Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and atheists often argue, “Jesus never claimed to be God.” They assert that Christians have corrupted or misinterpreted the New Testament, or they reject the Bible outright.
But for those willing to consider the eyewitness testimony of the New Testament writers, and the convincing evidence that their words are accurately preserved, we may point our unbelieving friends to seven ways that Jesus does, in fact, claim deity.
First, Jesus calls Himself God. In John 8:58 He tells the religious leaders, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.” These words hark back to Exodus 3 where God reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush as I AM, or YHWH. The Jewish leaders clearly understand Jesus’ declaration of deity.
Second, Jesus claims equality with God. In John 10:30 He states, “The Father and I are one.” His frequent reference to God as Father – especially by the intimate Aramaic term Abba, or Father dearest – rankles the religious leaders. John writes, “This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him … He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
In His high priestly prayer, Jesus anticipates once again sharing the glory He had with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5). This is a telling claim, for the Old Testament makes it clear that God does not share His glory with anyone (Isa. 42:8, 48:11).
Also note that more than four dozen times Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man – a term that illuminates the Messiah’s deity (Daniel 7:13-14).
26 “The kingdom of God is like this,” He said. “A man scatters seed on the ground;
27 he sleeps and rises—night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows—he doesn’t know how.
28 The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head.
29 But as soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle, because harvest has come.”
Mark is the only gospel writer who records this parable, which Jesus tells after explaining the parable of the sower to His disciples (Mark 4:13-20) and after admonishing them to share His teachings with others (Mark 4:21-25). Commentators like Herbert Lockyer believe this parable “can be regarded as supplementary to the parable of The Sower, being designed to complete the history of the growth of the good seed which fell on the good ground. It is one of the three parables which reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God in terms of a sower’s work” (All the Parables of the Bible).
The central theme of this parable is that God is sovereign over His kingdom. Christ’s disciples are to labor faithfully in His fields, but it is God who gives the growth (see 1 Cor. 3:5-8).
The central character in this parable is the man who “scatters seed on the ground” (Mark 4:26). This represents all those whom God uses to establish His kingdom in the hearts of men. Christ has finished the work of redemption and has given to His followers the responsibility of carrying the gospel message to the entire world (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). God the Father draws people to Christ and grants them everlasting life through the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, bringing the spiritually dead to new life in Christ. As Matthew Henry writes, “… we know not how the Spirit by the word makes a change in the heart, any more than we can account for the blowing of the wind, which we hear the sound of, but cannot tell whence it comes, or whither it goes” (Matthew Henry Unabridged). On this side of heaven, believers will never fully understand how God works to populate His kingdom, yet we are called to faithfully spread the good news of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14; Mark 1:14).
According to Herbert Lockyer in All the Parables of the Bible, “Our Lord was directing His disciples to the three stages of The Kingdom of God:”
1. The blade, or the kingdom in mystery (the church age);
2. The ear, or the kingdom in manifestation throughout the millennial kingdom;
3. The full corn, or the kingdom in its majestic perfection after God creates new heavens and a new earth.
While other commentators apply this parable to the believer’s personal spiritual growth, Lockyer’s interpretation seems to fit Jesus’ other parables of the kingdom of heaven. The Jews in Jesus’ day are expecting the kingdom to come in a singular, dramatic event. Yet Jesus teaches through His parables that the kingdom of heaven is both a present reality and a future hope, growing to full maturity over a long period of time.
Let’s look more closely at other elements in this parable:
- The seed. Most certainly this is “the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). As Jesus explains following the parable of the sower, “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11) – the good news that the kingdom has come in the Person of Jesus the Messiah and that all may enter into the kingdom by faith in Him, the Word (Logos, John 1:1).
- The ground. As in the parable of the sower, the ground symbolizes the human heart. The ground cannot sow and it cannot reap, but it may receive the seed. The starting place of the kingdom of heaven is the heart captivated by God. When Jesus says, “The soil produces a crop by itself” (v. 28), we are not required “to suppose that our Saviour meant to say that the earth had any productive power by itself, but only that it produced its fruits not by the power of man. God gives it its power…. So religion in the heart is not by the power of man” (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament).
- The mystery of the growth. The sower sleeps, rises and does not know how the seed bursts forth into life and fruitfulness. In the same way, we do not understand the mysterious work of God in the hearts of men and women. Nor can we fully fathom His work in bringing the kingdom to full maturity. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways…. For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
- The harvest. This may be looked upon as the consummation of all things (Matt. 13:39) – “the most glorious consummation when with the devil forever vanquished, and sin completely destroyed, and the emergence of a new heaven and a new earth, Jesus will surrender all things to the Father” (All the Parables of the Bible).
Just as Christ’s kingdom will grow to full maturity, God’s design for His children is that “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, [growing]into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Eph. 4:13).
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 64 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.
Isa. 64:4 – From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened, no eye has seen any God except You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
Isaiah continues His plea for God to act, in language that foreshadows Messiah’s glorious appearance. When Christ returns, the earth will quake, similar to the shaking of Mt. Sinai at the giving of the law. Isaiah’s reference to fire also links these two events (see Ex. 19:18, 24:7; Isa. 2:5 – 4:1; Heb. 12:18-29). Isaiah confesses that the Holy One of Israel cannot tolerate the people’s sins, which have gone on far too long, yet He calls upon the Lord in faith to forgive and restore.
Verse 6 is an often-quoted passage that describes the depravity of the human heart and the inability of people to be reconciled to God through their own efforts. Isaiah laments that “all of our righteous acts are like a polluted garment” – literally, like an unclean menstrual cloth. “[A]ll of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.”
Paul echoes this truth, stringing together a number of Old Testament passages when he writes, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away … there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12). But the apostle’s point is not to drive us to despair; it is to direct us to Christ, in whose righteousness we are clothed: “Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ – the righteousness from God based on faith” (Phil. 3:8-9).
The Remnant’s Plea (Isa. 64:1-7)
Convinced of their uncleanness before a pure and holy God, the people realize their desperate state and ask the Lord to rend the heavens like a piece of cloth, come down and execute judgment on Judah’s enemies. Fire and boiling water symbolize God’s judgment here, as in other passages of Scripture (see, for example, Jer. 1:13-14; Mal. 4:1). The Lord’s “awesome deeds” in verse 3 likely refer to the fire, darkness and earthquake that accompanied His giving of the law on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:16-19; Deut. 4:11-13). This same God – the only true God – acts on behalf of those who trust in Him. “Recalling this, the remnant would ask that God work on their behalf. They would confess their sin, spiritual uncleanness, weakness (like a shriveled leaf), and lack of prayer. However, they would not blame God for their dreadful condition; they would know that their wasting away was because of their sins. Therefore they would have to count on God’s faithfulness and promises” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1119).
Verse 4 states: “From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened, no eye has seen any God except You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.” The apostle Paul picks up on this ancient truth in 1 Cor. 2:9 to make the point that while all people may hear God’s Word with their ears, it is only by the Holy Spirit that the heart receives the eternal truths of God’s gracious and mighty deeds, whether they concern Israel, as Isaiah reports, or the gospel, to which Paul refers.
“Why is God not working wonders?” asks Warren Wiersbe. “They have sinned (Isa. 64:5–6) and must confess their sins and turn from them. If our righteousness is filthy, what must our sins look like in His sight! According to verse 4, God has planned for His people wonderful things beyond their imagination; but their sins prevent Him from sharing His blessings. Is there any hope? Yes, because God is a forgiving Father and a patient Potter (Jer. 18). He can cleanse us and make us anew if we will let Him have His way” (Be Comforted, An Old Testament Study, S. Is 64:1).
These verses contain a complete though brief description of the impact of sin on human beings, according to Lawrence O. Richards:
- First, sin is habit–forming. We continue to sin against God’s ways (v. 5).
- Second, sin rightly arouses the anger of God and directs it against us (v. 5).
- Third, sin is defiling, making it impossible for us to approach Him (v. 6).
- Fourth, sin so corrupts our character that even the best we can do is fouled by base motives (v. 6).
- Fifth, sin is destructive, shriveling us up from within and creating circumstances that sweep us away (v. 6).
- Sixth, sin alienates us from God, creating a distaste for the Lord that keeps us from calling on His name (v. 7).
- Seventh, sin causes God to hide His face from us and to judge us (v. 7).
“In view of all that sin has done to us, it is no wonder Isaiah cries out, ‘How then can we be saved?’ The answer is in verse 8” (The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., S. 444).
The Potter’s Hand (Isa. 64:8-12)
The final words of the righteous remnant’s prayer express trust in the Lord, who is confessed as Father and Potter and whose will is received with complete submission. The humbled believers are depicted as obedient children and soft clay, entrusting their lives and future to the sovereign hand of the Holy One of Israel. They plead with the Lord to withhold His anger, righteous though it is, and to extend mercy to them as His children. They remind Him that Judah’s cities have been destroyed – possibly the phrase “holy cities” is a reference to upper and lower Jerusalem – and the temple has been burned to the ground. They lament, “… all that was dear to us lies in ruins” (v. 11). Therefore, the people ask the Lord to break His silence and do something about their plight. Their appeal for forgiveness and restoration is based solely on God’s grace.
The people’s lament in verse 11 is double edged. The “holy and beautiful temple” is where “our fathers praised you.” Is Isaiah reminding God of Israel’s glorious past, or confessing that his own generation has fallen so deeply into sin that worship has become cold and mechanical? Perhaps a little of both. Even so, the prophet expresses trust that the Lord will be faithful to His covenant with the people and, after severely chastening them, will restore them and their place of worship. “They interest God in the cause when they plead that it was the house where he had been praised, and put him in mind too of his covenant with their fathers by taking notice of their fathers’ praising him,” notes Matthew Henry. “Observe here how God and his people have their interest twisted and interchanged; when they speak of the cities for their own habitation they call them thy holy cities, for to God they were dedicated; when they speak of the temple wherein God dwelt they call it our beautiful house and its furniture our pleasant things, for they had heartily espoused it and all the interests of it. If thus we interest God in all our concerns by devoting them to his service, and interest ourselves in all his concerns by laying them near our hearts, we may with satisfaction leave both with him, for he will perfect both” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 64:6.
We are challenged to pray as Isaiah did, with humility, candor, boldness and trust. Matthew Henry writes: “Those that would take hold of God in prayer so as to prevail with him must stir up themselves to do it; all that is within us must be employed in the duty … our thoughts fixed and our affections flaming. In order hereunto all that is within us must be engaged and summoned into the service; we must stir up the gift that is in us by an actual consideration of the importance of the work that is before us and a close application of mind to it; but how can we expect that God should come to us in ways of mercy when there are none that do this, when those that profess to be intercessors are mere triflers?” (S. Is 64:6)
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 63 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. This chapter in particular previews Messiah’s coming to judge Israel’s enemies.
Isa. 63:15-16 – Look down from heaven and see from your lofty home – holy and beautiful. Where is Your zeal and Your might? Your yearning and Your compassion are withheld from me. Yet You are our Father, even though Abraham does not know us and Israel doesn’t recognize us. You, Lord, are our Father; from ancient time, Your name is our Redeemer.
H.L. Willmington writes: “As a blood-soaked warrior approached, a watchman asked his identity. He identified himself as the one who all alone had conquered Israel’s foes and was ready to redeem his people (63:1–6). Isaiah responded with praise for the God who throughout history had shown grace toward his people, no matter how often they rebelled against him (63:7–9). When he recalled the Exodus, however, Isaiah wondered why God had not yet delivered his people once again (63:11–17), and begged him to do so quickly (63:17–19)…. 63:1–6 can be seen as foreshadowing Christ’s second coming and victory at Armageddon (see Rev. 14:18–20; 19:11–21)” (Willmington’s Bible Handbook, Tyndale House Publishers, 1997, S. 374).
When the Lord comes (or returns, from a New Testament perspective), He is asked two questions: Who is this? And, why is Your clothing red? He answers the first question in verse 1, “It is I, proclaiming vindication (or righteousness).” Just as the Lord reveals Himself to Moses at the burning bush as “IAM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14), Jesus proclaims His deity by identifying Himself to the woman at the well as “I am” (John 4:26) and to the Jewish religious leaders by declaring, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The Lord of Isaiah 63 is the same Lord of all Scripture, establishing the truths of the Trinity and the deity of the Messiah.
The Lord answers the second question, as to why His clothing is red, “I trampled the winepress alone … I trampled them [the nations] in My anger … their blood spattered My garments” (v. 3). Just as juice from freshly pressed grapes will stain the garments of the vintner, so Messiah’s robes will be covered in blood when He returns to judge the nations. Zechariah foresees this day as well (Zech. 14:3), as does the apostle John (Rev. 14:19-20; 19:11-21).
The Day of Vengeance (Isa. 63:1-6)
This chapter begins with a graphic image of the Messiah approaching Jerusalem, having avenged Himself and His people of their common enemies as symbolized by Edom. His garments are spattered with blood, much as a vintner’s robes are stained from the grapes he has trampled, yet the Messiah is neither injured nor weary. In fact, He is “splendid in His apparel, rising up proudly in His great might” (v. 1). Edom is the wicked nation southeast of Israel that often opposes God’s people and therefore is under God’s wrath (see Mal. 1:4). Bozrah is a city in Edom and its name means “grape gathering.” The Lord’s clothing is red (adom), a Hebrew word-play on Edom. Isaiah already has identified Edom and Bozrah as typical of the impenitent world (Isa. 34:6). The imagery is clear: As a vintner crushes the harvested grapes beneath his feet, the Messiah will crush His enemies.
The ancient wine press is a large hollowed-out rock into which grapes are placed for people to trample. The juice runs out of a hole in the rock and is captured in vessels beneath it. As the people crush the grapes, no doubt some of the juice stains their clothing. In a similar fashion, when the Messiah crushes His enemies, His robes will be stained with their blood (Rev. 19:13). Having rejected the blood of the Lamb as payment for their sins, those who oppose the Messiah at His return will have their blood shed. They truly will die in their sins (John 8:24).
Warren Wiersbe comments: “When Jesus came to earth the first time, it was to inaugurate ‘the acceptable year of the Lord’ (Isa. 61:2; Luke 4:19). When He comes the second time, it will be to climax ‘the day of vengeance of our God’ (Isa. 63:4; 61:2). The enemy will be crushed like grapes and forced to drink their own blood from the cup of God’s wrath (51:17; Jer. 25:15–16). These images may not appeal to sophisticated people today, but the Jews in that day fully understood them” (Be Comforted, An Old Testament Study, S. Is 63:1).
As a side note, this passage of Scripture is the background for the Civil War’s most famous song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” according to Lawrence O. Richards in The Bible Readers Companion.
God’s Mercies Remembered (Isa. 63:7-14)
Before stating their two requests – that God be compassionate toward them (vv. 15-19) and that He punish their enemies (64:1-7) – the righteous remnant declares the Lord’s faithful love and praiseworthy acts (v. 7). While Isaiah exalts the Lord for all He has done, the Lord claims the remnant as His own and even identifies with their suffering (v. 8). This divine empathy is expressed elsewhere in Scripture, for example:
- Isa. 53:3-6 – He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like one people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him. Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.
- Mark 8:31 – Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days.
- Acts 3:18 – But what God predicted through the mouth of all the prophets – that His Messiah would suffer – He has fulfilled in this way.
The name “Angel of His Presence” (v. 9) literally means “Angel of His face,” or the One who stands continually before the Lord. Most likely this is a reference to the Angel of the Lord, or as many commentators believe, the pre-incarnate Messiah.
In verses 10-14 Isaiah reminds his fellow citizens of the post-wilderness rebellions of Israel for which they were chastened but not cut off. Even though God’s people reject the Lord, He remains faithful to His covenant promises to them. There is strong emphasis on the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit in these verses. The Holy Spirit is grieved by the rebellious Israelites (v. 10), present among the flock (v. 11), and the One who, like a gentle farmer leading his cattle into a valley, gives His people rest (v. 14).
A Forlorn Family (Isa. 63:15-19)
The Jews in Babylonian exile will plead with the Lord to look down from His “lofty home” at their plight in the same way He looked down on the people in Egypt in Moses’ day. They will long for a display of His zeal, strength and compassion. The people will wonder why His “yearning” – literally the agitation of His inward parts, or the emotions that spring from compassion – is withheld from them. Even though they have drifted far away from the faithful paths of Abraham and Jacob, God is still their Father and Redeemer. In exile, the people will realize that though they have belonged to God for centuries, they have not been in a proper relationship with Him, nor have they humbly submitted to His theocratic rule. Penitently, the people will ask the Lord to return them to Him while reminding Him that their place of worship, the temple, has been destroyed.
The people ask an odd question in verse 17: “Why, Lord, do you make us stray from Your ways?” (emphasis added). Further, they state, “You harden our hearts …” Are the Jews in exile blaming God for their sin and its consequences? Is there any truth to their complaint? And if so, how can they – or any of us – be held responsible for our rebellion against God? One commentary explains it this way: “They do not mean to deny their own blameworthiness, but confess that through their own fault God gave them over to a reprobate mind (Is 6:9, 10; Ps 119:10; Ro 1:28)” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Is 63:17). D.A. Carson adds, “God is not to blame for their spiritual plight; it stems from their own dalliance with evil” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 63:15). While God certainly chooses servants like Jeremiah from their mothers’ wombs, and determines centuries in advance the leaders who will alter human history (Cyrus, for example), He is not the author of evil, nor does He tempt people with evil (James 1:13-14). Further, He does not direct people’s thoughts, words and deeds in such a way that releases them from their personal responsibility to repent, believe and follow Him. The sovereignty of God and responsibility of men and women are mysterious biblical doctrines whose difficulties make them no less true.
Matthew Henry shares this insight: “Why hast thou made us to err from thy ways …Those are wicked indeed that lay the blame of their wickedness upon God. But I rather take it to be the language of those among them that lamented the unbelief and impenitence of their people, not accusing God of being the author of their wickedness, but complaining of it to him…. When they ask, Why hast thou done this? it is not as charging him with wrong, but lamenting it as a sore judgment…. God had caused them to err and hardened their hearts, not only by withdrawing his Spirit from them, because they had grieved, and vexed, and quenched him (v. 10), but by a judicial sentence upon them (Go, make the heart of this people fat, ch. 6:9, 10) and by his providences concerning them, which had proved sad occasions for their departure from him…. Convinced consciences complain most of spiritual judgments and dread that most in an affliction which draws them from God and duty” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 63:15).
The chapter ends with the people of God surrendering to Him at last. J. Vernon McGee writes: “This should be the attitude of the Christian today – complete yielding to God. Most of us are afraid to yield to God because we are afraid He will be hard on us. God wants to be gentle with us if we will give Him a chance. But remember that He also is the God of judgment. He is the One who is coming to earth some day to tread the winepress of the fierceness of His wrath. God is not trying to frighten you; He is just telling you the truth” (Isaiah: Volume II, p. 186).
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.
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.
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).
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.