In Case You Missed It -- Isaiah 65:17-66:24, Psalm 1
Isaiah is the first person in scripture to reveal God’s intent to make a new heaven and new earth. We have already noticed that much of what is revealed in Revelation 21-22 has already been disclosed in snippets throughout Isaiah 56-66. However, there are different emphases from time to time in those two sections of scripture which best inform our imaginations concerning our future home. For example the peace between animals found Isaiah 65:25 showcasing the complete healing of creation isn’t prominent in Revelation.
Let me redirect, though, and end our reflections on Isaiah by examining a different emphasis from Isaiah which prepares us for New Testament teaching. Isaiah returns to one of his favorite themes: God can look with disdain at Israel carrying on prescribed worship, offerings, and sacrifices. In fact God makes plain His frustration that those who do not tremble at holy scripture with humility are like those who murder, even when they obey God's commands (Isaiah 66:3-4). This shocks us, but also prepares us for the New Testament, framing sin primarily as a power of darkness which dominates us, from which we need rescue (Colossians 1:13). Our hearts are captured not by sins, but by Sin, a power that compels us to make our hope something other than God. Sins are the symptom, Sin is the disease. Thus it is very possible to attempt to address sins, through sacrifices in the Old Testament or through behavior modification today, without addressing the real problem. Our very best deeds can actually be stained with sin, with false motives and untrue allegiance. This is one of the most controversial aspects of Christian teaching.
Isaiah is one of the first Biblical writers to put forward truths which will cause much trouble for Jesus and the early apostles, who will assert that it is not what goes into a person (i.e., through food or defilement) that contaminates a person, but what comes out (i.e., from our hearts, the seat of our desires) that corrupts us (Matthew 15:1-20). May we then attend to our hearts, for that is what God cares about most.