Isaiah 60: Everlasting Light

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Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 60 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.

Key verses:

Isa. 60:19-20 – The sun will no longer be your light by day, and the brightness of the moon will no longer shine on you; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your splendor. Your sun will no longer set, and your moon will not fade; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your sorrow will be over.

Quick summary:

There is a marvelous future in store for Israel during the millennial kingdom. The believing remnant of Jews, as well as believing Gentiles with their great wealth, will come to Jerusalem to live and worship. Righteousness will prevail. War will cease. The city gates will be open, welcoming all foreigners. Israel’s former enemies will flock to the Holy Land, pay homage to the Jews and work for them. God Himself will be Jerusalem’s source of light, an abiding reminder that “I, the Lord, am your Savior” (v. 16).

Take note:

The Lord’s promise to be Israel’s “everlasting light” (vv. 19-20) is repeated in the book of Revelation:

  • Rev. 21:23-26 – The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.  Each day its gates will never close because it will never be night there. They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.
  • Rev. 22:5 – Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.

God’s Glory in Israel (Isa. 60:1-3)

The Lord’s redeeming work will result in unique blessings for Israel, which in turn will attract the nations of the world. When Messiah comes and sits on the throne of David, His glory will shine throughout the land, piercing the spiritual darkness into which the world has fallen (see Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9). “Nations will come to your light,” Isaiah writes, “and kings to the brightness of your radiance” (v. 3).

The Lord has chosen both the nation of Israel and the church to be bearers of His light – Israel first, and then the church, and finally both together. Israel fails, falling into idolatry and rank wickedness, which the Lord judges in Isaiah’s day through the Assyrians, and later through the Babylonians and the Romans, until the Lord temporarily sets aside Israel as the torch bearer of His kingdom in favor of the church. But the church will not fare much better, falling prey to false doctrines and spiritual coldness; even Jesus asks if the Son of Man will find faithfulness among His people on the earth at the time of His return (Luke 18:8).

Thankfully, God is gracious, patient, merciful, and true to His promises. Even in the darkest days for Israel and the church, the Lord preserves a faithful remnant, and at Christ’s return both the nation of Israel and the church reflect the glory of His presence. The praise goes, not to God’s people, but to the Lord Himself, who has chosen, called and redeemed His own. Like the moon, which has no light source but reflects the sun’s rays, God’s people reflect the glory of their Creator and Savior.

The Nations’ Wealth in Israel (Isa. 60:4-9)

These verses seem to describe the Millennium, when Israel is secure in her borders, spiritually revived and worshiping in a rebuilt temple. The people are urged to raise their eyes and witness the influx of Jews and Gentiles, who bring their wealth and a fervent desire to worship the Lord in Jerusalem. They come from great distances, and their caravans cover the land (v. 6). The prophets Haggai and Zechariah make similar references to this coming time:

  • Haggai 2:7-9a: “I will shake all the nations so that the treasures of all the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of Hosts. “The silver and gold belong to Me” – the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. “The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the Lord of Hosts.
  • Zech. 14:14: Judah will also fight at Jerusalem, and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be collected: gold, silver, and clothing in great abundance.

Examples of the wealth to be brought are gold, silver, incense, flocks and rams. They come from nations at the edge of the world known to the people in Isaiah’s day, spanning from the Arabian Peninsula to Europe. Some of the wealth will be used as offerings, and some will be used to adorn the temple.

The sight of this great migration of people and abundance of wealth will cause the Jews to be “radiant” and their hearts to “tremble and rejoice” (v. 5). Brought in haste, this wealth will be to honor the Lord. Note how Isaiah documents this purpose: The people will “proclaim the praises of the Lord” (v. 6) and “honor the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel” (v. 9).

The Nations Acknowledge Israel (Isa. 60:10-14)

As Yahweh pours out His blessings on the nation, Israel will be the epitome of the world’s political, religious, economic and social structures. “Although I struck you in my wrath,” the Lord reminds the people, “yet I will show mercy to you with My favor” (v. 10b). Foreigners and their kings will help rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. The flow of wealth into Israel will be steady. The gates of the city “will always be open” (v. 11), and kings will lead endless processions, with vessels laden with riches, into the vibrant capital of the revived nation. Furthermore, the Lord promises to annihilate any nation that raises its hand against His chosen people, assuring them of prosperity and peace. For Jews who survived the Assyrian onslaught on Judah and who now understand that defeat and exile at the hand of the Babylonians lie in the near future, these promises of God’s faithfulness serve as a soothing balm that enables them to endure the dark days ahead.

The finest wood from Lebanon – pine, fir and cypress – will adorn the temple, which the Lord calls “My sanctuary” and “My dwelling place” (v. 13). Israel’s oppressors – the enemies who for centuries have surrounded them and sought their destruction – will enter Jerusalem reverently, calling it “the City of the Lord” and “Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (v. 14). Warren Wiersbe notes, “Some people ‘spiritualize’ these promises and apply them to the Gentiles coming to Christ and His church today, but that is not the basic interpretation. Isaiah sees ships and caravans bringing people and wealth to Jerusalem (60:5–7); and the nations that refuse to honor the Lord and His city will be judged (v. 12). Even Israel’s old enemies will submit and help to serve the Lord (vv. 10, 14)” (Be Comforted, An Old Testament Study, S. Is 60:1).

Matthew Henry lends insight into this passage: “The people of the Jews, after their return out of captivity, by degrees became more considerable, and made a better figure than one would have expected, after they had been so much reduced, and than any of the other nations recovered that had been in like manner humbled by the Chaldeans. It is probable that many of those who had oppressed them in Babylon, when they were themselves driven out by the Persians, made their court to the Jews for shelter and supply and were willing to scrape acquaintance with them. This prophecy is further fulfilled when those that have been enemies to the church are wrought upon by the grace of God to see their error, and come, and join themselves to it” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 60:9).

Righteousness in Israel (Isa. 60:15-22)

In the closing verses of this chapter, the Lord describes the wonders He has in store for His people. Israel no longer will be forsaken but will become “an object of eternal pride, a joy from age to age,” enriched by the Gentile nations and nursed like a favored child (v. 15). Just as Yahweh makes His power known in judgment, He makes His presence felt in blessing: “[Y]ou will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (v. 16). As in the days of King Solomon (1 Kings 10:21, 27), precious metals will be plentiful and peace will be the order of the day.