The Old Testament lesson for Easter is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 65:17-25 and beautifully describes aspects of the “new creation” which is to come. However, who does not preach on the Gospel lesson on Easter Sunday? With three pericopes assigned for this Sunday one does have the opportunity to weave them together as one preaches on the day of the resurrection of our LORD. They are most certainly related!
Isaiah presents a “New Creation Oracle” in this text and uses the eschatological introduction of, “The Day is coming!” In the words of the prophet we read language pointing to a return to Eden, or a restoration of Creation as we consider the “new heavens” and the “new earth”. Isaiah talks of restoration as well as using a motif of new things. This should not be seen as contradictory because even in restoration there are new realities (ex., the inability to fall into sin). These are simply two ways of referring to the same thing.
We also note a strong motif of reversal throughout this text. The old verses the new, the way things are verses the way things will be, the old creation verses the new creation, the now and the not yet. As we look ahead to Revelation 21-22, we read of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and what it will look like. Note the similarity of language. We might also consider how important the physical appears to be to God. Why restore the physical creation in any manner unless there is something important about it to God? Why raise the physical body from the dead unless there is something about the body?
Thanks are given to Reed Lessing and his commentary on Isaiah 56-66 in the Concordia Commentary Series. His take is illustrated with the following quote:
“The gist of Isaiah 65:17-25, therefore, is that God’s “people,” his “chosen ones” (65:22), his “blessed offspring” in Christ (65:23), will inherit the new Jerusalem, which will be like the garden of Eden. God will raise the dead, renew all believers, and provide the new heavens and new earth, infused with divine glory in every aspect. In fact, the new creation will be fashioned into something far better than Eden, for never again will there be any possibility of another temptation to fall back into sin and death. ‘They will not do evil, nor will they destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says Yahweh” (65:25).
65:17 בוֹרֵא (vo-Re) root: ברא (baw-raw) Qal participle: “to create; to form; to fashion” In this context the idea of a future occurrence, “I am about to create”. This verb is always in reference to God as the Creator and there is always an absence of material from which to make/create. In other words, this is where we understand creation is ex nihilo (out of nothing). Thus, only God can create (ברא).
חֲדָשָׁה חֲדָשִׁים (cha-da-Shim cha-da-Shah) from: חדשׁ (khaw-dawsh) “new; fresh” Here we see the motif of new things being used.
תִזָּכַרְנָה (tiz-za-Char-nah) root: זכר (zaw-kar) Niphal imperfect: “to remember”
תַעֲלֶינָה; (ta-a-Lei-nah) root: עלה (aw-law) Qal imperfect: “to rise; rise up”
65:18 שִׂישׂוּi (Si-su) root: שׂישׂ שוּש (soos sis) Qal imperative: “to rejoice; to exult; to show joy”
וְגִילוּ > (ve-Gi-lu) root: גיל (gheel) Qal imperative: “to be glad; to rejoice”
עֲדֵי-עַד (a-dei Ad) “forever and ever”
גִּילָה I (gi-Lah) “rejoicing; gladness”
מָשׂוֹשׂ (ma-Sos) “joy; exultation”
65:19 יִשָּׁמַע (yish-sha-Ma) root: שּׁמע (shaw-mah) Niphal imperfect: “to be heard”
בְּכִי. (be-Chi) “weeping”
זְעָקָה (ze-a-Kah) “cry for help; cry of distress; crying out”
65:20 עוּל (ul) “suckling; infant child” The idea is not to place literal time constraints, but to
show that things/life in the new Jerusalem will go on longer (forever).
יְמַלֵּא > (ye-mal-Le) root: מלא (maw-lay) Piel: “to fulfill; fill up; to complete”
וְהַחוֹטֶא (ve-Ha-cho-Te) root: חטא (khaw-taw) Qal participle: “to sin (the one sinning); to fail (the one failing)”
יְקֻלָּל (ye-kul-Lal) root: קלל (kaw-lal) Pual imperfect: “to be cursed; to be placed under a curse; to be declared cursed”
65:21 וְנָטְעוּ (ve-na-te-U) root: נטע (naw-tah) Qal: “to plant”
כְרָמִים. (che-ra-Mim) “vineyards”
Isaiah uses ideas/concepts from life to describe the perfect life to come. Peace and harmony are the messages being conveyed. This, however, does not mean we built our own mansions in the new heavens!!
65:22 כִימֵי הָעֵץ (chi-Mei ha-‘Etz) “as the days of the tree” A phrase that indicates longevity and stability.
יְבַלּוּ (ye-val-Lu) root: בלה (baw-law) Piel imperfect: “to enjoy; to wear out by use; to use to the full”
בְחִירָי (ve-chi-Rai) “chosen; elect”
65:23 יִיגְעוּ (yi-ge-U) root: יגע (yaw-gah) Qal: “to labor; to struggle; to toil”
לָרִיק (la-Rik) from: ריק (reek) “nothing; vanity; emptiness”
לַבֶּהָלָה (lab-be-ha-Lah) “terror; horror; dread” Literally: “they shall not have children for sudden terror”
בְּרוּכֵי. (be-ru-Chei) root: ברךְ (baw-rak) Qal passive participle: “the ones being blessed”
וְצֶאֱצָאֵיהֶם> (ve-tze-‘e-tza-‘ei-Hem) “offspring; descendants”
65:24 מְדַבְּרִים. (me-dab-be-Rim) root: דברִ (daw-bar) Piel participle: “to speak (speaking)”
65:25 זְאֵב (ze-‘Ev) “wolf”
וְטָלֶה (ve-ta-Leh) “lamb”
וְאַרְיֵה> (ve-‘ar-Yeh) “lion”
וְנָחָשׁ (ve-na-Chash) “serpent” This does not mean ALL serpents, but reminds us of Genesis 3:15 and the Evil Serpent, Satan, who will crawl in the dust of defeat as a result of the crushing of his head by the Holy Seed. Definitely, Isaiah intends for us to “return to Eden” with the language used.
יָרֵעוּ (ya-Re-‘u) root: רעע (raw-ah) Hiphil: “to do evil; to hurt; injure”
Obviously, the LORD has no intention of slapping a bandage on creation. He will completely restore—it will be made new. If I decide to preach this text on Easter Sunday I will focus on the garden scenes in the week of the Passion and point to the new garden as ushered in by Christ Himself on the cross. As you may recall, Christ promised the one thief, “Today you will be with Me in paradise…” Paradise comes from the Persian word for garden!
Concordia Theology: Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 65:17-25.
Text Week: A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 65:17-25.