The Beginning of the End

Opening Prayer

Is there something you’ve been praying for, maybe for a long time? Don’t lose hope. Bring it to God as you read his Word and pray.

Read Isaiah 66:1–16

This is what the Lord 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?
2 Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?”
declares the Lord.

“These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.
3 But whoever sacrifices a bull
is like one who kills a person,
and whoever offers a lamb
is like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
whoever makes a grain offering
is like one who presents pig’s blood,
and whoever burns memorial incense
is like one who worships an idol.
They have chosen their own ways,
and they delight in their abominations;
4 so I also will choose harsh treatment for them
and will bring on them what they dread.
For when I called, no one answered,
when I spoke, no one listened.
They did evil in my sight
and chose what displeases me.”

5 Hear the word of the Lord,
you who tremble at his word:
“Your own people who hate you,
and exclude you because of my name, have said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified,
that we may see your joy!’
Yet they will be put to shame.
6 Hear that uproar from the city,
hear that noise from the temple!
It is the sound of the Lord
repaying his enemies all they deserve.

7 “Before she goes into labor,
she gives birth;
before the pains come upon her,
she delivers a son.
8 Who has ever heard of such things?
Who has ever seen things like this?
Can a country be born in a day
or a nation be brought forth in a moment?
Yet no sooner is Zion in labor
than she gives birth to her children.
9 Do I bring to the moment of birth
and not give delivery?” says the Lord.
“Do I close up the womb
when I bring to delivery?” says your God.
10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her,
all you who mourn over her.
11 For you will nurse and be satisfied
at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
and delight in her overflowing abundance.”

12 For this is what the Lord says:

“I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice
and you will flourish like grass;
the hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants,
but his fury will be shown to his foes.
15 See, the Lord is coming with fire,
and his chariots are like a whirlwind;
he will bring down his anger with fury,
and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For with fire and with his sword
the Lord will execute judgment on all people,
and many will be those slain by the Lord.

Reflect

Remember back to either your child’s birth or maybe what you know of your own birth.

Some births are long and drawn out, exhausting the mother (and often the father too!). Others are quick, leaving the parents desperately hoping that they will get to the hospital in time. But
here is a birth which is over even before labor has begun (7). This is not the birth of one or two children, it’s the birth of a people, a nation (8). Isaiah’s vision is of the end, the fullness of God’s kingdom.

Judgment has come to Zion with the destruction of the Temple (6)—God’s people had offered ceremony rather than brokenness (2). So although the suddenness is shocking, it’s not surprising (cf. Mal. 3:1). This is God at work (9). Nevertheless, this is not the end for Jerusalem. The death of the old leads to the birth of the new. The failures of the old are replaced. Unlike the old Zion, this New Jerusalem will be a city of peace and prosperity (12). Grieving for the destruction of the old will be replaced by comfort (13). Isaiah’s message is ultimately one of hope for the whole world, not just for Israel (18).

Apply

The gathering of people of all tribes and tongues has started. What part are you playing in helping people see his glory (18)?

Closing prayer

Father, thank You for the new birth You have given me. May I use my life ever and only for Your glory.

Syndicated via Scripture Union. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Terry Schneider