God told Abraham to lift up his eyes and look at Canaan, because one day his offspring would fill the land and possess it. To the people of Isaiah’s day, this was a note of hope, knowing that someday they would return from exile, as a continuation of God’s ancient promise. This prophecy was partially fulfilled again when Israel was made a nation in 1948. Yet, Isaiah’s vision of Israel’s restoration in this chapter goes far beyond anything that has happened yet.
“Lift up your eyes and look around;Isaiah 60:4-5 (NRSVUE)
they all gather together; they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried in their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you;
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.”
All the nations of earth would be streaming into Jerusalem with tribute for God. This would fulfill another aspect of God’s promise to Abraham, of making Abraham’s offspring into a great nation, and of God blessing all the families of earth through Abraham’s progeny.
Tribute for the Temple of God
In this description of incredible prosperity for God’s people, the whole earth will be streaming to Jerusalem, not only to rebuild the city, but to worship in the temple and bring tribute to God.
“A multitude of camels shall cover you,Isaiah 60:6-7 (NRSVUE)
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;
the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
they shall be acceptable on my altar,
and I will glorify my glorious house.”
All the wealth of the nations would be brought into Israel, and will be found acceptable by God because their hearts will have been made right with God. Some think this might mean a literal temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and the offerings will be thank offerings, since the whole Levitical system of sacrifices was fulfilled through the cross. The writers of the Christian testament give further insight into how God is already fulfilling this prophecy spiritually.
Jesus told the woman at the well, in Samaria,
“The hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”John 4:23-24 (NRSVUE)
And the writer of Hebrews explained that believers have come not to God’s physical mountain, but rather,
“… you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.“Hebrews 12:22-24 (NRSVUE, italics added)
And as Isaiah said here,
“for the name of the Lord your GodIsaiah 60:9 (NRSVUE)
and for the Holy One of Israel,
because he has glorified you.”
King Cyrus provided the money to rebuild Jerusalem after the exile, but the Jewish people built the walls themselves. As it is to this day, Israel builds its own walls, now more than ever for the critical need of security. But in the vision Isaiah was describing,
“Foreigners shall build up your walls,Isaiah 60:10-11 (NRSVUE, italics added)
and their kings shall minister to you,
for in my wrath I struck you down,
but in my favor I have had mercy on you.
Your gates shall always be open;
day and night they shall not be shut,
so that nations shall bring you their wealth,
with their kings led in procession.“
This last part of Isaiah’s prophecy is still waiting to be fulfilled.
The Whole World
Continuing to prophesy, Isaiah spoke with the voice of the Lord, saying this stream of treasure coming as gifts from throughout the world would beautify the place of God’s earthly sanctuary, and would glorify the place where the Lord’s feet rest. In Isaiah’s day, the Ark of the Covenant was seen as the place where God placed God’s feet, another reference to a rebuilt temple. The imagery Isaiah used recalled the past glory of Solomon’s reign.
In the next verse Isaiah portrayed a completely contrite world, repentant of having persecuted God’s people. In Solomon’s day, Israel had been a world power and nations from all over the earth sent their tribute to Solomon’s court, celebrating the wisdom and righteous rule of Israel’s monarch. God would return those days to Israel—I will make you majestic forever, said the Lord, a joy from age to age.
God would transform every aspect of their experience as God’s people, for this will be a time of unlimited peace, righteousness, salvation, and praise.
“I will appoint Peace as your overseerIsaiah 60:17-18 (NRSVUE)
and Righteousness as your taskmaster.
Violence shall no more be heard in your land,
devastation or destruction within your borders;
you shall call your walls Salvation
and your gates Praise.“
In these verses, God promised
- God’s people would go from forsaken and hated to majestic and filled with joy.
- You shall know, God told them, that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
- What is weaker will be replaced with what is stronger.
- What is less lovely will be replaced with what is more beautiful.
- Instead of violence, devastation, and destruction, God will govern them with peace and righteousness, not just from the outside, but from the inside.
- Their walls – their self-made sense of security – will be replaced with God’s salvation.
- Their gates – the carefully guarded way in and out – will be replaced with joyful praise.
Perhaps in a literal sense, none of these prophecies have been fulfilled for the nation of Israel. Yet, in a spiritual sense, all these promises have potential for fulfillment for those who put their faith in God and receive the Lord’s Spirit.
The glory of the Lord restores and transforms God’s people
James, Jesus’ brother, was a hardened skeptic during Jesus’ lifetime. He was embarrassed by Jesus’ ministry, seemed to mock him, and at one point even thought Jesus was out of his mind—that is when James and the rest of Jesus’ brothers plotted to somehow grab Jesus, drag him home to Nazareth and make him stay out of sight for a while. James was a no-show during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. But after Jesus’ resurrection, James believed, and was transformed into the leader of the first church of Jerusalem.
A woman better known by her reputation than by her name dared to pour out her love for Jesus through her tears, her perfume, and her hair. Jesus received her love and sent her back into her life now more famous for her bold faith than for anything else.
Paul was the most legalistic of Pharisees, a Jew of Jews. Utterly offended by the gospel, he was personally responsible for the imprisonment and death of countless Christians. Yet when Jesus arrested him on the way to Damascus, Paul was completely transformed. The Jew of Jews became the evangelist to the Gentiles.
Women healed by Jesus, being freed of demons, became so empowered they continued to travel with Jesus and ministered from their own resources right alongside him.
Peter was an outspoken, sort of bumbling fisherman who became a rock of faith. John, called a son of thunder, known for his hot temper and contentious ways became the apostle of love.
It makes me excited to think about the ways is God restoring and transforming me!
How about you?