Terrible Judgment and Great Salvation
What message did God declare to the repatriates regarding the temple and their worship practices?
The message of Isaiah 66:1-4 is addressed to the repatriates who felt the temple needed to be rebuilt in order to provide a dwelling place for God. The message of these verses should not be seen as condemning the rebuilding of the temple, but rather a woefully inadequate view of God.
Verse 1 contains two questions. The first question challenges the listeners to consider the folly of building a temple to house God whose throne is heaven and whose footstool is the earth.
The second question is answered in verse 2. God’s dwelling place is not in houses made with hands but in humble and contrite hearts of men who revere His word. God also expresses His displeasure with the corrupt worship system of the people, which still has noticeable traces of pagan syncretism (66:3).
Verse 3 states that those involved in such practices have chosen their ways above God’s ways. In response, God declares that He will choose their punishments. God will hold accountable all men who are a party to faithless and corrupt worship.
Practical Considerations: Believers should choose God’s way over their own way.
The Bible teaches that God is interested in our choices. Isaiah spoke condemning words to those who chose their own ways above God’s ways. They would experience the judgment of God as a result. We should choose God’s ways above our own. We should choose those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Verses 5-6 announce the judgment that will befall those religious and political leaders involved in casting out (excommunicating) the righteous from the temple. They mistakenly think that they are rendering a service to God (“Let the Lord be glorified”) but will themselves be put to shame on the day of God’s judgment.
What lay in store for Jerusalem?
These verses employ the metaphor of motherhood to describe Jerusalem’s future. Verses 7-9 declare that Jerusalem will give birth to a new citizenry (66:7) without experiencing labor pains. To the skeptics who deny that such a thing is possible (66:8) God affirms that He will bring to completion what He has begun (66:9).
Those who love and mourn over Jerusalem are invited to rejoice for Jerusalem’s coming blessings. The righteous will be suckled, nourished, and comforted at her breast (66:11-13). God will vindicate Jerusalem and His servants and destroy His enemies (66:14-16) and all who continue to practice idolatry (66:17).
What is the concluding message of the book of Isaiah?
The concluding message of the book of Isaiah is both hopeful and somber. God declares that He will gather all nations and tongues that they might see His glory (66:18) and go forth as evangelists declaring that glory (66:19). They will also bring back to Jerusalem their brethren by every available means of transportation (66:20-21).
God promises that both Jerusalem’s descendants and name will endure (66:22) and that they will worship Him (66:23). Those who transgress against the Lord and fail to worship and serve Him will experience severe punishment (66:24). Thus ends the book of Isaiah on a somber note that challenges us to choose to worship, honor, and serve God.