The creation the prophet sees—the new earth—is radically different from the one everyone knows. At some deep level, everyone recognizes that the everyday world is not the world as God intends it; things are not the way they are supposed to be. But God will make everything new again. In that day, the painful past will recede and vanish. Unbridled joy and celebration will eclipse grief and sorrow. Jerusalem, the holy city, will become the center of the world. Long lives will be the norm. Peace will be secure without exception. God’s blessing will settle over all creation. Creation itself, with all its complexities, will be made new. No predator. No prey. Just peace and harmony throughout. This is a world only God can create when He creates it anew.
66 Eternal One: Heaven is My throne, and earth is where I rest My feet.
So what kind of structure would you build Me?
What man-made space could provide Me a resting place?
2 Everything is the product of My hand—My being and My doing—
that’s how all you see came to be; I made it all.[a]
Nevertheless, I am interested in and concerned about even just one person
who is humble and downhearted and trembles at my word.
If we could see things as they truly are, we’d see the universe as one giant temple founded and perfected by God’s hand. But even the universe with its staggering dimensions—dimensions that stretch the imagination—cannot contain its Maker. God is greater still. So how could some house made for Him on earth ever be grand enough, glorious enough, great enough? It could not; but with all His greatness and power, God still has His eye on us. What does God want from us if not the best building we can build, and also the most and best sacrifices and rituals that we can possibly perform? Simply put, God is looking for people who are humble, broken, and ready to follow what He says.
3 Eternal One: Whoever slaughters an ox without humility is no better
than one who kills a man;
Whoever sacrifices a lamb without brokenness is no different
than one who breaks a dog’s neck;
Whoever presents a grain offering without fear is no different
than one who offers pig’s blood;
Whoever burns incense without obedience is no better
than one who worships an idol.
They’ve made their own choices
and seem happy enough with their detestable practices.
4 But I have a choice, too, and I choose to punish them;
I will bring on them what they fear most.
For when I called, no one answered;
when I spoke, they refused to listen.
Instead they did all the wrong things and made terrible choices—
what I expressly said that I hate.
God desires to bring people like these close and make them safe, but He cannot if they refuse. His loving purpose is for them to live well, to be well, but He cannot make it so if they choose badly and do what He hates.
5 So, if you are one who trembles at His word,
listen closely to what the Eternal One has to say:
Eternal One: I know that some people, even your own family,
reject you because you accept Me,
And they’re saying, “Let the Eternal receive the honor He deserves,
so that we, too, can know your joy.” But they’ll only know sorrow and shame.
6 Can you hear it? There’s a commotion in the city,
great rumbling coming from the temple area!
Ah, it is the Eternal thundering in to take on His foes.
7-8 Have you ever heard of a woman who gave birth before she went into labor?
Have you ever seen a woman who delivered a son without feeling a thing?
Do you think it’s possible for the land to go through labor in an instant,
or to bear a nation, to be new and strong, in a single day?
Nevertheless, Zion suffered only a moment
before she gave birth to her children!
9 Will I open the womb and not deliver?
I have made this place labor in terrible pain,
But do you think I won’t help it give birth?
That is what I, the Eternal One have to say.
The prophet reflects on the mystery of birth. Jerusalem, the mother, is about to give birth to a new nation. God, the midwife, is there to make sure the birth goes well. Throughout Isaiah’s prophecy it is clear that God has initiated all the things that have happened to Israel and Judah. The destruction of Jerusalem and her glorious temple, the decades of exile in a foreign land, and now the return and restoration of Jerusalem are God’s work, pure and simple. Now all of these events and judgments point to a single moment when Jerusalem will resume its place as God’s chosen city and will open its gates to believing pilgrims. The prophet asks: will God prevent this new birth from happening? After having brought His people this far, it is unthinkable that God would turn back now.
10 Eternal One: So be happy for Jerusalem;
give her hearty congratulations, whoever holds her dear.
Take part in this joyous celebration, especially if you remember her grief.
11 For you are her children, and she is giving you the milk of comfort and peace.
Drink at her comforting breasts with satisfaction that all will be well.
12 I will rain down prosperity on Jerusalem, peace abundant on Zion,
and flood her with wealth from all over the world.
Like a thundering river, the riches will come down.
Like a toddler, you’ll be held, carried, nourished, and comforted.
13 As a mother soothes her child, so I will comfort you.
And Jerusalem will be so nice, feel so good and safe to you.
14 When you see what I have in store, it will ease your mind and lift your heart;
you will flourish like the grass!
Now is the time for Jerusalem to rejoice. Mourning the fate of Israel and Judah has been a Jewish preoccupation for a long time. Ever since Assyria came down and took the northern territory captive, the people have been grief-stricken. But now that God has announced the good news, mourning is no longer appropriate; it indicates a lack of faith in His plans. After enduring so many years of grief and desolation, can God’s covenant people now turn and trust Him to deliver this baby overnight? Trust and joy belong together. Zion is like a fertile young woman; she will have all the children that God wills and she desires. Be happy, the prophet says, and let the celebrations begin.
The Eternal’s power will be clearly evident to His servants;
but His rage will be unleashed against His enemies.
15 Look now, the Eternal is coming with a vengeance
that scorches all His foes with flames of fire;
Whooshing like a whirlwind, His chariots rush with punishing fury.
16 God comes with fiery anger and flashing sword.
The Eternal One will execute His judgment,
And many people will die on that day.
Eternal One: 17 Those who perform sanctifying and purifying rituals to serve false gods in gardens, and then proceed to do whatever they see the leader do—eating impure things such as pigs, snakes, and rats—won’t live to do it again. This is My word to you.
18 Because I know what and why they do what they do, the time is coming when I will bring people together from all over the world. Everyone will come here and have a chance to see and know who I am, in all My weighty significance and splendor. 19 I will put a sign among them and send the survivors of My people to Tarshish, Put, and Lud (where those great archers live), from Tubal east of Lud, and Javan, which is near it. I’ll bring them here from places so far away that they’ve never heard My name, much less had a chance to see My glory. But they’ll hear about Me, far and wide among the nations. 20 And they will bring the surviving members of your family back as if they are a grain offering from all the nations. They’ll come by every conceivable means—on horse, camel, donkey, or mule, in wagons or litters—they’ll come to Jerusalem, My holy mountain. They will be delivered just as the Israelites bring their grain offerings to Me in a clean container at the temple. 21 And out of those who return, I will make priests and Levites. This is My word to you.
22 Because just as the new heavens and the new earth that I am making
will go on by My enduring will,
So your name and the people
who come from you will go on as well.
23 From one month to the next, on Sabbath after Sabbath,
everyone, every living thing, will come to this holy place
To honor Me as God of all.
This is My word to you.
24 They’ll visit the site where the people who rejected Me lie rotting on the ground,
crawling with worms that never die on a fire that just keeps smoldering.[b]
All who see it will recoil at the horrible sight.