For the Love of God, Volume 2/May 24
From Gospel Translations
Numbers 33; Psalm 78:1-39; Isaiah 25; 1 John 3
ISAIAH 25 IS DIVIDED INTO three parts. In the center is a festive banquet (25:6-8). On either side is a song. The first is sung by a solitary singer, doubtless Isaiah himself (25:1-5); the second is a communal song of praise (25:9-12).
At the feast (25:6-8) the food is the finest, and free—“a feast of rich food for all peoples.” The “shroud” or “sheet” that “covers all nations” (25:7) is death itself, the result of the curse mentioned in the preceding chapter. This feast is a celebration because God “will swallow up death forever” (25:8). Indeed, all the results of the curse will be obliterated: “The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces” (25:8; compare Rev. 21). Indeed, the blessings depicted in this verse are secured by Jesus (see Luke 14:15-24), who vanquishes death (1 Cor. 15:25-26, 51-57; 2 Tim. 1:10). This feast is for “all peoples” (25:6)—another of the many Isaianic prefigurings of the universal application of the Gospel—yet they must come to “this mountain” (25:7); for salvation, as Jesus insists to the Samaritan woman, is “from the Jews” (John 4:22). When Isaiah adds that God will remove the disgrace of “his people” from all the earth, the reference is slightly ambiguous: this may be a reference to Israel, or it may be a reference to those drawn from “all peoples” who truly prove to be his people on the last day.
The song of the lone singer (25:1-5) abounds in exuberant praise to God because he is perfectly faithful. This faithfulness is demonstrated both in the devastating judgments he has brought about and in God’s perennial care for the poor and needy (25:4). In short, God is praised for the faithful justice of his judgments. The final communal song (25:9-12) finds God’s people collectively praising him: “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.” (25:9). But here, too, the inverse activity of God is to be praised: God has brought judgment on those full of pride. Moab is singled out as an example of such waywardness. So at the end, there will be two communities: God’s people at the festal banquet where God himself is host and death is destroyed; and the utterly proud, who will not bend the knee but whom God brings down “to the very dust” (25:12). One commentator (Barry G. Webb) writes, “Either repentance will bring you to the feast or pride will keep you away, and the consequences will be unsullied joy or unspeakably terrible judgment. The alternatives which the Gospel sets before us are as stark as that.”