Isaiah is telling us about who we are and what God has done for us. In Isaiah 59 the Lord reminded us of our total sinfulness and the redemption God supplies by his own arm. The Redeemer will come to Zion (59:20), making a covenant with them and forgiving their sins. We learn in Isaiah 59:21 that Zion is a picture of the redeemed people of covenant. These are the one who desire to be set free from their sins. Isaiah 60 describes who we are because of what God has done for us. As we read this chapter we must read looking at who we are supposed to be now that we have been redeemed.
Hope For The World (60:1-3)
Isaiah begins with hopeful words, “Arise, shine, for your light has come!” Isaiah 59:9-10 confessed that we are looking for light but remain in the darkness, living like the blind spiritually. But now that will change. Darkness will lift suddenly with the arrival of the Lord. Your light has come! Verses 1 and 2 describe that it is the Lord that is shining as the light. “The glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1) and “the Lord will arise upon you” (60:2). What does it mean for us to arise and shine? Listen to how the apostle Paul describes what this looks like in our lives.
Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:7–14 ESV)
Notice that we are the light of the Lord because Christ has come and is shining on us. Therefore we are to walk as children of light, discerning what is pleasing to the Lord. We expose the unfruitful works of darkness rather than participating in them. This is how we awake, arise, and shine because the light of Christ has arrived. We are supposed to shine like the sun. The effect is described in verse 3 that the nations will come to your light. We are reflecting the glory of the Lord to the world. We are shining as followers of Christ. The redeemed of God do not simply enjoy being redeemed for selfish purposes. We are to arise and shine as the light to the nations.
Nations Will Come To Zion (60:4-9)
The picture is that the people of God, Zion, will be restored. The nations are shown as coming to Zion. But they are not coming to attack or destroy. They are coming to you in joy bringing the wealth of the nations. This is a restoration image. The nations had attacked Jerusalem in the days of Isaiah. Isaiah predicted that the Babylonians would attack and take everything from Jerusalem. Now the nations are going to come and they are not going to come to take anything. Rather, they are bringing wealth. They are not stripping the people of their wealth. Not only are they coming in with wealth, verse 6 says they will bring good news, the praises of the Lord. They are coming to honor the Lord. Now when people come to Zion, they will be coming to the city of God to praise it, not destroy it. They will support it, not steal from it. But we see that a spiritual shift is occurring in Isaiah’s prophecy as God continues to describe what will happen when the Lord comes. The nations are bringing the wealth. But this is not the physical temple being built. The nations are coming and God “will beautify my beautiful house.” God will make Zion beautiful. Verse 9 drives this point home even further, describing the coming in of the nations “because he has made you beautiful.” The beautiful house and the beautiful temple is the people of God. God will make them beautiful. Previously, the people were not beautiful. Isaiah has seen them full of their sins. Isaiah had to confess for himself and for his people concerning their uncleanness when the Lord commissioned him to preach to the people (Isaiah 6).
Verse 9 pictures how we are made beautiful. There is a change of desire. There is a change of hope. “For the coastlands will hope for me.” Those who have seen the light of the Lord hope in God alone. God takes our filthiness and makes us beautiful. We cannot beautify ourselves. Christ cleanses and beautifies. Our hope shifts away from this world. Our desire is not for this life. Our citizenship is not in this world. Our hope is in God. Our desire is now in God. This is how we are made beautiful. Hope in God through the light of Jesus.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
We are looking at Jesus and we are being transformed into a new person, matching the image of Jesus. Remember that John 1 told us that we are looking at the Lord and the glory of the Lord when we see and examine Jesus (cf. John 1:14-18). We have spent much time asking about where our hope lies and examining our hearts. Our hope cannot be in our careers, in our spouses, in our families, in our children, in our parents, in any person or any object. The people of God hope in God.
Nations Will Glorify Zion (60:10-16)
Isaiah returns to the picture of restoration. The nations are not destroying the city, but are rebuilding the walls of the city. We cannot read verse 10 as a reference to the return that occurred in the days of Nehemiah, as he came to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. While the Persians allowed for the rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls, they did not build those walls themselves. Instead, our context has been when the Lord comes and brings light to the world, which refers to the coming of Jesus. Further, verse 11-12 shows that this is not referring to physical Jerusalem. The gates of physical Jerusalem were not continually open and there were many nations that did not serve Jerusalem and did not perish. No nation served Jerusalem or physical Israel from its restoration in 445 BC to its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD. Isaiah is picturing a glorious kingdom, not the physical city. We will note the connection to Revelation 21 shortly.
God is reversing the fortunes of his people. We cannot reverse our fortunes. We deserve punishment for our sins. Israel deserves its punishments and judgments for its rebellion to the Lord. Notice verse 14. “The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet.” See the reversal/restoration imagery. Those who harmed you are now bowing down to you. God reversing the judgment. God is solving our sin problem. The Redeemer has come, the covenant has been established, and the curse of sin is removed so that restoration can occur.
Therefore God gives another picture. “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste” (Isaiah 60:12). Be part of the city of God that glories and hopes in the Lord, or perish. This is hope for God’s people. Ultimate justice will come from God’s hand. Those who are against God’s people will be judged. Therefore, the people of God wait for the Lord, putting their trust and hope in him for restoration. God will vindicate his people by judging those who do not come to him, turning away from sin. How could we not want to belong to the Lord? Not only has God acted on our behalf to save us, but the enemies will receive the wrath of God. We want to be on the right side of his victory. Belong to God and be the victors. Our God shows grace to us and extends blessings to us, making us beautiful and glorious before him (60:15-16). God is providing our needs, our satisfaction, our nourishment, and loving care. God meets our longings and our lasting needs. This is another reason that we hope in God. “I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age” (60:15). God offers far more than the world could ever offer. Hope in God.
The Transformation of Zion (60:17-22)
God continues to picture the radical transformation of his people. God will transform you inside and out (60:17-18). We are being made perfect in his grace, belonging to a new kingdom under a new rule as his citizens. Verse 18 describes our new identity as Salvation and Praise. Salvation and praise is who we are. We are the saved who are continually praising God for his mercy.
The chapter concludes with beautiful imagery. God’s people are not ruled by the times and seasons of this world. Night and day control everything we do. Light and darkness of the earth affects everything we do. But now our lives will be affected by something else. God is their light. God rules their lives. God gives them their direction. The Lord shows us how to live and we follow his path. This imagery is used again beautifully in the book of Revelation.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22–27 ESV)
Notice how this is summary of Isaiah’s prophecy. The nations are coming into the city of God. The Lord is the light. More specifically, the Lamb is the lamp. Remember that Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). A whole different life because of Jesus, who we follow as our new light.
Look at what the people of Zion are doing now. Another picture is given to us in verse 19. “Your God will be your glory.” This is our problem. This is the human problem. We are glory thieves. We steal glory away from God. We glory in everything but God. We take pride in all the wrong things. What was the problem at Babel? Pride and glory were the problems. They wanted to make a name for themselves. They wanted recognition. Why was Moses unable to enter into the promised land? We must certainly assume that Moses had sinned many times during the 80 years he had been with these people. But why now can he not enter the promised land? He stole the honor and glory that belong to God and took it to himself when he struck the rock rather than speaking to it. What is the sin in the garden of Eden? Pride as Adam and Eve eat because they are only concerned about themselves, rather than the way of the Lord. We could go on and on that the problem with humanity is we glory in all the wrong things. We take pride in our children. We glory in temporal, worldly things. We fail to glory in God. God says his people will glory or boast in one thing: God. The apostle Paul said this very thing, perhaps even calling to mind this prophecy.
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31; cf. 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:14)
Look at the other picture in verse 21. “Your people shall all be righteous.” How are we going to be righteous? We are wicked and ungodly! But Isaiah 59 told us that those who would turn from their sins would be redeemed by the Redeemer and be counted as his children. This leads to the transformation of our lives and hearts, as we look into the face of Jesus, seeing the glory of the Lord. Isaiah has emphasized that transformation will occur because God’s Spirit is on Christ and on his lips which will then be on our lips and heart. The result is the glorification of God (60:21). No one is excluded from experiencing this joy (60:22).
Awake! Rise up because the light of Jesus is shining on every one of you. Jesus is our light, changing our ways and changing our lives. God has reversed our fortunes so that we now have our hope in the Lord and our glory is in him alone. Turn from your sinful ways and love the Lord your God today!