Once again the scene shifts. The exile is receding in the past and the remnant of Israel—those who survived God’s judgment and Babylon’s cruelty—are working hard to rebuild their lives and communities. But life back in Jerusalem under Persian rule is not faring as well as they hoped. So once again a prophetic voice breaks the silence to address a discouraged population. Most people are facing terrific difficulties. Despite what their prophets have spoken, Jerusalem is a mere shadow of the great city their parents and grandparents knew. People doubt whether God is really alive, or really all that powerful, or really even cares. But the faithful know that God is powerful and does care; they are determined to convince their countrymen that He has their well-being in mind. He can make this people and this place great again, if they just trust and follow Him. Soon the whole world will be caught up in this brand new thing God is doing.
This section of Isaiah is written to a singular female as if she is the mother of the Jews. But this woman isn’t just any woman—she is Jerusalem. Cities are often described as female because they are like mothers supporting a brood of children (the population). This capital city of God’s special favor, of God’s presence, is filled with His people of the promise and is poised to become something new and glorious.
60 Arise, shine, for your light has broken through!
The Eternal One’s brilliance has dawned upon you.
2 See truly; look carefully—darkness blankets the earth;
people all over are cloaked in darkness.
But God will rise and shine on you;
the Eternal’s bright glory will shine on you, a light for all to see.
3 Nations north and south, peoples east and west, will be drawn to your light,
will find purpose and direction by your light.
In the radiance of your rising, you will enlighten the leaders of nations.
4 Don’t be shy; don’t be doubtful; lift up your eyes and look around.
They have gathered all around you, eager to come and be close to you.
And your children will come back to this land:
your sons from the farthest places of wandering,
and your daughters gently carried home.
5 And when you see it, your face will glow;
your heart will race and be filled with joy;
For great ships will arrive with gifts from across the sea,
and the wealth of nations will make their way to you.
6 Herd after herd of camels will cover the land,
caravans arriving daily from south and southwest: Midian, Ephah,
Even Sheba with gifts of gold and frankincense.
They will announce for all the world to hear, “The Eternal be praised!”
7 Kedar’s flocks will be gathered for you;
Nebaioth’s rams will be available for sacrifices.
Eternal One: When they are offered on My altar, I will accept them.
I will make My glorious house even more glorious.
8 Who are these sailing to our ports like clouds through the sky,
like doves winging their way home to their window sills?
9 Breezy coastlands will wait expectantly for Me; the ships of Tarshish arrive first
to bring your children back from distant lands
Carrying in their holds the silver and gold—
to honor the name of the Eternal your God,
The Holy One of Israel who has made you beautiful.
10 People will come from different countries and different cultures
to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and make her strong again.
Their kings will help you however you need.
Eternal One: I punished you because I was furious with you,
reduced you to little on account of your persistent wrongdoing;
But I will restore you, reclaim you, and rebuild you because I cannot help but love you.
11 Now your gates will stay open to a constant stream of gifts;
all day and night they will not be shut
As the wealth of nations is brought to you
with their kings leading the processions.
12 Any nations that abstain, any peoples who decline from serving you
will simply disappear;
they will be destroyed.
13 Eternal One: Meanwhile, the most beautiful materials will arrive from Lebanon—
cypress, box, and pine—to rebuild and decorate the place where I promised to be,
My house where I will rest in glory among you.
14 And all the children of those who had bullied you, attacked and abused you,
all those who hated you will come crawling on their knees and bowing at your feet.
And they will address you as “city of God, place of the Eternal,
the Holy One of Israel’s Zion, sweet heaven on earth.”
15 Eternal One: Although you have suffered abandonment, hatred, and hopeless despair,
and no one dared to pass through,
I will make you a place of lofty beauty for all time,
filled and overflowing with joy from generation to generation.
16 You will be enriched by the world and its kings,
and you will know for certain that I am the Eternal,
Your Liberator, your Redeemer, the Strong One of Jacob.
17 I will bring you gold instead of bronze, silver instead of iron,
bronze instead of wood, iron instead of stone.
Your government will be founded and grounded;
I will make peace your governor, and righteousness your ruler.
18 You’ll never hear again, “Help! Call the guards!”
Violence, destruction, and ruin will be things of the past in Jerusalem.
You will name the city walls Salvation, and the city gates Praise.
19 You won’t need the sun to brighten the day
or the moon and lamps to give you light.
This Hebrew title “Messiah” is based on a verb rightly translated “to anoint.” Kings and priests are “messiah-ed” during this period. But prophets like Isaiah and those who stand in the tradition of the great Hebrew prophets are also anointed. Living and working in Jerusalem in these days is much different than in earlier times. Wracked by the ages and ruined by overt destruction and covert neglect, the citizens of the holy city face disillusionment and disappointment. The people who come back after exile in Babylon do not return to a gloriously restored city and temple, but to a difficult land and contentious neighbors. The prophet is inspired by the spirit of God to restore hope, to help, and to comfort. As a spiritual guide he is compelled to convince people that God remains with them and that He still desires what is good, right, and true for and within them. Centuries later, in a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus will pick up the scroll of Isaiah and read these inspiring words. He will say in no uncertain terms that the Scriptures are being fulfilled right then and there in their hearing (Luke 4:16-21). The year of jubilee will have arrived.
The Eternal One will be all the light you ever need.
Your God will provide your glory, brilliance for all time.
20 Your sun will never set;
your moon will never be eclipsed in shadow,
For you’ll bask in the Eternal’s light and silver splendor forever.
Never again will you suffer the dark night of despair and gloom of mourning.
21 All the people will be right with God,
and they’ll stay in the land they possess forever.
Eternal One: I will plant them there like a sturdy sapling with My own hands.
I will tend them and take pride in their growing.
22 Just watch, they will develop robustly;
from so small a beginning, they will multiply and become a mighty nation.
I, the Eternal One, will make it happen soon.