Studies in Isaiah 55: 7. Transformation
Isa 55:12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
Looking Back: To sense the enormity of the final two verses of this chapter we really need to do a quick recap of chapters 54 & 55. Chapter 54 brought us the picture of Israel as a barren woman (54:1a) who the Lord promised to bless (54:1b-10) Then came the picture of Jerusalem as a thrashed city (54:11a) who will be gloriously rebuilt (54:11b-17) Two terrible pictures but both being utterly transformed by the Lord. Both pictures of transformation are in general terms. Nothing is said about how the Lord will do that. Chapter 55 brings calls to action on Israel’s behalf. Some might suggest that the end results of chapter 54 are coming from the future sovereign activity of the Lord, maybe even only at the end times. Others might suggest that chapter 55 is God’s call to Israel in order for them to change and be transformed. The call is to recognize hunger and thirst and to come to the Lord for those needs to be met. (55:1-7) There is a call to recognize that God’s ways and thinking are very different from ours (55:8,9) and so to understand His will we need to seek Him, listen to Him, and learn from Him. In all this we are to understand that when He speaks it is with a purpose and what He says, will come about (55:10,11). What we now have is the fulfillment or implementation or culmination of God’s ultimate heart for them.
A Celebrating Creation: There are occasional prophetic verses that stand out in Scripture – largely in Isaiah – concerning the ultimate fulfillment of God’s intent for the human race. For example earlier in Isaiah we find, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11:6-9) What an amazingly graphic picture of peace and harmony at the end, just like it must have been at the beginning in the Garden of Eden.
There is a link here between that picture and the one that follows shortly: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” (v.12a) This is the future experience of the people of God. Instead of the sense of desolation (54:1) or the feeling of affliction (54:11) that is so often our experience in this fallen world, the future holds joy and peace. Note we experience these in a measure in the kingdom of God as we experience the Holy Spirit (see Rom 14:17, 15:13, Gal 5:22) but it is only ‘a measure’; the unlimited fulfilment will come sat the end.
So now we have this other amazingly graphic picture of the way the whole of creation celebrates the wonder of the fulfillment of the Lord’s plans. Yes, it is not literal but catch the wonder of the personification that is here: “the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” The Living Bible simply puts it, “The mountains and hills, the trees of the field—all the world around you—will rejoice.” The sight of the redeemed of the Lord coming into their eternal inheritance will mean that the new heaven and new earth and new Jerusalem will all rejoice at the shear wonder of this conclusion. (Read Isa 35 in its entirety for a similar picture of rejoicing).
Yet there is more, a picture of the transformation from harsh living to a wonderful provision: “Instead of the thorn-bush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.” (v.13a) Thorn bushes and briers that are harsh and unpleasant will be replaced by evergreen trees, the juniper and myrtle. Everything about this new world speaks of glorious transformation.
The Impact: The ultimate purpose is finally revealed: “This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever,” (v.13b) or, as other versions put it, “Monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God,” (Msg) and, “This miracle will make the Lord’s name very great and be an everlasting sign of God’s power and love.” (Living). Great rulers of ancient times set up monuments to their victories, their triumphs, reminders of their power and might.
At the end, all of us who have entered into the wonder of being the people of God, who have entered into this inheritance planned before the foundation of the world, will look at the wonder of what is, reflect back on what we know of our past and the past of the old world, and we will not only rejoice at being part of the wonder of it, but we will worship the One who had it on His heart from the beginning and who, through the centuries of the history of mankind, worked to draw people to Himself, out of their lives of sinful rebellion, to become instead children of God. Apart from the wonder of the end creation itself, there will be hanging over it, if you like, the reminder that this is all the work of an incredible God, the Creator of the world who is also its Redeemer, an everlasting testimony to His love, grace and mercy.
Hope Given: And so to sum up, to finalize the thoughts in these two chapters, in the face of the trials and tribulations of the present, we are given from heaven a glorious picture of hope. Among the songs negro slaves sung is found:
Oh freedom, oh freedom,
Oh Freedom over me.
And before I’ll be a slave,
I’ll be buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord and be free.
There it is – “go home to my Lord.” Our future in eternity with the Lord, experiencing the new heaven and the new earth and the new Jerusalem, this is the life we are promised and in these chapters some of the wonder of it shines through and strengthens that hope. Reassurance comes from heaven in various ways and the one we have had placed before us by Isaiah is of an incredible future that makes the present pale almost into insignificance by comparison. But it is not insignificant for how we respond in the present always determines what we will receive in the future. Yet, fortunately, His grace and mercy means will we receive infinitely more than we ever deserve. Hallelujah!