The Glory of Zion (Isaiah Sermon 73 of 81)
December 04, 2016 | Andrew Davis
Zion, Glory of God, Life in the New Creation
Disillusioned by the "Holy” City
Well, we come to Isaiah 60, this morning to one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. So I'm smiling because I say that just about every week, I know. I mean, I love the book of Isaiah, but this chapter, Isaiah 60, gives us such an incredible vision of The Radiant City of God that we're moving toward through faith in Christ, that I can't wait to preach it to you.
Now I love church history, I love looking back at moments of church history and there's so many illustrative moments that come along the way. And I want to choose a moment from the life of Martin Luther before, years before he was converted. He was an Augustinian monk, and he was sent from Nuremberg to Rome to an important conference to do some business for his monastic order. He went with a brother Monk and they traveled for 700, almost 700 miles by foot, through Southern Germany, into Switzerland then through the Alps, the snow-covered Alps in the winter, finally making it through into the plains of Northern Italy. They moved on down the Italian boot and they came to a little rise. A hill Where for the first time in his life, Martin Luther was able to see Rome, what some people wrongly call the eternal city.
What Luther called the holy city. And as he... When he first saw it, he first caught a glimpse of it, he fell down prostrate on the ground. Overwhelmed with religious zeal. And he cried out, "Oh Holy City! Oh Rome! The city sanctified by the blood of martyrs. I come at last to you."
Then he got up off the ground and he walked into Rome, and he discovered what that city was really like. And he was disillusioned by the wickedness and the immorality, and the false religion that he saw there. He was disheartened by it and disillusioned by it. And he went back to his order and was silent for a long time because of his disappointment at that city that had been the focus of his pilgrimage.
Now, that whole story, it really happened in history, but it's a kind of a parable, of what's going on in the hearts of people around us all the time. To some degree, we're all making our way through this world, as if on pilgrimage and we're going to some destination, some city of our dreams and our hopes. And how often does it happen that whenever we arrive we find ourselves bitterly disillusioned by what's there? The whole thing is disappointing. Does not satisfy. It's filled with wickedness and immorality, and disappointments, and we're turned off and we don't know what we have now to live for. That's where Luther was at.
Now, praise God, a few years later, he found the gospel and when he read in the Book of Romans, that the righteous will live by faith, he said "The gates of paradise were open," and he went through so he still has this sense of entering into a city, but it was a different kind of city. It was a heavenly city, a city of glory and radiance, and beauty.
In the timeless allegory of the Christian life, Pilgrim's Progress Christian and Hopeful, are making their way also toward a city. A destination, called in that parable by John Bunyan, the celestial city, the heavenly city. And at one point in their pilgrimage, they meet a group of men, godly men called shepherds. And the shepherds had them to a high mountain and gave them a telescope, which was a relatively new invention in Bunyan's lifetime interesting, but they had these two pilgrims looking through, with shaking hands, through a telescope, whereby they could see for the first time the celestial city, see what it actually looked like.
So friends, this right here is the telescope. This is what we get to look through this morning to see the city where we're going to. And can I tell you it's a joyful glorious radiant place we're going toward. We will not be in any way disappointed when we get there. And I think the more that our hearts are filled with visions of the new Jerusalem, to which we are going, if we are Christians, we are going there, the better it is. For us, for our families and for even lost people who are around us who desperately need the message of hope, that's locked up in our hearts. They desperately need to hear the nature of our hope in that heavenly city, to which we are going. The book of Hebrew speaks of this city, in Hebrews 11:10, it speaks of Abraham was. It says "…he was looking forward to a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God."
I think that's the faith-filled life that we should be... We're looking forward to a city. That's what faith is about, it's... Another word for it is hope. We are filled with hope as we look ahead to that city that is to come. It says later, a few verses later, in Hebrews 11:16, it says that these faith-filled men and women "were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them."
Isaiah 60 in Context
Well, this morning, in Isaiah 60, we get to look at that city. We get to understand some of the nature and the beauty of that radiant spiritual city to which we're going. And we get to look at it through the telescope of the text. So really I would urge that you take your Bibles and look with me as I'm just going to walk through the 22 verses of Isaiah 60. I'm going to try to understand the phrases here. It's not easy to interpret this book.
Isaiah was a prophet, a Jewish man who lived about seven centuries before Christ was born. He lived one century before the Jews were exiled to Babylon, and he has a vision here, of the building, or we could say The glory of Zion. And so the stunning glory of Zion, whatever that means, we're going to talk about the glory of Zion, the city of God is revealed in this chapter in words that I believe, and this is the key to my interpretation of the chapter, words that soar vastly beyond the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem physically after the exile to Babylon.
Isaiah the prophet saw the exile to Babylon a century before it happened, but he looked beyond that in some way to the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem after the exile. But these words just go far beyond that. And I would urge you also to keep your finger here in Isaiah 6. We're going to move through it is our home base, but also to look with me at Revelation chapter 21. And we're going to see in Revelation 21:23 and following, verbiage language, that's almost identical to that of Isaiah 60. So the Apostle John in the Island of Patmos, as he sees the new Jerusalem that's yet to come is using language from the chapter we're looking at today.
And so, friends, we are not talking about the mere rebuilding of Jerusalem after the exile to Babylon. We're talking about something vastly more glorious than that. A vision of a city that's in construction. Now, it's beautiful right now but it's getting more and more beautiful every day. And that God calls on you if you're a Christian to serve that city and to get involved in building it for the rest of your lives. It's a vision that should consume the rest of your life. It's worth your life to give it to the building, and the glorification of this city. And so in this chapter we're going to see displayed Zion, the city of God, the people of God in glorious prophetic perspective. We're going to see the diversities, the beautiful diversity of worship that's going to flow into this God, into this city from people all over the Earth. And for me, I'm going to see that in light of the spread of the Gospel to the ends of the Earth, where elect from every tribe and language, and people, and nation are coming over into faith in Christ, and are going to beautify that city with their unique patterns of worship." That's what we're going to see in this chapter. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.
The Idea of Zion
Now we got to begin by understanding the word Zion. So we're talking about Zion here. The first time the word Zion appears in 2 Samuel 7 when it speaks of a literal physical city that David conquered from the Jebusites and the word Zion then appears in the text there as the physical city of Jerusalem in Palestine, Zion, the City of David. And then, it's used in the historical books like when Solomon built the temple there in Jerusalem, the word Zion was used there. It's used again and again in the Psalms and the prophets. The word Zion means immediately Jerusalem, but more specifically the city where God chose to put his name, for His dwelling, where he would dwell with his people together, Zion, the city where God dwells together with his people. So His glory cloud descended into Solomon's temple, and it remained there, and that was a sense of God's presence in the city of Zion. However, as the prophets continue to prophesy the word expanded to take on a bigger, fuller meaning, and so it refers more in prophetic perspective to the city of God where God will dwell with His people forever, and takes on a more of a heavenly sense at that point, because the physical city of Jerusalem became defiled like Rome in my opening illustration, became defiled with idolatry and wickedness.
And so in the book of Ezekiel, the glory cloud departs from the physical city, the temple, and the Physical City of Jerusalem and goes away from that place. The Jews were exiled to Babylon and the Babylonians destroyed the temple. They destroyed the city and the Jews are living there in exile and they're pining for the day when they can return, and they can read the scroll of Isaiah, the prophecy of Isaiah that speaks very clearly about the rebuilding of the city. And they would have seen it in that light, but the language here just goes so far beyond, it just soars vastly higher than the mere rebuilding of the city in Palestine. It's bigger than that.
So then the city of Jerusalem, becomes a type and a shadow of something bigger that's coming, a spiritual reality, a type and a shadow. This heavenly Zion, this heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal City of the Living God, where God and His people will dwell together in face-to-face fellowship. That's what's prefigured by the word Zion.
Now, the Apostle Paul in the New Testament speaks in Galatians Chapter 4 of the "Jerusalem that is above…" He uses that language "The Jerusalem that is above" He says in Galatians 4:25:26, "the present city of Jerusalem… is in slavery with her children." That's the physical lower earthly city. That present physical city of Jerusalem is in slavery like the woman Hagar and her son Ishmael. They are slaves, okay? In slavery. But Galatians 4:26, "the Jerusalem that is above is free and she is our mother."
So, the restoration of the Jews back to the rubble-filled streets of Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah is merely the re-establishment of a physical type and shadow of a heavenly reality. The rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem show that the perfect glory of Jerusalem had not yet come. For the Gentile nations that surrounded that rebuilding project were hostile to the Jews. They were a threat to them and a danger to them. And this chapter speaks of perfect peace in which the gate stand to open all the time and there's no threat, but only peace and prosperity. So the prophetic vision of Isaiah 60 is of a radiant, glorious, majestic, perfect city in which the wealth of nations is going to stream in to that city and beautify it, and make it wealthy and prosperous. It is the city of God.
Look at Isaiah 60:14. There it speaks of "The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel." So that's that word Zion, the City of the Lord. And in this verse and throughout, we're going to see the themes of military victory over enemies and peace with former enemies and the ownership of the Lord, it's called the City of the Lord.
So, we have a beautiful picture here, not just of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but something far greater than that... And not just the enriching of a physical city of Jerusalem, where a Jewish king would sit and physical wealth is being sent as tribute from distant lands, but something far better than that. Actual spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And so, the animals and lambs and all that that are offered in this language of the Old Testament are really just types and shadows of a true worship that's coming from people all over the world. And it speaks ultimately of mission. So, that's the preamble, you're thinking, "How long is this sermon going to be?" Friends, as long as it needs to be, it's a glorious chapter. So, let's take it like a gift and let's just unwrap it line by line.
I. Zion Commanded to Arise and Be Glorious (vs. 1-2)
Let's look at verses 1 and 2, Zion here is commanded by God to arise and be glorious. Look at verse one, "Arise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you." So God speaks, I would say with resurrecting power to Zion. Rise up out of the dust, rise up out of the ashes, rise up and be glorious.
Now, as I said, the physical city of Jerusalem immediate context, the Babylonians would destroy that city. They would level it, they would rush through the breach in the wall, and they would kill all the Jewish soldiers there and they would destroy it, they would go to the temple and they'd strip off all the gold from the wood and they would steal the gold and then they would burn the wood. And they destroyed the temple, they destroyed the walls, they destroyed the city, they razed it to the ground. It was burned with fire, and the people would mostly die by the sword, famine, and plague. A small remnant would be preserved, but they would go off in chains as slaves to Babylon. They were exiled to Babylon and there they lived for 70 years. At the end of that time, a small remnant of them would be allowed to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild it. Here, I believe Isaiah predicts at least that but far greater than that. He commands this city to rise up, as if out of the dust of the ground and be glorious.
I believe that the 42,000 Jews that would return under Ezra at the command of Cyrus the Great to rebuild Jerusalem are somewhat in view here, but the language is greater than anything like that. The real glory of Zion is the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and His resurrection. And the fact that, He can speak into our degradation, into our sin, even into our death and entombment and call on us to rise up out of the grave and be glorious. And that's awesome. The final glory of Zion will be in her people, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, redeemed from death, risen from the grave.
Listen what Jesus said in John Chapter 5, he said, "Do not be amazed at this for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out. Those who have done good will rise to live." And, what will they be like when they come up out of their graves? Well, friends, they will be glorious. It says in Matthew 13, "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." We're going to shine like the angels that announced the birth of Jesus, remember how the glory of the Lord shown around. You're going to be radiant, you're going to be shiny, radiant in Christ. It says in 1 Corinthians 15, speaking of the resurrection of the dead, the body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. [Ponder that.] It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power, it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." So, Isaiah 60:1 in which God commands Zion. Rise and shine and be glorious is ultimately fulfilled in our resurrection.
Zion’s Glory a Contrast to the Darkness of the Nations
Now, Zion's glory is a contrast to the darkness of the nations. Look at Verse 2. "For behold, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you." So here we have a clear contrast darkness, even thick darkness, that covers the whole planet, and there's this one city, that's radiant and glorious, a light shining in a dark place. How beautiful is this? You know how it says in Isaiah 9, the people walking in darkness have seen a great light, and those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned… For to us, a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders." That's the light in the dark place, but the whole world here in 60:2, is shrouded in thick darkness, and there's this one shining light. This Zion.
Recently, I was reading about a terrible mining accident that happened in Russia, in October of 2003 and an underground lake was unleashed, broken through and started to flood in where the miners were and many of them were killed, some escaped but then there were some that were trapped in an air pocket and they were there for almost six days. And after a little while their batteries on their helmets went out, flickered out, and they were in total darkness without very much hope of survival. They had no food, they only had the water that was flooding in and threatening their lives. After almost six days they heard sounds of explosions as other miners were blasting through 60 yards of rock to eventually get where they were. And they did get where they were. And the wall got broken through and the first light, they had seen in almost six days was the light on the helmets of their rescuers.
I'm thinking, if you're in that inky black darkness, you're going to move toward the light. You're going to move toward the lights, your only hope. And I get the picture here in this text that Jesus as the glory of Zion is humanity's only hope. We walk apart from Jesus, we walk in darkness. We are enslaved in a kingdom of darkness. Ephesians 2 says that, Ephesians 6 says that "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this present darkness." So we're in this darkness, a Satanic darkness apart from Christ. And that darkness that covers the earth now of those apart from Christ will be eternally completed in hell, a place of utter darkness, where people who do not know the forgiveness of the Lord, who do not come into the light of the city of Zion by faith in Jesus, will be relegated or cast out into utter darkness.
The darkness represents the absence of the blessing of God, the absence of God in every respect except as the just condemner of them in their sin. So that's light and darkness. And we are called on to call people out of the darkness into the light. We are presently, by faith in Christ, already citizens of Zion. We're already living in the light. We're walking in the light as He is in the light. And we're told in the Sermon on the Mount to let our light shine before men that they may see our good deeds and glorify God who is in heaven. The reason is that they are without hope and without God in the world, and we are called on to do the works of the kingdom, works of mercy ministry to the poor and needy in the city and in other places, works of evangelism, reaching out in the office place, works of righteousness that attract people to know God.
II. The Nations Drawn to the Glory of Zion, and Glorify it More (vs. 3-9)
Now in verses 3-9, that's the very theme, that the light is magnetic and attracts people out of the darkness to it. Look what it says in verse 3, "And nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn." Zion is shining with a supernatural glory, the nations are attracted to that light. Now, obviously under Ezra and Nehemiah, there was a small amount of light. When Nehemiah rebuilt the wall in 52 days, it was said that all the surrounding nations trembled with fear because they knew it was only possible through the power of God. So that's a small light, but it's not as glorious as the light of Christ. And so verse 3, "Nations come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn." This must be Jesus Christ. The gospel of Christ is appealing, it's attractive, it calls on people to come, to leave their darkness and to follow Christ.
Zion’s Sons and Daughters Carried Home
Now, in verse 4 and 9, Zion's sons and daughters are carried home, they're carried to the city. Look at verse 4, "Lift up your eyes and look about you. All assemble and come to you. Your sons come from afar and your daughters are carried on the arm." Look again down at verse 9, "Surely the islands look to me. In the lead are ships of Tarshish bringing your sons from afar with their silver and gold to the honor of the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, for He has endowed you with splendor." So here's the idea. The splendor, the glory of the place, is attractive and brings the sons and daughters from afar, even from distant places. And they're coming from as far away as Tarshish, that's Gibraltar. I mean, you think about living in Palestine, and the Mediterranean Sea was the ocean. They didn't know all of the earth and the Atlantic Ocean and all that. So you're thinking Gibraltar, that's like the ends of the earth. And from that distant place, Zion's sons and daughters will be carried and brought home to the city.
Now, for me, this must be a picture of missions. It's a picture of evangelism, a picture of the gathering of the scattered people of God. It says in John 11:51-52, it says here that "Jesus would die for the Jewish nation and not only for that nation [listen to this] but also for the scattered children of God to gather them together and bring them and make them one." So that's the work of Christ and the work of missions. He is there to gather the scattered people of God worldwide and bring them together. They are the sons and daughters of Zion.
The Diverse Glories of the Nations Beautify God’s House
Now look at the diverse glories of the nations as they beautify God's house. Verses 5-9, "Then you will look and be radiant," speaking again to Zion. O Zion, you're going to look and be radiant. And "…your heart will throb and swell with joy. The wealth on the seas will be brought to you. To you the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. All from Sheba will come bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord. All Kedar's flocks will be gathered to you. The rams of Nebaioth will serve you. They will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple. Who are these that fly along like clouds, like doves to their nest? Surely the islands look to me. In the lead are the ships of Tarshish, bringing your sons from afar with their silver and gold to the honor of the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, who he has endowed you with splendor."
So here God is speaking to Zion of her radiance in glory, but the glory comes from the wealth of the nations. Do you see it? These caravans of camels. Now, this is what makes Isaiah so wonderful, caravans of camels. Not a major feature in the 21st century, I know. We're not really looking for the camel caravans. And so you have to take this language and kind of expand it to say, look, there is a movement, a bringing of wealth and riches toward Zion, but we're going to lift it above the physicality of caravans of camels. Sorry, that's a hard thing to say. Yeah, lift it up and say, the real treasure are the people and their worship as they come to Christ. That's what's going on here.
So yeah, look, the Gentile nations are going to be involved in beautifying the city. So Cyrus and Darius, these pagan kings, Artaxerxes, paid for, at a low level, the rebuilding of Jerusalem. They paid for the rebuilding of the temple, they paid for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Artaxerxes helped Nehemiah with money. Friends, that's not what Isaiah 60's talking about. At a low level it is. But these kings and distant lands are going to beautify Zion spiritually. That's the work that's going on here. Honestly, the Jews that lived in those days were so disappointed with the small temple that was built under Haggai, do you remember, that they wept. The old timers, you know? It's like, "Ugh, if only you could have seen Solomon's temple. This is nothing." It was depressing. And so you remember how in Haggai the cries of anguish were mixed with cries of joy.
That's not what Isaiah 60 is talking about here, the language here is of a vast beauty and wealth that goes beyond anything that they'd ever seen. Now it's spiritual, the building is spiritual, the sacrifices are spiritual. This is the building of the church of Jesus Christ out of living stones from every nation on earth. 1 Peter 2:5 says, "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." That is a spiritual approach to this. We are offering spiritual sacrifices every time we serve God. So these verses in Isaiah predict the amazing success of the gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ in winning a multitude from every nation on earth, even the most distant. So the streaming of wealth carried by the camels from Midian, Ephah and Sheba, that refers to tribute paid to the Lord Jesus by hearts of faith from Gentile converts.
Who Are Nebaioth and Kedar?
Now in verse 7, take a look at verse 7, it's really interesting. Isaiah singles out Nebaioth and Kedar. Now Nebaioth and Kedar were, we're told in Genesis 25:13, the first two sons of Ishmael. These are Ishmaelites. Friends, these are Arabs. Descendants of Ishmael are the Arabs who live in the Arabian boot and in the Horn of Africa and in North Africa, in the Middle East and spread out. Almost universally, Muslims today, some of the most hostile militant opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ comes from descendants of Ishmael. And yet, Isaiah 60:7 gives me hope that there are elect from among those Arab people that are going to be won to Christ, and that's awesome. So we need to pray for the spread of the gospel among Arab people, descendants of Ishmael, so that not literal animals, the rams of Nebaioth are brought, but their heart of worship is brought to Jesus through faith in Christ. They are offering sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus.
I was reading recently off an account from YWAM, Youth With A Mission, they're doing work in the Middle East and this YWAM director told of an ISIS jihadist who came to faith in Christ in the beginning of the year 2015, it's an incredible story. I couldn't believe it when I read it. Now, this jihadist was in the process of executing Christians, but he had repeated visions of a man in white who told him, "You are killing my people, and you must stop." Finally it came to one particular Christian man who was just about to be beheaded, and he said to this man, this jihadist, he said, "I know you're going to kill me, but I want to give you my Bible so that after I'm dead you may read it." And then the man was killed, but this ISIS man took the Bible and secretly began reading it. He had more intense dreams ultimately of Jesus calling him to follow him as a disciple, he sought out and found the YWAM field worker and is in the process of being discipled right now.
Now, I've thought a lot about that story, I thought about the rams of Nebaioth and of Kedar coming to faith in Christ and I thought with tears of the price tag of that man's conversion. You know how Paul said, "I fill up in my body what is still lacking in regard to the afflictions of Christ." It took the blood of Jesus infinitely above anything else, but then it took the blood of a martyr to save that man. And that man who died, beautified the temple of God, made it more beautiful. Look again at verse 7, doesn't it say to some degree, "I will beautify my beautiful place"? In other words, it's already beautiful, it's beautiful before you were born, it's beautiful before you did any good works, but you can beautify it a little more by your cheerful sacrificial service to the Great Commission.
III. Zion More and More Beautiful as the Riches of the Nations Stream In (vs. 10-18)
Now, in verses 10-18, Zion becomes more and more beautiful as the riches of the nations stream in, it's going to get more and more radiant more and more beautiful. Verse 10, "foreigners will rebuild your walls and their kings will serve you." Obviously, the rebuilding of Jerusalem under various pagan kings is at least somewhat in view here, but it goes far beyond that. Evangelists and missionaries are building the heavenly Zion right now all over the world, and some tribal leaders and chieftains and rulers will come to faith in Christ and then themselves will use their positions of influence to lead others to Christ, and God's wrath is atoned for in all of this, verse 10, "Though in anger I struck you in favor I will show you compassion."
Jerusalem didn't happen to be accidentally destroyed by the Babylonians. It was an act of God's wrath, it was an act of his justice brought down on that city for their idolatry, and God could say to Jerusalem, "Though in anger I struck you, now in my favor I will build you up, in my favor I will show you compassion." But let's be honest, the Gentile convert from all over the world were storing up wrath themselves before they were converted; every one of them were children of wrath, every one of them deserved to be struck dead. All of us are like that. We all, like the rest, we're by nature objects of wrath. And in anger, God didn't strike us, his wrath was poured out on the substitute, on Jesus who died in our place that we might live forever. It is by those who have been rescued out of the wrath of God into his compassion and favor that this city is built.
Zion’s Gates Eternally Open: Security and Prosperity
And so in verse 11, "Your gates will always stand open, they'll never be shut day or night so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations, their kings led in triumphal procession." And look again at verse 17 and 18, "Instead of bronze, I will bring you gold and silver in the place of iron, instead of wood, I will bring you bronze and iron in the place of stones. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land nor ruin or destruction within your borders but you will call your wall salvation and your gates praise." So, we have here a clear prediction of peace and prosperity. Gates never shut, day or night.
Now, honestly, this is the clearest indication to me in terms of exegesis, that this text is not talking about the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Why did Nehemiah build the wall? Let me just take a step before that and say, "What did Nehemiah build?" He built the wall. Why? because Jerusalem's in danger. And you remember as things went on, the danger got greater not less. And they had to build that wall with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. And Nehemiah commanded that the gates be shut at night. So this is not talking about that, dear friends, the rebuilding of Jerusalem. This is talking about something else. So look at Revelation 21:23 and following. There, it speaks of the new Jerusalem that's going to descend from heaven in the future at the end of the world, the new Jerusalem that's getting built right now by missions. "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp, and the nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut." So this is definitely the language of Isaiah 60.
But then he goes beyond that, John goes beyond that to say, "For there will be no night there." So you don't need to wonder about day or night because there is no night. So I go back to verse 2 in Isaiah 60 and see, "Darkness covers the earth." Well, now what's going to happen, light will cover the earth, there won't be any darkness left. Only believers in Christ, only those brought in as sons and daughters of Zion will be left. Those are the only ones that will be left to enter the city, no darkness left, no rebellion, no wickedness at all. So look what it says, "On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it, nothing impure will ever enter it nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life."
Now the text in Isaiah speaks of glorious building materials, because... I mean, we don't know what glory looks like so he uses language of materials that are wealthy, like precious stones, like gates of pearl in Revelation. But here it says that instead of poor building materials, bronze, and iron, and wood, and stones, everything's going to get upgraded, there'll be gold instead of bronze, and silver instead of iron, and bronze instead of wood, and iron instead of stones. In other words, I can't tell you how much better it's going to be, it is just going to be vastly better than anything you ever experienced. Now, you remember Solomon made all of the... They had so much gold flowing into Jerusalem during Solomon's reign, they don't know what to do with it. Remember? So they made golden shields. I'm thinking like an engineer, what did they do that for? It's heavy and soft, it's not incredibly helpful, but I'm sure they look spectacular.
They also were the desire of other nations, like Shishak from Egypt, who came after Solomon's foolish son, Rehoboam, lost the kingdom. Shishak invades and takes the gold. Shields, takes them all, brings them back to Egypt. And so, Rehoboam made bronze shields instead of the gold, a definite downgrade. Because of sin. Well, what's this text is saying is everything is going to go the opposite direction, everything will be better. Everything improved, everything more glorious, in every way.
A Warning to All Nations Who Refuse to Serve Zion
There is a warning here in verse 12 to the nations that will not serve Zion, will not serve the king of Zion. Look at it, verse 12, "For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish, it will be utterly ruined." That's a direct warning to the nations of the earth. It's not much different than Psalm 2, when God the Father speaks to his son, Jesus, in Psalm 2 and this is what he said, "I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to me," that's like basically Jesus saying, "God the Father said to me…" "You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I'll make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You'll rule them with an iron sword. You'll dash them to pieces like pottery. Therefore, you kings, be wise. Be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling."
Psalm 2:12, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry with you, and you'll be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him." It's the same thing. Look again at Isaiah 60:12, "For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish, it will be utterly destroyed." It's a warning. "Flee to Christ."
Now, in verses 13-16, Zion is beloved and served, no longer hated. "The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, and the fir, and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary, and I will glorify the place at my feet. The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you, all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel." Verse 15, "Although you have been forsaken and hated, with no one traveling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all nations. You will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."
Now it's remarkable for Isaiah to speak of Lebanon here. It was Hiram, King of Tyre, King of Lebanon, who sent massive trees, cedars of Lebanon, floated them down to a port city in Israel where they would be used to build the temple. It seems now that God is not so interested in the actual trees of Lebanon as in the Lebanese people themselves. And so, "Lebanon will beautify this spiritual sanctuary by repentance and faith in Christ." That's what God wants, he wants the Lebanese people, and they, by coming to faith in Christ, will beautify or adorn the place of God's sanctuary.
IV. The Eternal Glory of Zion (vs. 19-22)
We end up in verses 19-22 of the eternal glory of the city of Zion. It says, "The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moonshine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light and your God will be your glory." Verse 20, "You sun will never set again. Your moon will wane no more. The Lord will be your everlasting light and your days of sorrow will end." This is the clear language of the new Jerusalem. There's no doubt about it, not anything earthly like this has ever been seen. The light of the sun and the moon become obsolete. God, when he began creating said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And then on the fourth day, God created the sun and the moon and the stars.
I had some clever postdoc student at Duke, unbeliever, from an oriental nation say that this is proof that the Bible is just metaphorical and all that because there's all this light, but the sun, moon, and stars weren't even created until the fourth day. I said, "Do you have lights down in the basement of your lab there in Duke?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Are there any windows down?" He said, "No." "So it's in total darkness?" He said, "No, we have lights down there." I said, "Oh, so you're able to do light where there's no windows at all, but you think God can't? God is able to do light. He's actually really good at it. He can shine radiantly long before there's a sun or moon or star. He just delegated the job on the fourth day to the sun, moon, and stars." Well, guess what? At the end, he's going to take it back. We don't need the sun anymore, don't need the moon anymore, don't need the stars anymore, I'll take it from here.
And the glory of this city is going to be God's glory and Jesus will be the lamp of God's glory and the entire place will be radiant with that glorious light. Look at Revelation 21:23-24, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp and the nations will walk by its light. Now he also says, "The Lord will be everlasting light and your days of sorrow will end." This is well known to be fulfilled only in heaven. No more sorrow, no more pain. Revelation 21, "I saw the new Jerusalem coming down like a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband and now at last, God is dwelling with man and God will be with them and be their God and there'll be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Final two verses it says, "Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands for the display of my splendor. The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord and in its time, I will do this swiftly." So that's our future, dear friends, our future in Christ.
Applications, first, just brothers and sisters, renew your hope by looking at this heavenly city. Look at it. Look through the telescope that we talked about. You're not going to be disappointed. It's not like, "Yeah, but don't look too closely." No, look closely. Look really closely. Look at the details. I've walked very quickly through this chapter. Go back and look at the details of what this beautiful Zion is going to be like. Celebrate this.
It says in Colossians 3, "Set your minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, you will appear with him in glory." This is your future glory. Set your heart on that. Why should you do that? I want you to be filled with hope. I want you to be like radiantly, energetically hopeful at work or at school or wherever you go tomorrow. I want you to be kind of like a light bulb tomorrow. Why? So that people who are presently lost, who are without hope and without God in the world may ask you to give a reason for the hope that you have, and you can tell them about Jesus. So smile. See? There you go. Smile. It's glorious. It's radiant. You're going to a happy place and nothing can stop it.
Be filled with joy and let your hope, your light of hope shine to hopeless people. They don't have this hope that you have, and especially let your light shine when you are afflicted, when you have physical pain, when you have a bad diagnosis, when things are going poorly for you economically in life, shine with hope because at that point it shines even the more brightly. Let's see also and embrace the missionary thrust of this whole chapter. It's all about this light shining to the ends of the earth. Sons and daughters brought from afar.
Ron was talking about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We are Southern Baptist. We are in voluntary cooperation with other Baptist churches just like ours. We pool our money together and out of that pool of money, we send out people to distant lands to share the gospel. That's a good work. Our church's goal is $150,000 for Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We will not make it without sacrifice. We'll not make it without cheerful giving. So pray about what God would have you to do financially in terms of that offering, but just embrace missions. Find out more and more about unreached people groups. I would suggest that each one of you goes to Joshua Project or to some other website. Find an unreached people group and pray for them everyday. Pray that God would raise up missionaries to go reach them with the gospel.
I also want you to notice that God delights in a vast array of diverse worship. As I said years ago, and I continue to say, God loves more forms of worship than you do. And so there's this vast diversity of worship from every tribe and language and people and nation, and God loves it. I'm not talking about the kind of diversity that people talk about these days. I'm talking about amoral, beautiful diversity that God created in different cultures and languages. It's a beautiful thing.
And I want to finish by just urging any of you that are here that have not yet trusted in Christ, trust in him. I want to see you there. I want you to be there. I would love for it to be the case that you walk up to me in the streets of the new Jerusalem and say, "I don't know what it was, but it was that sermon in Isaiah 60 that showed me how much I needed Christ. And I repented of my sins and I looked at Christ crucified alone. I stopped trusting in my works and I believed in him and now I'm here. Praise God." Close with me in prayer.