The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 66:18-23 which comprises the last of the verses of Isaiah, but interestingly leaves off the last verse, verse 24. This is most likely due to the negative skew of that stanza. However, it is an unfortunate move in that the negative language which is a description of the bowels of Sheol/Hell helps to highlight the joy and beauty of the courts of Heaven as described in the preceding verses. It is difficult to end on a “law” oriented note, but it is true one cannot appreciate the sweetness of the Gospel without first understanding the absolute bitterness and condemnation of the Law.
Creation plays a major role in the text of Isaiah. In chapters 65-66 we see the language of a, “new heavens and new earth,” and a description of what these look like which is then strongly reflected in the language of chapters 21-22 of Revelation. In order to explain the “new” it is set in opposition to the “old,” a motif of reversal as Reed Lessing notes. Again, one can best understand the joy and beauty of the new when it is seen in light of the old. As we consider the connections to Revelation 21-22, we see how the “new heavens and new earth” are not the start of something new or different, but rather the restoration and return to what was originally intended. And, as is often the case in Scripture, it is about a renewed, restored, and redeemed relationship with the Creator. Once again, God and man walk together and see one another face-to-face as was always the intention. Now, as these verses tell us, “The day/the time is coming!”
Isaiah, true to form, emphasizes the ingathering of all nations, even from the furthest reaches of the earth. In verse 18, “All nations and tongues... shall come and see the glory.” Then, in verse 19, from these “survivors” God will send missionaries; missionaries from the Gentiles to declare His glory. Do not fail to note that the Lord God “sending” a missionary out to the Gentiles only occurs here and with the prophet Jonah who is sent to Nineveh. Consequently, in verse 21, with words which must have caused the people to squirm, Isaiah says the LORD will take for priests and Levites from these Gentiles!! Again, in the words of Lessing, “Outsiders will become insiders.”
Once again, God and man walk together and see one another face-to-face as was always the intention. Now, as these verses tell us, “The day/the time is coming!”
66:18 וְאָנֹכִי, מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם וּמַחְשְׁבֹתֵיהֶם—--בָּאָה This is a very difficult set of words. Literally we would translate: “and I, their deeds and their thoughts, she is coming” Most English translations supply the verb “to know”. “I know their words and their thoughts and (the time) is coming.” Whether or not one agrees with this move, it does capture the sense of the meaning.
לְקַבֵּץ root: קבץ Piel, infinitive construct: “to gather”
כְּבוֹדִי “my glory” Only in Isaiah (3X) and in Psalm 97:6 do we hear that all nations will behold the glory of the LORD.
66:19 אוֹת “sign”
וְשִׁלַּחְתִּי root: שׁלח “to send; send out”
פְּלֵיטִים. “survivors; fugitives”
מֹשְׁכֵי root: מֹשׁך Qal, participle: “to draw; to pull; to stretch”
הָאִיִּים from: אִי “distant island; shore; coastland”
הָרְחֹקִים from: רחוֹק “distant; remote; far off” These two words indicate the farthest reaches of the world.
שִׁמְעִי “report; news; fame”
66:20 וּבַצַּבִּים from: צב “wagon; litter”
וּבַפְּרָדִים from: פרד “mule”
וּבַכִּרְכָּרוֹת from: כרכרה “chariot; she-camel” This word is uncertain and rare.
טָהוֹר “clean; ceremonial clean”
66:21 לַלְוִיִּם root: לוה Niphal, participle: “to join; to join oneself”
66:22 הַחֲדָשִׁים; from: חדשִׁ “new; fresh”
עֹמְדִיםo root: עמד Qal, participle: “to stand”
66:23 מִדֵּי from: דֵּי: “enough; sufficient; what is required”
לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֺת root: חוה Hishtaphel, infinitive construct: “to bow down (in worship)”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 66:18-23
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 66:18-21.