Isaiah 66 – Reverse Diaspora

Isaiah 66 Bible with Green and Blacks Organic Mint Dark Chocolate 60% Cacao on snowman plate   snow on the backyard deck

Hey, the deck matches my plate today.

Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic Mint Dark Chocolate, 60% Cacao

Today’s PassageIsaiah 66

Last chapter of Isaiah, fam. Time to tie a bow on this book.

The first section of the chapter reiterates the anti-hypocrisy themes of the previous chapter. Speaking through Isaiah, God says:

But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog’s neck;
He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood;
He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol. (66:3)

The word “like” isn’t there in the original Hebrew. Isaiah is telling us: the murderer and the religious man? Same person. Isaiah’s countrymen will observe their Jewish rituals, then they’ll turn around and worship a block of wood or kill a dog for sport. I’m reminded of James 2:10-11: ” [W]hoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For…if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” Any given sin is just as capable as any other of separating us from God. And there are degrees of separation–the person who murders five people has probably got more problems in their relationship than God than the person who murders just one–but you can’t show up for the ritual sacrifices at the sanctuary and expect God will be pleased with them when you’ve been lying around sinning all week.

(Side note, I went looking for those verses from James in the second chapter of Romans, thinking Paul had written them. Thank God for searchable databases or I’d still be looking. Know your Bible, fam.)

But Isaiah’s not going to end his book of prophecy on a note of disgust. God, when he would be entirely within his rights to turn his back on his people, instead makes a promise: “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream” (66:12). Remember how valuable water is in such an arid climate? God intends to restore peace and wealth to Jerusalem, flowing in like a stream, vital as a life-giving liquid. And, once again in touch with his feminine side, God promises: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (66:13). Even when it’s not apparent to his children, God is still a parent to his children.

As Isaiah prophesies, Assyria has invaded Israel and scattered its inhabitants, the first Jewish diaspora. Only the kingdom of Judah remains as a coherent Jewish nation, and its days are numbered. But as Isaiah closes out his book, he focuses on the light up ahead with a final promise from God:

[T]he time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations… Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. (66:18-20)

The nations are going to recognize God as Lord of the Universe, a being of inestimable value and worthy of worship, and they’re going to bring the scattered Jewish people back to Jerusalem. God promises a new form of restoration, a reversal of calamity: an anti-diaspora. I see that phrase “I will set a sign among them,” and wonder: could that sign be the Messiah?

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