Isaiah 66: "Where will My resting place be?"
Updated: Dec 24, 2021
This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.“
When I read this first verse of Isaiah 66, I closed my eyes and imagined that the ottoman at my feet was the earth and my head was in the clouds. Silly, I know, but the sense of how big He is took my breath away.
There’s a whole lot of room between where God sits and where we are—not just the space that contains the hundreds of billions of galaxies He’s created, but that place—“the heavenlies,” Paul calls them—where angels and demons battle it out so God’s word can reach us and we can speak it, and His kingdom can become evident on the earth.
It’s comforting to know that despite these heavenly battles, God is ruling in rest with His feet up, not scurrying around like a farmer trying to herd chickens into a coop. Just one word from Him can put all things in their place, and here, in the prophecy of Isaiah, He promises He will.
Sitting there in my chair, I then imagined His smile and His twinkling eyes as He asked,
”Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?” What a weighty question: “Where will my resting place be?” As Almighty Creator, He can sit wherever He wants (verse 2), so He’s obviously not asking for information, but invitation.
King Solomon built Him a temple, although he knew a temple couldn’t hold Him (2 Chronicles 6:18). The exiles returning from Babylon built Him a temple even though the ark of His presence had been lost (2 Maccabees 2:7). Men through the ages and the world over have built elegant edifices to host Him but now they sit empty save for people on tour.
From His throne, God has watched; sometimes approved; always provided. But the truth is, our offerings, no matter how huge or how elegant, are worthless if not brought with a heart of humility. The pride of man and his willful ways will attract God’s judgment, not His presence (verses 3-4).
”For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.”
God can’t be contained in structures built by human hands and He won’t be contained by hearts devoid of devotion. So where will His resting place be?
Here is His weighty answer:
“These are the ones I look on with favor,” He says, ”those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”
The fear of God is defined by our relationship with Him. For the disobedient, it is the terror that comes when His judgment is near. For the obedient, it is reverence for the One who calls their name.
Those who tremble at His word find that to live in the favor of God isn’t easy. Those who revere God will be ostracized and mocked by the religious elite. But suddenly, somehow, on behalf of those who tremble at His word, things will change (verses 5-6). Suddenly, those who persecute the humble will be repaid. Somehow, God’s plans will be fulfilled. Suddenly, somehow, the remnant of those He has chosen will be established in righteousness and His chosen will enter into His rest (verses 7-8).
This sudden shift will catch men by surprise, but that’s not surprising—God is the God of surprises. His people’s release from Babylon was a surprise (2 Chronicles 36:22). The rebuilding of the temple—and who paid the bill—was a surprise (Ezra 1:5-8). The birth of the Christ child was a surprise, especially to Herod (Matthew 2:3-4), and His invitation to the Gentiles was a surprise (Acts 10:9-27). His second coming will certainly be a surprise (v. 6-9; Matthew 24:36), and I’m guessing we all will be a little surprised by who is present at the feast.
You’ve probably heard of “replacement” theology—the belief that the Church has succeeded Israel as governor of the Kingdom and that Christians have replaced the Jews as the people of God. Not so! Paul told the Christians in Rome not to be so silly; such arrogance irritates God (Romans 11:11-22). Instead,
“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.”
Be glad if for no other reason than you will share in her blessings.
Whether a popular idea or not, Old Covenant Israel will be welcomed into New Covenant grace and we all will live at rest in peace, surrounded by the wealth of the nations (verses 10-13). The holy city of Jerusalem will welcome and nurture those once thought unclean, and finally, God’s foes and their followers will get their just due (verses 14-17).
“And I, because of what they (His enemies) have planned and done, am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations.”
In a measure, we are living in verse 18 right now. The gathering is going on. The earth is burdened with people who have never heard the truth of the Kingdom and have no idea who they are. Those who know God’s greatest intent for mankind have been sent to introduce them to the King. Ordinary people like you and me who ride buses and trains, sit in offices and stand in long lines are set here as a sign of the power, presence, and peace of a good God (verse 19). If we will be who He’s called us to be, our lives can declare His glory to the nations and we will present them as an offering to the One who sits on the throne (verses 20-21). Our lives in the Kingdom will be ordered around our worship (verses 22-23) and our names will be recorded as eternal residents in His presence in the ages to come.
As the redeemed come and go through the gates, they will see the dead—those who rebelled against the words of life. Peering into those dark recesses will not be an opportunity for Kingdom citizens to gloat but to solemnly consider the destiny of those who said no. Whether this picture of a cemetery is literal or figurative, metaphor or reality, it should stir us to examine our hearts for compromise or self-assurance so that, as Peter says, we can make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10), and we are always ready to share the reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).
There are those who will inherit the glory and there are those who might have done but will not.
Motyer, J. Alec. The Prophecy of Isaiah, pg. 531, InterVarsity Press
So there it is! The prophecy of Isaiah. The words of God to a wayward nation, words of hope for those who turn to Him in faith.
I don’t know about you, but for me, working through this book was tough. I got tired of the repetition, then realized it was a demonstration of the tenacious faithfulness of God. I couldn’t understand the strange metaphors, then remembered this book wasn’t written to me but was delivered with words and in ways that the people present with Isaiah could understand. I came to appreciate the work of commentators and the tools available to me as a believer from another culture but I had to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit to shape what I had to say. I was thrown off balance by the mid-verse changes of direction—words of anger one moment, words of love and mercy the next, but by them, I learned the meaning of “His anger is fleeting, but His favor lasts a lifetime.”
In the midst of his harsh words, Isaiah makes it quite clear that God’s issue is not with those who have not heard, but with those who will not hear. The intense interplay of justice and redemption reveals the kindness and severity of God. His repeated entreaties reveal the longing of God for a people who love Him. His promises assure us of the restoration of God’s chosen, the redemption of the Gentiles, His revealing to the nations, and the beauty of our union in Zion.
In the pages of Isaiah, I saw the incredible plan of God to bring redemption to the world through the love of a faithful Father, the sacrifice of His courageous Son, and the ever-present leading of the Holy Spirit as He prepares us for the coming of the King.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room And heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love
—taken from Joy to the World by Isaac Watts, 17th-century composer and no doubt a student of Isaiah.
Have a wonderful, wonder-filled Christmas!