Way back at the end of June, we started a study on the last 27 chapters of Isaiah. This section (ch. 40-66) is all part of one long dialog where God speaks of revenge, redemption, and revelation. He’s open and emotional, calling out to His people, talking about how grieved He is by their sin, and saying how much He still loves and wants them. Some of the most famous prophecies of Jesus’s Messianic ministry are found here in Isaiah, including ones showing how much He suffered to save us.
Today’s article is our last post in this Isaiah Study series. With the fall holy days less than a month away (Yom Teruah/Day of Trumpets falls on Sept. 26 this year), it’s a great time to study and think deeply on the Lord’s plan for Jesus’s second coming, His millennial reign, and the new heaven and new earth that will follow.
We’ve already discussed this topic in the post about God’s declarations that He’s doing a new thing, but I don’t think we’re quite finished with it yet. Not too long ago, one of the ladies in my scripture writing group mentioned walking toward the Lord’s mountain as a key part of our spiritual journey. While I hadn’t put anything about the Lord’s mountain on my list of key themes in the first Isaiah study post, “mountain” shows up 21 times in the WEB translation of this section of scripture. Seven times it’s God talking about “my mountain.”
God’s Use of Mountains
Let’s start with some background on mountains. A lot of major Bible events happen on mountains. For example, that’s where Abraham went to sacrifice his son, and since God provided a substitutionary ram “it is said to this day, ‘On Yahweh’s mountain, it will be provided'” (Gen. 22:14, WEB). God also spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai when He gave Israel the Covenant (Ex. 24:12). Mountains aren’t the only places God speaks with people of course, but He seems to like mountains for some reason. More to our point, mountains picture where God chooses to place His people and where He says that he reigns. Look at what Israel and Moses say in a song of praise and deliverance:
“You, in your loving kindness, have led the people that you have redeemed.Exodus 15:13, 17-18, WEB
You have guided them in your strength to your holy habitation. …
You will bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance,
the place, Yahweh, which you have made for yourself to dwell in;
the sanctuary, Lord, which your hands have established.
Yahweh will reign forever and ever.”
During King David’s reign, God’s holy mountain became closely associated with Mount Zion, the City of David, and Jerusalem (Zion and Jerusalem are often used interchangeably now, but it seems originally they were twin cities). Zion is God’s holy mountain where He dwells and chooses to reign (Ps. 68:15-16; 74:2; Joel 3:16-17; Ezek. 20:39-41). This statement is literal, figurative, and prophetic.
God literally established Jerusalem/Zion as the focal point of His holy land and set kings up on its throne. On a figurative/spiritual level, He still reigns over that location and believers today “have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22, WEB). In the future, “the mountain of Yahweh’s temple will be established on the top of the mountains,” all people will go to it for instruction, and “the law will go out of Zion, and Yahweh’s word from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2, WEB). It’s this prophetic, forward-looking meaning of God’s mountain that figures most prominently in the Isaiah texts we’re focusing on today.
Walking Toward His Mountain
Isaiah’s message begins with mountains. By chapter 2, the book is talking about a future time when “the mountain of Yahweh’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains” (Is. 2:2, WEB). This passage mirrors the one we already quoted in Micah where people go up to God’s mountain and learn His law (Is. 2:1-4). This pictures something that’s still in the future for us; a time when God’s people will stand with Jesus on Mount Zion and (even after that) when “the holy city, Jerusalem” comes down from heaven to earth (Rev. 14:1; 21:10). We might not fully understand what God plans to do with His holy mountain in the future, but we know it’s a location of great joy where we’ll dwell with God and follow Him fully.
The Lord’s mountain is linked with Millennial imagery again in Isaiah chapter 11, where Gods says, “They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain” (Is. 11:9, WEB). In the future, even foreigners and outcasts “will worship Yahweh in the holy mountain at Jerusalem” (Is. 27:13, WEB); a worship that’s also associated with joy in keeping God’s holy festivals (Is. 30:29). By the time Isaiah’s readers get to the last 27 chapters that we’ve been studying, they’ve already heard quite a bit about God’s holy mountain.
Our faith isn’t one where a distant God hangs out on mountains to separate Himself from the people He rules. Rather, He’s calling us up to join Him where He dwells. First, though, He came down to dwell with us and invite us to join Him. The Servant Songs in Isaiah point to Jesus Christ’s first coming and His ongoing purposes. In the second song, the Servant speaks in the first-person about His plans and the work He does in concert with God the Father (Is. 49:1-13).
“I will make all my mountains a road,Isaiah 49:12-13, WEB
and my highways shall be exalted.
Behold, these shall come from afar,
and behold, these from the north and from the west;
and these from the land of Sinim.”
Sing, heavens, and be joyful, earth!
Break out into singing, mountains,
for Yahweh has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his afflicted.
“Walk” is a common word picture in the Bible for living in the way that God wants us to. And that’s what you do on a road; you walk on it, in this case all the way to join the Messiah. It’s such a joyful thing that the mountains themselves start to sing (Is. 55:12) and the feet of messengers running over the mountains to bring this good news are called “beautiful” (Is. 52:7).
The Destination for Our Lives
Finally, we arrive at the end of the book. As God’s message through Isaiah draws to a close, He returns to the contrast between righteousness and wickedness that He’s brought up several times before. Here, He says, “you who forsake Yahweh, who forget my holy mountain” are destined for “slaughter; because when I called, you didn’t answer. When I spoke, you didn’t listen; but you did that which was evil in my eyes, and chose that in which I didn’t delight” (Is. 65:11-12, WEB). To walk away from God’s holy mountain is to walk away from God Himself. In contrast, those who faithfully serve God have a very different relationship with His mountain.
I will bring offspring out of Jacob,Isaiah 65:9, WEB
and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains.
My chosen will inherit it,
and my servants will dwell there.
God’s servants get to live with Him on His mountain forever. That’s the destination for our walk of faith here on earth. We want to be there when He brings this promise to fulfillment: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth … I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people … They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain” (Is. 65:17, 19, 25, WEB). The message God shares with us about the end of this world, right before Jesus’s second coming, has a lot of warnings and discussion of punishment, but there are also incredible promises of future peace and joy. Even when God’s justice demands punishment, He still talks about restoration and whorship.
“For I know their works and their thoughts. The time comes that I will gather all nations and languages, and they will come, and will see my glory.
“I will set a sign among them, and I will send those who escape of them to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to far-away islands, who have not heard my fame, nor have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations. They shall bring all your brothers out of all the nations for an offering to Yahweh, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, and on camels, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says Yahweh, as the children of Israel bring their offering in a clean vessel into Yahweh’s house. Of them I will also select priests and Levites,” says Yahweh.
“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me,” says Yahweh, “so your offspring and your name shall remain. It shall happen that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh will come to worship before me,” says Yahweh. “They will go out, and look at the dead bodies of the men who have transgressed against me; for their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”Isaiah 66:18-24, WEB
And that’s the end of the book. While that final verse might be a bit shocking, the overall message is one of hope. God plans to “gather all nations and languages”–no one will be left out. His people will be just as enduring “as the new heavens and the new earth” that He plans to make. Our worship will endure as well; God says that “all flesh will come to worship” before Him on His Sabbaths.
We don’t have to wait until then to worship Him on His holy days, though. This incredible future is the time we get to picture as we celebrate Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) every fall. We also get a little taste of this final, glorious peace and rest each week as we observe the Sabbath (Heb. 4:9).
I hope you’ve enjoyed this deep dive into Isaiah 40-66 over the past couple months. With the exception of writing Study Guides for The Beatitudes (available on Amazon) and the Armor of God (coming out later this fall), I don’t think I’ve ever spent this long studying a single section of scripture. It’s exciting and awe-inspiring to me that there’s so much to learn from one relatively short chunk of scripture. I could keep writing about just this part of the Bible for another two months and still not have exhausted “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33, NET). For now, though, we’re going to bring this study to a close. As always, if you have any thoughts on this post or insights from your own study you’d like to share, please comment below 🙂
Featured image by Inbetween from Lightstock
Song Recommendation: “Come Let Us Go up to the Mountain” by Paul Wilbur