17 “For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
I write these devotions about a week prior to their publication. As I read this passage I cannot but think about the images which I have seen streaming out of Ukraine. Just in the past few days we have seen the devastation wrought in the northern suburbs of Kiev after the Russian withdrawal.
Isaiah’s audience had seen this sort of thing too. First the Assyrians and then the Babylonians had ravaged the land of Israel. They knew the anguish of lives cut short, of houses built only to be destroyed by an enemy or given to someone else, vineyards burned or seized and the fruit enjoyed by another. Jerusalem had been filled with the cries of distress when the exile came.
Isaiah sees another day, a resurrection day in which no one labors in vain or bears children for calamity. God will be right there, answering the prayer before you utter it. Even nature itself will be changed. The predator and the prey will lie down and rest beside one another.
Jesus’ resurrection proclaims this same vision of Isaiah. He is risen from the dead and this changes everything, including the very fabric of nature and the character of our lives. It is true, we continue to live in the now and not-yet, the life of faith which trusts and does not always see what we believe. But Jesus has risen from the dead. Its brutal grip on us has been broken. The day comes when its iron power will collapse into rust and decay, and all will be liberated. Centuries before Jesus, Isaiah saw it and through his eyes we get to see a bit of it today. Alleluia!