Monday, 25 November 2019

The New Creation- Is 65



We have ended our time examining the Psalms. Today we notice a shift in the readings towards the Reign of Christ, which we celebrate next Sunday. The Reign of Christ, or the Feast of Christ the King is the end of the church year in our liturgical calendar. We end the year with the end of the Christian story, which is when all things are made right- all injustice is ended- and all suffering ceases. Christ is on the throne of the universe and there is no disputing his rule, or disagreement that his rule is good. Our readings today speak about the return of Christ, the New Creation, and what we are to do in the meantime.

Today we will be looking at our passage from Isaiah 65 specifically. It is a sweeping promise about the future God will bring into reality. We see it reflected in Revelation 21 as well. Revelation says, 
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
 Our passage from Isaiah reads, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth…” (Isaiah 65:17), and there too we read about a re-created Jerusalem.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. This is what is being described in Isaiah. The kingdom of God is where God’s will is done. In Luke 17:21 Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you”. It is not just some reality far away that we are waiting to come to us. It is a reality right here in our midst. The kingdom is present wherever the will of God becomes reality. When one of us is suffering and another of us shows compassion, the kingdom of God is present and real in that moment. If someone is lonely and one of us visits with a loving presence, the kingdom is present. When we spend time in prayer seeking God’s presence, the kingdom is there. When we resist temptation, the kingdom is present. When we express love to an enemy, the kingdom is there. …

Our will has a limited reach. Our will is expressed in how we set up the furniture in our house- in what kind of car we drive- in what kind of people we choose to be friends with- in what we read and what TV shows we watch- in how we treat those around us. … Our will does not extend to how North Korea treats their people, or how Turkey deals with Syria. Our will doesn’t even extend to the house around the corner. … Wherever our will is done, that is our kingdom. Where God’s will is done, that is where the kingdom of God is present.

What we see in Isaiah 65 is an expression of God’s will when it becomes a reality for all creation- When what God wants to have happen is what actually happens. The kingdom, in its fullness, has finally come.

The Kingdom is here in small ways, but someday it will come in its fullness- in a way that can’t be resisted. For the moment, human beings are able to resist God’s will. We can set up our own kingdom in opposition to the kingdom of God, for the time being. But that time will come to an end, eventually, and God’s kingdom will become the lived reality.

One Bible commentator (Alec Motyer) talks about how Isaiah paints a picture for us, but he’s trying to describe something outside our present experience. He says this picture is “drawn in the colours of this life, [and] project the perfection of the life to come”. So, this image is to be taken seriously, but it can’t be taken literally. Take the emotion of it seriously. Take the intent of it seriously. … For example, in verse 20 Isaiah says,
“No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed”.

Should we assume from this that in the fullness of the kingdom, when creation is remade, that children will be born? and that people will still die? … From what is said in other parts of the Bible, the final enemy that will be defeated is death itself (1 Cor 15:26). And Jesus says that when the kingdom is fully revealed in the resurrection that people will be like the angels and will not get married, which we assume includes not having children. Our relationships won’t be based biological reproduction (Luke 20:34-36). …

Isaiah seems to be using familiar colours to paint a picture of something we can barely imagine. I think he’s is saying something like “you know the pain parents feel when they give birth to a child and that baby only lives for a few days? That kind of pain won’t exist in this new created world. … You know what it feels like when someone dies just when they retire and they don’t get a chance to do all the things they hoped and saved for? That kind of tragedy won’t exist in God’s kingdom. … You know how it feels when you get swindled by a business partner and they take everything you worked so hard for? That kind of injustice won’t exist in the Kingdom- the one who carefully tends the vineyard year after year will enjoy the grapes, and the one who builds the house will get to live in it. The pain of the former life will be so distant, it will be like it has been forgotten. This new Jerusalem will be pure joy”. I think Isaiah wants to paint the picture of the New Creation by using familiar feelings and experiences.

It is a beautiful picture that Isaiah paints for us. The new Jerusalem will be a place where the presence of God dwells in an unmistakable way. Sometimes we talk about “thin” places, which are places where God’s presence feels particularly powerful. Sometimes that is a retreat center, and sometimes that is a holy place people we visit on pilgrimage. This New Jerusalem will be unmistakably and obviously filled with God’s presence. It will be a place where all nations come to gain access to the goodness and guidance of God. … It will be a place where the people are in such an intimate relationship with God that they will desire the right things and God will hear their call and answer it before they can even articulate it.

I love the earthiness of the New Creation. He mentions trees, wolves, lambs, and lions. Their nature will be so changed that there will be no violence between them. The ancient ferocity and fear between the wolf and the lamb will be gone. The lion will eat straw, and no one will have a reason to fear it. The carnivore will become a herbivore.

Isaiah’s image is amazing and beautiful. Heaven and earth are remade. Just as God is making us a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Likewise, God is going to remake the world. Jesus is the first fruit of this New Creation. His old body was made new, into a body that was beyond death. … In Romans 8, Paul says that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Rom 8:19). Our being made a new creation is bound up with the Creation being made new. … The will of God is spreading throughout the world and eventually all things will be made new, according to the good and perfect will of God.

We yearn for all things to be made right. The way the Bible says that is that we yearn for the kingdom of God. We yearn for the King to sit on the throne and for His will to be followed because he is good and wise- He loves us and wants what is best for us. This is the hope we yearn for, along with the rest of creation. AMEN

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