Lesson 22: Chapters 58-60
Part III: The Book of Consolation

Mighty and Eternal Lord,
You continually call us to repentance and to put our trust in You, forsaking our own ways and submitting ourselves to Your divine plan for our lives. Be patient with us, Lord, when we struggle to understand, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit give each of us the protection we need to combat evil in our communities and in the world. In those times when the wicked seem to overpower the good, help us to know that those evil forces in the world have no power over You. Help us in times of distress to remember that we already know the outcome of the battle between good and evil "Christ will triumph over evil and we will share in His victory so long as we remain faithful. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in today's lesson, as we pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The Word blamed the children of Israel on account of such a fast as this, exhorting them by Isaiah the prophet and saying, "This is not the fast or the day that I have chosen, that a person should humble his soul." That we may be able to show what kind of persons we should be when we fast, and of what character the fast should be, listen again to God commanding Moses: "In the tenth day of this seventh month, there shall be a day of atonement; a convocation, and a holy day shall it be to you; and you shall humble your souls, and offer whole burnt offerings to the Lord." And afterwards, that the law might be defined on this point, he proceeds to say, "Every soul that shall not humble itself shall be cut off from the people."
St. Athanasius, Festal Letters, 1.4 (referring to Isaiah 58:3-4 and quoting from Lev 23:26-32)

In Chapter 55 God commanded the people through Isaiah to give up their own plans and their own words and thoughts (55:7), because His words and thoughts were far beyond their words and thoughts, and their plans were opposed to His divine plan for their future happiness (55:8-9). God challenged them to consider the infinite difference between His divinity and their humanity and to submit to Him in trust and obedience. In Chapters 58-59 God calls His people to demonstrate humble repentance and to live in true righteousness so they will be able to experience His promised deliverance.

Chapter 58: The Call to True Righteousness

Through His prophet, God calls His people to be examples of repentance and righteousness. Isaiah will focus on three aspects of being examples of true righteousness:

  1. They must live in the joy and obedience of true discipleship (Is 58:1-2).
  2. They must demonstrate the discipline of fasting combined with acts of charity (Is 58:3-12).
  3. They must be obedient to the Sabbath obligation (Is 58:13-14).

Isaiah 58:1-2 ~ The Call for Repentance
1 Shout for all you are worth, do not hold back, raise your voice like a trumpet. To my people proclaim their rebellious acts, to the House of Jacob, their sins. 2 They seek for me day after day, they long to know my ways, like a nation that has acted uprightly and not forsaken the law of its God. They ask me for laws that are upright, they long to be near God.

God calls His people not to hold back but to boldly declare their sins. If they submit in this way and are obedient to His Laws that place them on the path of righteousness, they will become true disciples of the Master and will draw closer to God. True discipleship is demonstrated by learning and following the Word. The person who only listens but then does not apply what he has learned to his life is not a true disciple.

Question: The covenant people profess to "seek" God and want to "know" His "ways" (verse 2), but what is the problem in their relationship with Yahweh?
Answer: They have not repented their sins, and therefore they have not been committed from their hearts to fulfill their professed loyalty in a covenant relationship with God. All they have are empty words and no actions to back up those words. They want justice but they are not willing to commit themselves to acting justly in their relationships with others.

Isaiah 58:3-7 ~ The Israelites Complain and Abuse the Law of Fasting
3 "Why have we fasted, if you do not see, why mortify ourselves if you never notice?" Look, you seek your own pleasure on your fast days and you exploit all your workmen; 4 look, the only purpose of your fasting is to quarrel and squabble and strike viciously with your fist. Fasting like yours today will never make your voice heard on high. 5 Is that the sort of fast that pleases me, a day when a person inflicts pain on himself? Hanging your head like a reed, spreading out sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call fasting, a day acceptable to Yahweh? 6 Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me: to break unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break all yokes? 7 Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor; if you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own kin?

Question: What complaint does Isaiah say the people make to God's call for repentance in verse 3a?
Answer: They complain because God has not been honoring their fasting; they feel they have humbled themselves by abstaining from food but God has failed to acknowledge their act of piety.

Question: What is Isaiah's response to their complaint in 3b-5? What are the five abuses that are listed?
Answer: Isaiah provides God's answer to their accusation. The problem is that their discipline of fasting has produced no evidence of a change of heart. They show their false penance by empty outward signs for public display and by unjust actions:

  1. public self-mortification
  2. the public show of repentance by handing one's head and wearing sackcloth and ashes
  3. quarreling with each other
  4. committing acts of violence
  5. exploiting the oppressed

Question: In contrast to the list of five abuses in verses 3-5, in what five ways does God define true acts of humility and repentance that are pleasing to Him in verses 6-7?
Answer: True acts of humility include:

  1. righting injustice by freeing the oppressed
  2. sharing food with the hungry
  3. sheltering the homeless poor
  4. clothing the naked
  5. aiding family members in distress

The only fast required according to the Law was on the Day of Atonement (Day of Expiation and in Hebrew Yom Kippur) in Leviticus 23:26-32. The command required: Anyone who fails to fast that day will be outlawed from his people; anyone who works that day I shall eliminate from his people. No work will be done; this is a perpetual law for your descendants wherever you live. It must be a day of complete rest for you. You will fast; on the evening of the ninth day of the month, from this evening till the following evening, you will rest completely (Lev 23:30-32). But at times the religious or civil authorities prescribed a number of fasts to be added either to commemorate national disasters or to implore God's mercy and help (see 1 Sam 14:24; 1 Kng 18:41; 21:9, 12; Zec 7:1-5; 8:18-19, Jer 36:6, 9; Jon 3:5; Mt 9:14).

Jesus acknowledged the discipline of fasting united to prayer and almsgiving that is pleasing to God in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:1-18. In verses 16-18 Jesus warns that to properly humble your spirit in the discipline of fasting, one must not be a hypocrite and publically advertise acts of penance to receive the admiration of others. Those who act in that way will not receive a heavenly reward. One's act of humility in submitting to God in the act of fasting should be reflected in a spiritually renewed heart that is yielded to God in acts of righteousness. This is the problem with the people of Isaiah's time. In Isaiah 58:5-7 the prophet contrasts the people's unrighteous actions with what God desires to teach them that their actions need to demonstrate sincerity and humility as part of their fasting. In summary the actions God wants to see for all of us are:

  1. The demonstration of true repentance and humility flowing from a righteous heart in turning back to God through one's actions of charity and justice.
  2. Generosity in sharing the blessings one's wealth with the poor.
  3. The commitment to loving and caring for other family members.

Isaiah 58:9-12 ~ The Blessings of Righteous Actions
8 Then your light will blaze out like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Saving justice for you will go ahead and Yahweh's glory come behind you. 9 Then you will cry for help and Yahweh will answer; you will call and he will say, "I am here." If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist and malicious words, 10 if you deprive yourself for the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkest hour will be like noon. 11 Yahweh will always guide you, will satisfy your needs in the scorched land; he will give strength to your bones and you will be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never run dry. 12 Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt; you will build on age-old foundations. You will be called "Breach-mender", "Restorer of streets to be lived in."

Isaiah tells the people that a change of heart demonstrated by righteous and just actions will result in God's approval and in God's blessings.
Question: What are the blessings that Isaiah lists in verses 9-12?

  1. The Lord's divine presence and the light of His glory will surround them.
  2. God will answer their prayers.
  3. Their spiritual darkness will be displaced by God's light, and the Lord will refresh their souls.
  4. They will rebuild their long abandoned cities and God will provide for them (the one temporal blessing).
  5. God's presence with His people will allow them to accomplish all His plans for them.

Isaiah 58:13-14 ~ Observing the Sabbath Obligation
13 If you refrain from breaking the Sabbath, from taking your own pleasure on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath "Delightful", and the day sacred to Yahweh "Honorable", if you honor it by abstaining from travel, from seeking your own pleasure and from too much talk, 14 then you will find true happiness in Yahweh, and I shall lead you in triumph over the heights of the land. I shall feed you on the heritage of your father Jacob, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.

This is the second time Isaiah has brought up the Sabbath obligation since 56:1-8 where the Sabbath obligation was mentioned in verses 2, 4 and 6 (see the previous lesson). He will mention the Sabbath again in the concluding passage of this book in Isaiah 66:23.

Question: What are the two necessary characteristics of true Sabbath observance that Isaiah describes in verses 13-14?

  1. True Sabbath observance means giving up the ordinary routine of the other six days.
  2. True Sabbath observance means finding joy in worshiping the Lord on the one day set aside from all other days as a day of worship in communion with the Holy One of Israel and putting God above all other things in one's life.

Chapter 59: Israel's Sin and God's Deliverance

Isaiah returns again to the issue of Israel's sins (Is 59:1-15a). But he also promises the Lord will fight for His covenant people by conquering their enemies and by bringing His promised Redeemer-Messiah to Zion (59:15b-21).

Isaiah 59:1-8 ~ The Root of Israel's Problem
1 No, the arm of Yahweh is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear, 2 but your guilty deeds have made a gulf between you and your God. Your sins have made him hide his face from you so as not to hear you, 3 since your hands are stained with blood and your fingers with guilt; your lips utter lies, your tongues murmur wickedness. 4 No one makes upright accusations or pleads sincerely. All rely on empty words, utter falsehood, conceive trouble and give birth to evil. 5 They are hatching adders' eggs and weaving a spider's web; eat one of their eggs and you die, crush one and a viper emerges. 6 Their webs are useless for clothing, their deeds are useless for wearing; their deeds are deeds of guilt, violence fills their hands. 7 Their feet run to do evil; they are quick to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are thoughts of guilt, wherever they go there is havoc and ruin. 8 They do not know the way of peace, there is no fair judgment in their course, they have made their own crooked paths, and no one treading them knows any peace.

Isaiah begins by declaring that the root of the people's problem is that their sins have separated them from God; their "guilty deeds have made a gulf" between them and God. This is the problem of sin in general and why all sin must be avoided and/or sincerely repented so that communion with the Lord God can be restored.

Question: What is the result of the gulf that sin has made between God and His people, and how does Isaiah list their sins? How are their sins described as involving the entire body?
Answer: God has turned away from them and does not hear them.

  1. Their hands and fingers are stained with the blood of the innocent.
  2. Their lips and tongues speak lies and wickedness.
  3. No one speaks with truth and sincerity.
  4. They place their trust in their lies that cause trouble and yield a web of evil.
  5. Their feet run to do evil.
  6. Their thoughts are sinful.
  7. Their acts produce havoc and ruin.
  8. They have rejected walking the path of peace.
  9. They are incapable of making fair judgments.

The unrepentant people have placed their trust in themselves and their "empty words" or "empty arguments." Their lives are devoid of any spiritual substance.

Isaiah 59:9-15a ~ The Consequences of their Sins
9 Thus fair judgment is remote from us nor can uprightness overtake us. We looked for light and all is darkness, for brightness and we walk in gloom. 10 Like the blind we feel our way along walls, we grope our way like people without eyes. We stumble as though noon were twilight, among the robust we are like the dead. 11 We growl, all of us, like bears, like doves we make no sound but moaning, waiting for the fair judgment that never comes, for salvation, but that is far away. 12 How often we have rebelled against you and our sins bear witness against us. Our rebellious acts are indeed with us, we are well aware of our guilt: 13 rebellion and denial of Yahweh, turning our back on our God, talking violence and revolt, murmuring lies in our heart. 14 Fair judgment is driven away and saving justice stands aloof, for good faith has stumbled in the street and sincerity cannot enter. 15a Good faith has vanished; anyone abstaining from evil is victimized.

The consequence of filling their lives with sin was that the people of God no longer recognized the virtues of justice and righteousness (59:9). They were so far removed from spiritual "light" that all they only saw "darkness," and they growled and moaned for justice and salvation that could not come in their present condition (59:10-11). In verses 9-15a Isaiah confesses the nation's collective sins, including himself in their collective failure. His confession is similar to what he confessed to God in Isaiah 6:5 and what the prophet Daniel confessed (Dan 9:1-19), also including himself among the transgressors. The nation is so full of sin that there is no place remaining for truth, honesty, justice, and righteousness (59:14-15a).

Isaiah 59:15b-21 ~ The Promise of God's Deliverance
15b Yahweh saw this and was displeased that there was no fair judgment. 16 He saw there was no one and wondered there was no one to intervene. So he made his own arm his mainstay, his own saving justice his support. 17 He put on saving justice like a breastplate, on his head the helmet of salvation. He put on the clothes of vengeance like a tunic and wrapped himself in jealousy like a cloak. 18 To each he repays his due, retribution to his enemies, reprisals on his foes, to the coasts and islands he will repay their due. 19 From the west, Yahweh's name will be feared, and from the east, his glory, for he will come like a pent-up stream impelled by the breath of Yahweh. 20 Then for Zion will come a redeemer, for those who stop rebelling in Jacob, declares Yahweh. 21 "For my part, this is my covenant with them," says Yahweh. "My spirit with which I endowed you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, will not leave your mouth, or the mouths of your children, or the mouths of your children's children," says Yahweh, "henceforth and forever."

In this passage, in spite of Yahweh's displeasure, Isaiah dramatically describes how God will intervene in Israel's history to bring about the covenant people's deliverance since there is no one else He can send. Isaiah announces Yahweh's intention of come Himself to save His people. It is similar to the declaration in Ezekiel 34:11-12 when Yahweh says: I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it. As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness.

Isaiah uses the imagery of a soldier making ready for battle to describe God preparing to do battle for His people. Previously Isaiah used similar imagery concerning God's work of salvation in Isaiah 11:5; 49:3, 9; 52:7 and now in 59:17. In Isaiah chapters 11 and 49 the focus was on God's Servant-Messiah, but now in chapters 52 and 59, the focus is on God's coming kingdom of His delivered people. Perhaps thinking of this passage, St. Paul will use the same imagery in his letter to the Christians of Ephesus to stand strong in the face of opposition: So stand your ground, with truth a belt round your waist, and uprightness a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the Gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to quench the burning arrows of the Evil One. And you must take salvation as your helmet and the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God (Eph 6:14-17). But Paul's point is that the armor of God used to bring salvation in the New Covenant is now available to all Christians to spread the Gospel of salvation and to stand against the forces of evil daily in their walk of faith.

Question: Compare what Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:14-17 with the imagery Isaiah uses in 11:5; 49:2; 52:7 and 59:17.

Belt of truth Ephesians 6:14 Isaiah 11:5
Breastplate of righteousness Ephesians 6:14 Isaiah 59:17
Gospel of peace Ephesians 6:15 Isaiah 52:7
Helmet of salvation Ephesians 6:17 Isaiah 59:17
Sword of Spirit/Word of God Ephesians 6:17 Isaiah 49:2

Notice that God and the Christian do not require any offensive weapons. God's "strong arm" is all that is needed because no force in the universe can stand against Yahweh the One True God!

18 To each he repays his due, retribution to his enemies, reprisals on his foes, to the coasts and islands he will repay their due. 19 From the west, Yahweh's name will be feared, and from the east, his glory, for he will come like a pent-up stream impelled by the breath of Yahweh. 20 Then for Zion will come a redeemer, for those who stop rebelling in Jacob, declares Yahweh. 21 "For my part, this is my covenant with them," says Yahweh. "My spirit with which I endowed you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, will not leave your mouth, or the mouths of your children, or the mouths of your children's children," says Yahweh, "henceforth and forever."

God will accomplish His salvation in three phases in verses 18-21:

  1. God's wrath will be poured out on His enemies wherever they reside across the face of the earth (59:18).
  2. The nations will fear His name and know His glory; they will revere Him (59:19).
  3. A Redeemer will come to Zion and save the ones of Jacob who repent (59:20).
  4. The Lord will establish an everlasting covenant with His people (59:21).

The Redeemer who will come for Zion in verse 20 is Jesus Christ. St. Paul will refer to this verse from Isaiah 59:20 in his letter to the Christians of Rome in Romans 11:26-27. Paul writes that all the redeemed will see salvation on the day when Jesus Christ returns to establish His eternal Kingdom: As Scripture says: From Zion will come the Redeemer, he will remove godlessness from Jacob. And this will be my covenant with the, when I take their sins away.

The promise in the fourth phase (59:21) is that God's Spirit will be with His people forever, and they will see the evidence of His Spirit upon their children and grandchildren throughout the generations of the faithful families of believers. This prophecy is repeated by the prophet Jeremiah a century later in his description of the New Covenant God will bring to His people in Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Question: How have these prophecies been fulfilled? See Jn 20:22-23 and Acts 2:1-3.text-align:center;line-height:normal'> Answer: The Holy Spirit was first given to the leadership of the Church when Jesus breathed His spirit upon the Apostles in the Upper Room on Resurrection Sunday, and then to the entire Church at Pentecost.

The prophecy will have its final fulfillment in the Second Advent of the Christ when He returns in glory to collect His Bride, the Church, and to bring about the Final Judgment.

Chapter 60: All the Nations will see Yahweh's Glory

Chapter 60 can be divided into three parts:

  1. The glory of Yahweh's "Light" will be revealed to the nations (60:1-3).
  2. Yahweh's blessings on Zion/the Church (Is 60:4-16).
  3. God's special blessings upon His covenant people (60:17-22).

Isaiah 60:1-6 is part of the Liturgy of the Word for the First Reading on the Feast of Epiphany because the Church sees in these verses the symbols of her universality.

Isaiah 60:1-3 ~ Yahweh's Glory Revealed to the Nations
1 Arise, shine out, for your light has come, and the glory of Yahweh has risen on you. 2 Look! Though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples, on you Yahweh is rising and over you his glory can be seen. 3 The nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness.

God's light of divine revelation will come to all the nations of the earth. That "Light" is the Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. This truth is revealed in the Gospel of John:

3 The nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness.
The Gentile nations will come to the "light" of Christ that is preached in the New Jerusalem. The prophecy is fulfilled in the Kingdom of the Church and the peoples and rulers of the Gentile nations who unite themselves to Christ's Kingdom from across the earth.

Isaiah 60:4-16 ~ Yahweh's Blessings on Zion
4 Lift up your eyes and look around: all are assembling and coming towards you, your sons coming from far away and your daughters being carried on the hip. 5 At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart will throb and dilate, since the richness of the sea will flow to you, 6 the wealth of the nations come to you; camels in throngs will fill your streets, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; everyone in Saba will come, bringing gold and incense and proclaiming Yahweh's praises. 7 All the flocks of Kedar will gather inside you, the rams of Nebaioth will be at your service as acceptable victims on my altar, and I shall glorify my glorious house. 8 Who are these flying like a cloud, like doves to their dovecote? 9 Why, the coasts and islands put their hope in me and the vessels of Tarshish take the lead in bringing your children from far away, and their silver and gold with them, for the sake of the name of Yahweh your God, of the Holy One of Israel who has made you glorious. 10 Foreigners will rebuild your walls and their kings will serve you. For though I struck you in anger, in mercy I have pitied you. 11 Your gates will always be opened, never closed, either day or night, for the riches of the nations to be brought you and their kings to be let in. 12 For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish, and the nations will be utterly destroyed. 13 The glory of the Lebanon will come to you, cypress, plane-tree, box-tree, one and all, to adorn the site of my sanctuary, for me to honor the place where I stand. 14 Your oppressors' children will humbly approach you, at your feet all who despised you will fall addressing you as "City of Yahweh", "Zion of the Holy One of Israel". 15 Instead of your being forsaken and hated, avoided by everyone, I will make you an object of eternal pride, a source of joy from age to age. 16 You will suck the milk of nations, you will suck the wealth of kings, and you will know that I, Yahweh, am your Savior, that your redeemer is the Mighty One of Jacob.

In the day that Zion is restored there will be a great procession of the children of Israel that had been scattered and lost into the Gentile nations who will return to Yahweh. This will be accomplished when the Gospel of salvation is carried by Jesus' Apostles and disciples into the Gentile nations. It is a "gathering in" that is still on-going.

In verses 5-9, the wealth of nations will come to the "new Jerusalem" of the Church. The offerings of these nations will be blessed by the Lord as treasure pours in to honor God and support His Kingdom. The "children" in verse 9 (literally "sons") describes both Jews and Gentiles who are children of the Church of the eternal covenant who will honor and place their faith in the God of Israel. The universal Church is adorned by gifts of peoples from across the face of the earth. The Vatican has collections of these gifts from the nations down through the centuries, and another example is the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC where nations from around the world have given beautiful mosaics depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary and infant Jesus reflecting their own ethnicity and culture.

Question: What do these verses reveal about God's divine plan?
Answer: They reveal that it is God's divine plan to expand His Kingdom to include the nations of the entire earth.

The plan will be revealed by Jesus in His commands to the Apostles and disciples after His resurrection in Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; and the many languages the people heard during the miracle at Pentecost in Acts 2:5-6.

In verses 10-16 the future relationship between God and the Israelites/Jews and the nations includes both submission and partnership. The nations will worship with the original covenant people but the foreigners will rebuild the walls of "new Jerusalem", and their kings will bring their bounty (60:10-12). That the city gates will stand open continuously is a sign of the lasting peace and security of the "city" that welcomes all peoples (verse 11). The same vision of kings of the earth bringing treasure and the opened gates of the "new Jerusalem" is recorded by St. John in Revelation 21:24-26 (see quote below concerning Is 60:19-20).

14 Your oppressors' children will humbly approach you, at your feet all who despised you will fall addressing you as "City of Yahweh", "Zion of the Holy One of Israel".
This is the last time the title "Holy One of Israel" appears in the Book of Isaiah. It is found twelve times in the first two sections in chapters 1-39, and it is used fourteen times in the third part, in the Book of Consolation, in chapters 40-66. This title appears only four other times in the entire Old Testament. Biblical scholar Dr. Herbert Wolf writes, "Since the doctrine of God's holiness was so important to Isaiah, he used this title repeatedly, and it became an unmistakable sign of his authorship" (Interpreting Isaiah, the Suffering and Glory of the Messiah, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1985, page 34). This is more evidence pointing to a single author of the Book of Isaiah.

The Gentile nations will not only worship with the Jews as equals and receive God's blessings (verses 14-15), but they will also delight in God as their Savior and Redeemer (60:16). This prophecy will be repeated by the post-exile prophet Zechariah in his vision of the splendor of the "new Jerusalem" after the eschatological battle (Zec 14:1-11). Zechariah writes: The wealth of all the surrounding nations will be heaped together: gold, silver, clothing, in vast quantity. After this, all the survivors of all the nations which have attacked Jerusalem will come up year after year to worship the King, Yahweh Sabaoth, and to keep the feast of Shelters (Zec 14:16). The Feast of Shelters/Tabernacles celebrated the giving of the Law and ratification of the covenant at Mount Sinai (Ex 24). Zechariah foresees a new covenant and a new Law which will be celebrated in a new Feast of Shelters.

Isaiah 60:17-22 ~ God's Special Blessings upon His Covenant People
17 For bronze I shall bring gold and for iron I shall bring silver, and for wood, bronze, and for stone, iron; I shall make Peace your administration and Saving Justice your government. 18 Violence will no longer be heard of in your country, nor devastation and ruin within your frontiers. You will call your walls "Salvation" and your gates "Praise." 19 No more will the sun give you daylight, nor moonlight shine on you, but Yahweh will be your everlasting light, your God will be your splendor. 20 Your sun will set no more nor will your moon wane, for Yahweh will be your everlasting light and your days of mourning will be over. 21 Your people, all of them upright, will possess the country forever, the shoot [netzer] I myself have planted, my handiwork, for my own glory. 22 The smallest will grow into a thousand, the weakest one into a mighty nation. When the time is ripe, I, Yahweh, shall quickly bring it about. [...] = IBHE, vol. III, page 1723.

In Isaiah 60:17-22 the prophet announces a three-fold blessing for God's people:

  1. The administration of the new Zion will be built upon righteousness (verses 17-18).
  2. The spiritually endowed people will be blessed with God's "everlasting light" (verses 19-20).
  3. God will bless His righteous people, and their numbers will increase until they are a mighty nation/kingdom (verses 21-22).

In the first blessing, Isaiah describes a wonderful city built with imperishable materials (verse 17). In addition righteousness and peace will govern His Kingdom, doing away with corruption and violence (verse 18).

In the second blessing, Isaiah's imagery is described in apocalyptic terms in verses 19-20: No more will the sun give you daylight, nor moonlight shine on you, but Yahweh will be your everlasting light, your God will be your splendor. 20 Your sun will set no more nor will your moon wane, for Yahweh will be your everlasting light and your days of mourning will be over.

Question: In Isaiah's vision, why is it that the light from the sun and moon no longer necessary?
Answer: God's glory will be all the "light" His people will need forever.

Isaiah's vision appears to be the same vision St. John will see in the Book of Revelation when he writes about the new Jerusalem coming down from Heaven:

Question: Compare Isaiah 60:1-20 with Revelation 21:23-27 and 22:5.

Isaiah Revelation
No more will the sun give you daylight, nor moonlight shine on you, but Yahweh will be your everlasting light, your God will be your splendor (Is 60:19). ...and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God, and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it (Rev 21:23).
Arise, shine out, for your light has come, and the glory of Yahweh has risen on you ... Yahweh is rising and over you his glory can be seen. Nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness... the wealth of nations come to you (Is 60:1-5). The nations will come to its light and the kings of the earth will bring it their treasures (Rev 21:24).
Your gates will always be open, never closed, either day or night... (Is 60:11). Its gates will never be closed by day "and there will be no night there (Rev 21:25).
I shall make Peace your administration and Saving Justice your government (Is 60:17) Nothing unclean may come into it: no one who does what is loathsome or false (Rev 21:27).
... for Yahweh will be your everlasting light (Is 60:20). And night will be abolished; they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign forever and ever (Rev 22:5).

Isaiah's point is that life as experienced in the first Creation event with a sun and moon to regulate time will cease as God brings His people into a timeless new Creation!

In verses 21-22 Isaiah promises the covenant people will be founded in righteousness and will "possess the land forever" (60:21). Isaiah has announced this same promise several times, and now he does so again in association with the promise of the Davidic Messiah. In Isaiah 9:1-7 Isaiah foretold of the Davidic Messiah, the "Prince-of-Peace", who would "extend his dominion in peace over the throne of David and over his kingdom to make it secure and sustain it in fair judgment and integrity" (Is 9:7-7). Then in Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah described the Messiah as God's "branch" (netzer) and the "shoot" from the root of Jesse who would rule the nations: A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot [branch/netzer] will grow from his roots. Now in verses 21-22, Isaiah uses the same Hebrew word, netzer, to describe God's covenant people whom He will prepare for this glorious future: Your people, all of them upright, will possess the country forever, the shoot [netzer] I myself have planted, my handiwork, for my own glory. 22 The smallest will grow into a thousand, the weakest one into a mighty nation. When the time is ripe, I, Yahweh, shall quickly bring it about.

The Kingdom of the people of God will be planted by the Davidic Messiah and after a small beginning will become a "mighty nation" that is the everlasting fifth Kingdom prophesized by the prophet Daniel: In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last forever (Dan 2:44). This is the Kingdom of the Church of Jesus Christ that is supported by the Christians from all the nations of the earth until the end of time as we know it.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: How do you observe the New Covenant Sabbath of the Lord's Day? Do you fulfill the two requirements mentioned by Isaiah in 58:13-14? Do you take joy in communion with the Lord God in the covenant banquet of the Eucharist and do you make the day different for all other days of the week? Share how you and your family make the Lord's Day special so that you can claim the blessings promised for true Sabbath observance.

Lent is a liturgical season of prayer and penance before Easter. We demonstrate our penance by almsgiving and by both fasting and abstaining from certain foods to spiritually better prepare for the feast of the Resurrection, and to dispose ourselves for a more fruitful reception of the graces that Christ merited us by his Passion and death. It is our practice as Catholics, in an exercise of virtue, to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and to abstain from certain foods (meat) as well as limit our intake of foods on all the Fridays of Lent. But fasting only for the sake of fasting without the other disciplines of prayer and charity that is love in action make the penance of fasting as feeble an exercise as that for which Isaiah criticized his people and Jesus' criticism of those who fast only for effect and not for virtue in Matthew 6:16-18.

Question: How and when do you observe the discipline of fasting? List the abuses that Isaiah and Jesus listed in Isaiah 59:3b-11 and Matthew 6:16-18. How are you careful avoid them?

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for fasting: evangelical law (CCC 1969); as a form of penance (CCC 1434, 1438, 2043); as preparation for receiving Communion (CCC 1387)