us.
Further, in V25, we read: “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. ” The wolf and the lion and the serpent symbolize all the devouring, ravening, and poisonous aspects of our world. They represent the forces of evil that attack the cause of peace, but they will not succeed. The Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, will make the world safe from the forces of Satan. Jesus is the One who will bring lasting peace and security to our world. Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
|HOME||About YARPC||Sermons||Prayer Center|
Copyright 2013 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last Modified: 05/02/13