• Lori

Isaiah 65: Return to Eden

Updated: Feb 16

Photo by Ochir-Erdene Oyunmedeg on Unsplash

As chapter 64 ended, the watchmen were pleading with God to forget His anger and forgive their sin. The country was a mess, their temple in ruins, but those well-acquainted with the heart of God knew just what to do: remind Him, “we are your people” (Isaiah 64:8-12).

“After all this, Lord,” they asked, “will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?

In other words, “Is it enough yet?” God’s response, it seems, was, “No.”

And now, as is not uncommon in the prophecies of Isaiah, God begins to speak about another time—beyond the exile, beyond their return, beyond the rebuilding of the temple and the last cries of the prophets, to the time of Jesus.

Chapter 65.

“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’

As Jesus walked all over Galilee and the Decapolis, through Samaria and on to Jerusalem, he continued to say in all sorts of ways, "Here am I." Some who received him were most unexpected: Samaritans, Romans, and a former persecutor named Saul.

When Saul became Paul, he quoted these verses from Isaiah, explaining why God sent him out preaching Christ to the Gentiles rather than spending his time in the land of his countrymen.

“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Isaiah 65:2; Romans 10:20-21).

Save the four hundred silent yearsthe period between the last words of Malachi the prophet and the first words of John the BaptistGod continued entreating His people, yet His people chose to sacrifice to idols (verse 3) and consult with the dead (verse 4ab). They ignored the Law’s definitions of clean and unclean (verse 4cd) and were quite satisfied with their own notions of holiness.

God’s reaction?

Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.

Turning His attention back to the watchmen, God explains, “I know you’re my people. That’s why you’re in trouble” (verse 6-7). But verse 7 seems a little unfair, don’t you think? Punished for past people’s sins? Well, He reasons, you’ve adopted your ancestors’ ways, now you’ll inherit your ancestors’ judgments. Rather than holding close the words of wise men like Moses (Exodus 24:8) they had fallen into such foolishness as dancing around a golden calf (Exodus 32).

But God is not unreasonable.

“As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and people say, ‘Don’t destroy it, there is still a blessing in it,’ so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all.

The rebellious spent time on mountains of idol sacrifice (verse 7) but a remnant will spend time on mountains of blessing (verse 9). The pasturelands of Sharon—dried up in the time of the exile (Isaiah 33:9)—will once again play host to countless flocks and herds. The Valley of Achor—once the place of the Lord’s fierce anger in response to their idolatry (Joshua 7:26)—will become a place of rest, not retribution. Those who took their chances with fortune and fate (verse 11), will, unfortunately, face a destiny of death (verse 12ab).

for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.

The finders and the refusers. Different responses, different rewards. So there were promises for the faithful: food and drink and rejoicing, and repercussions for the faithless: hunger and thirst and shame (verse 13). Songs of joy from the committed; wails of anguish from the wicked (verse 14).

I was cruising right along in chapter 65 when I ran up against verse 15. The commentaries had little to say. The verse is about names, clearly: a name contains a clue to the person’s purpose. But the rest of the verse has me baffled. “You will leave your name for my chosen ones to use in their curses.” Perhaps the phrase, spoken to those left behind, doesn’t mean the remnant will use the names of the rejected in place of #$%@, but that when a member of the remnant mentions the cursed one’s name, his buddies will draw back in horror, thanking God it isn't them (Jeremiah 29:22).

Isaiah is cryptic, too, about the names He’ll give His servants (see Isaiah 62:2, Revelation 2:17). Those names, now unknown to us, will carry the authority to speak blessing and make promises on behalf of God (verse 16). Man's dominion will reach to the ends of the earth. As in Eden, man is starting from scratch.

See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.

I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

Creator and created will revel together in the new environment. The Lord himself will rejoice in His city and take endless delight in His people. Man will enjoy being productive; tasks will not be toil. Results will be eternal with no enemy to snatch them away. The blessing will extend beyond one generation to the next (verse 20-23).

And, finally, as an animal lover and nature enthusiast, I especially love this verse:

The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

That means so much more than the wonder of a cageless zoo! It is the picture of the earth with enmity gone, fears removed, and natures forever changed: the harmony of Eden restored.