31 March 2014

Isaiah 65:17-21

“I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth.” (v. 17)


The suggested passage ends rather oddly at verse 21, and you may find it helpful to read on to the end of the chapter.

It is a vision of the glorious future God promises for God's people. Of course it is an idealised picture, of untroubled people living to an immense age, of a land untroubled by conflict in which houses and farms are destroyed or occupied by an invader, and (verse 25) in which nature is no longer 'red in tooth and claw' (a change which would involve a transformation of the digestive systems of carnivorous creatures!). But it is a vision which resonates with our longings. Who does not long for a world in which there is no infant mortality or other premature death and in which war does not exist?

The vision focuses on Jerusalem, God's city, and is addressed to the people of Israel. In Revelation chapters 21-22 it is taken up and given a wider application. Notice however that it is a this-worldly vision, of the world we know re-made and transformed by God, not a heavenly, spiritual realm. Work and relationships, birth and death (even if long delayed, compare verse 20a), are continuing features. What is portrayed however is a gift of God; it is not described as a human achievement.

To Ponder

  • "The former things shall not be remembered or come to mind" (v. 17). Is this always possible - or even desirable? Why?
  • To what extent is this vision something to be worked for, or entirely a gift to be waited for, as the passage seems to suggest?
  • What might today's world look like if this vision came true?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..