October 8 – Isaiah 60:1-11


Main Focus: The beauty and the glory of the Kingdom of God is shown in its multi-ethnic, multicultural makeup.

This week we’ll stop in the book of Isaiah to get another glimpse of what God will achieve in the end. Isaiah 60 describes Zion, the New Jerusalem, in the eternal Kingdom of God. There God has saved his people, liberated them from sin and death forever, brought justice and peace for good, and Jesus is on his eternal throne. And in this vision Isaiah sees something remarkable: the nations of the world are coming to Zion and bringing their riches with them.

You’ll see another Discussion Primer below to help your folks get their bearings here in Isaiah, and here’s a bit more history for you. In roughly 740-700 BC, Isaiah prophesied in the southern kingdom of Judah (the north-south split happened in 930 BC). In 722 BC, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians just as God had told Isaiah (Isa 8:4). This should’ve served as a forewarning to the southern kingdom, but Judah continued in their disobedience to the Lord, eventually succumbing to Babylonian dominance in 596 BC. Much of the book of Isaiah (ch. 40-55) speaks to the experience of exile well after Isaiah’s lifetime; through Isaiah, God gave them a word of peace and promise ahead of the pain of exile (Isa 40:1). Toward the end of this section and especially chapters 56-66, Isaiah speaks of a coming age in which Israel would be restored (49:8-13) through the work of the Lord’s Servant (49:5).

From their perspective in exile, Israel would’ve anticipated this restoration as a return to their homeland, and from these passages on the Servant (and elsewhere in the prophecies of the Old Testament) they began to expect a Messiah to lead them there. From our perspective today we know that Israelites did indeed start returning to their homeland in 538 BC, but this was not attended by many of the prophecies of Isaiah 56-60, particularly God’s promise to make “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65:17).

That’s how we know Isaiah was looking past Israel’s return to the Promised Land to a further off, fuller fulfillment of restoration. That restoration is none other than the eternal kingdom of God, the kingdom that was inaugurated with the resurrection of Jesus (Matt 28:18), has been anticipated through the following millennia, and will be consummated when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1). That’s what we see in Isaiah 60:1-11, a picture of that fulfilled kingdom set up in Zion, the eternal City of God, to which people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will come to worship the one true God.

I know that’s a lot of historical background, but that should help us see this passage’s multiple layers of context and grasp some of their meaning. In the face of exile, God promised his people a coming restoration, but that restoration would only be fully fulfilled after the New Covenant was signed in Jesus’s blood and the good news of salvation had reached the ends of the earth. God’s purpose to save a multi-ethnic people for himself was the plan all along.

And one way this is signified is through the cultural expression of the people of God, which we see especially in verses 5-7. God intends to use all the best products of human ingenuity—art, music, wealth, fashion, etc.—to “beautify [his] beautiful house” (Isa 60:7). We might otherwise think that God would eradicate such things in the new heavens and new earth because they were too earthly or sinful for his kingdom (and some things certainly are), but turns out, God likes some of what we make, perhaps like a parent puts their kid’s scribbles on their fridge.

We’ll turn to Revelation 21:22-27 to see that from a different angle. There the connection between Jesus’s work of redemption and the eternal life of God’s people is made plain (“the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb”), and there again we see that “the glory and honor of the nations” will be brought into the City of God. In this we see how the Kingdom of God doesn’t reject human cultures and their paraphernalia but instead redeems them, dignifies them, and devotes them to God’s glory. In God’s economy, every culture has beauty and value to add to his Kingdom.

This will likely challenge us on our own notions of human culture, particularly when it comes to how we value the products of different cultures. To be quite clear though, the Bible isn’t calling you to thus disregard or discount your culture. We are called to live enculturated but not exclusionary lives; we all can’t help existing within a culture, but by the power of the Holy Spirit within us we can work to value other cultures just as much as Jesus has commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:38). As we’ll discuss in the last question, putting this into practice, and all the cross-cultural peace and reconciliation that should come with it, is one way our future life in God’s kingdom informs how we live now.

In his book The Beautiful Community, Irwin Ince makes this same connection: “The royal beauty of the people of God pictured for us in Isaiah…and carried through in Revelation is a balm for our soul. This vision is actually hard to believe if our eyes are only set on the trauma-inducing reality of our divisions. When we’re in the middle of the mess, when we are struggling in the church and in our communities, can we have the kind of vision that looks at image-bearers and sees the end? The kind that sees the reunion and reunification of humanity brought together in the royal beauty that the anointed one promises?”(Ince, 64)

Discussion primer: The prophet Isaiah preached and wrote from about 740-700BC, a little less than 200 years before the Babylonians overthrew Jerusalem and carried God’s people off into exile. From his point in history, Isaiah foretold that coming Babylonian invasion, exile, and a future era when God would reverse his people’s fortunes. Chapters 56-66 cover that future era, and Isaiah foretold both Israel’s restoration to their homeland and an even greater restoration that would one day transform the whole world. That greater restoration is what we find here in Isaiah 60.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Isaiah 60:1-11 for us?

• What stood out to you in the passage?

• What are cross-cultural relations like in this passage?

• Could someone read Revelation 21:22-27 for us?

• How can these two passages help us understand what society will be like in God’s eternal kingdom?

• What, if anything, is convicting or challenging to you about that?

• How do you think this future vision informs the way we relate to others now?

• Prayer Prompt: Ask God to help you see and value other people and their cultures as he sees and values them.