The Word Made Fresh
1The Lord says,
“Heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool.
What kind of house could you build for me
as a place to rest?
2I have made all these things and they belong to me,” says the LORD.
“But I will look to the one who is humble and spiritually meek,
and who trembles at my word.”
3Anyone who slaughters an ox is like one who kills another person.
Anyone who sacrifices a lamb is like one who breaks a dog’s neck.
Whoever presents an offering of grain
will be like one who offers the blood of pigs.
Whoever brings an offering of frankincense
will be like those who bless idols.
They have followed their own ways and take delight in them.
4So, I will choose to punish them and bring them what they fear the most,
because no one answered when I called
and no one listened to what I had to say.
Instead, they did evil things in my sight
and deliberately behaved in ways that were not pleasing to me.
5Listen to what the LORD has to say, you who are afraid of God’s word:
Your own people who hate and reject you for the sake of my name
have said, “Glorify the LORD, and let us see your joy!”
But they are the ones who will be put to shame.
6Listen! There is an uproar in the city!
There is a voice from the temple!
It is the voice of the LORD, punishing the enemies of God.
7She gave birth before she was in labor,
and delivered a son before the pain came upon her.
8Whoever heard of such a thing, or has seen such a thing?
Can a land be formed in a single day?
Can a nation be rescued in a moment?
But as soon as Zion was in labor, she delivered her children!
9Would I open the womb, and then not deliver the baby?
Shall I, the one who brings birth, close the womb?
10Rejoice! Let everyone who loves Jerusalem be happy for her,
and all of you who mourn for her rejoice as well,
11for you will nurse from her loving breast
and drink deeply and happily from her wonderful sustenance.
12For this is what the LORD says:
I will send her prosperity as from a river,
and the wealth of nations shall belong to her.
And you shall nurse and be carried in her arms
and pampered on her knees.
13Yes, I will comfort you in Jerusalem
as a mother comforts her child.
14You will see this and be glad.
You will flourish like the grass,
and everyone will know that God’s hands are with them,
and God’s wrath is against God’s enemies.
15The LORD will come in the midst of fire,
and God’s chariots will come like whirlwinds.
The LORD’s anger will be repaid
and fire will reprimand them.
16Yes, the LORD’s judgment will be delivered with fire,
and God’s sword will beset all flesh
and many will be slain.
17Those who purify themselves to enter the gardens, following one who leads them to eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other varmints, will perish together, says the LORD.
18I know what they do and what they think, and I am coming to gather together all the nations and all the languages. They will come and see my splendor, 19and I will mark them with my sign. I will send some of them to the nations – Tarshish, Pul and Lud, who draw the bow – Tubal and Javan, and to the coastlands far off who have never heard of my fame or seen my glory, and they shall declare my majesty among all of them. 20And they shall bring all your relatives from the nations as an offering to the LORD. They will come on horses and in chariots and carried on litters and mules and camels to Jerusalem, my sacred mountain, says the LORD. And the Israelites will bring a grain offering in a sanctified container to the LORD’s house. 21I will take some of them as priests and some as Levites, says the LORD.
22I will make new heavens and a new earth to endure before me, says the LORD, and your children and your name will remain. 23From new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath all people shall come to worship before me, says the LORD.
24Then for generations to come, they shall see the dead bodies of the people who rebelled against me, because their worms shall never die, and their fire will never go out, and they shall always be abominable to all who are living.
1-2: God reiterates his intended order of the universe: heaven is God’s throne, and the earth is God’s footstool. God is the sovereign ruler of all. What God wants from mortals is humility, a contrite spirit, and the proper regard/respect/awe/fear for God.
3-4: An indictment of the religious establishment.
5-9: All of the terrible things that have happened were, as St. Paul says so eloquently (Romans 8:22-23), just birthing pains for the new order God has planned.
10-13: Jerusalem, in the new creation, will be like a nursing mother for all her children.
14-17: The faithful will rejoice. The unfaithful, especially those who engage in pagan rituals, will suffer the fire of God. I suppose these verses contributed to Dante’s vision of hell.
18-21: The ultimate plan is to draw all the nations to the LORD. The places mentioned — Tarshish, Put, etc. — represent the farthest points of the known inhabited world at the time.
22-23: In the new creation everyone will acknowledge God.
24: But the awful carnage that must take place before that ideal is reached will be in evidence to future generations for all time.
The imagery presented in this chapter is foreign to us and is filled with violence. God will not tolerate the pagan behavior and worship practices that God’s people have been so prone to follow. Instead, God will see to it that such abominations will be destroyed. Isaiah is ending his book with dire warnings that God will soon demand better behavior from God’s people. Is this warning intended for all generations? For us, too? God forbid!
Congratulations! You have finished the second longest book in the Bible.