“The Glory of the Lord has Risen Upon You”

 

In the midst of our difficult pilgrimage in this present darkness, look expectantly to the brightness of the coming Light of the world, Christ who will bring everlasting righteousness, justice, peace, and glory to all believers who persevere with rejoicing in the faith to the end.

Isaiah 60:1-22 (text); Revelation 21:1-8, 22-27
January 15, 2012
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Have you ever watched sunsets in Manila Bay? Growing up in Manila, our family would sometimes go to Luneta Park and watch the sunset in Manila Bay. The majestic red and orange colors radiating from the horizon were just breathtaking. But I don’t remember watching sunrises because east of Manila are mountains that obscure the view.

Then when we lived in Anchorage, Alaska, I worked in the fourth floor of a building and my room faced east towards the mountains east of the city. During the months of December and January, I was blessed with a view of the glorious sunrise from my office window and the sunset from the opposite office window, because the sun rose around 10 a.m. and set around 3:40 p.m. What glorious scenes they were!

Isaiah Chapter 60 opens with a picture of the sun rising on the city of Jerusalem, the dark city slowly being illuminated by the glory of the sun. The Mount of Olives to the east of the city would come to light first, so the majestic golden temple of Jerusalem would shine brightly on Mount Zion above the city. Previously in Chapter 59, there is darkness in the land, a spiritual darkness because of sin and rebellion against the Lord, “Justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom” (Isa 59:9). But in Chapter 60, the people’s darkened lives give way to God’s glorious brightness, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you… you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer” (Isa 60:1, 16).

The darkness of the land of Judah is like the darkness in the beginning of creation, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” But God created light, and “the light was good” (Gen 1:2-4). But the glory of the Lord that rises upon God’s people is brighter than the light of creation, because it is not only to Israel, but to all the nations.

God will conquer all the enemy nations so they will all honor him. Then all the nations will be united in the worship of God, willingly bringing their people and their riches to God’s temple. Finally, God will shine his glorious light upon his people in the eternal city where his people will dwell in peace and righteousness forever.

In His Conquest of the Nations
Because of their idolatry, immorality and wickedness, the two kingdoms of Israel were conquered and exiled outside of the Promised Land: the northern kingdom of Israel by Assyrian in 722 B.C. and the southern kingdom of Judah by Babylon in 586 B.C. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people were taken as captives and slaves to foreign nations. They knew they were exiles because of their idolatry and unbelief. They had no temple, no sacrifices, and no priests, only prophets who warned them of coming judgment and disaster. This was the thick darkness that covered the peoples.

But here, God’s message to his people was not of judgment but of hope, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” How would it arise upon the people in this present darkness? God will fulfill this promise by conquering and subduing all the nations. As a result, there will be a great “reversal of fortunes.” Nations and kings will come to the land, not to persecute and conquer God’s people, but to pay homage to them. Instead of destroying the walls of the city and the temple, the Lord promises, “Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister [serve] to you” (verse 10).

Instead of their gates being shut and locked because of threats from their enemies, they will be “open continually” because they will be completely secure. Therefore the nations will enter the city gates not to plunder its riches, but God will lead the kings in possession who will bring “the wealth of the nations” into the city (verse 11). Instead of desecrating the temple, the nations will bring precious stones of gold, silver, bronze and iron and timber of fine cypress, fir and pine to “beautify [God's] beautiful house” (verse 7). God “will make the place of [his] feet glorious” because the the temple as his footstool is where his pilgrim people worship him, “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!” (Psa 132:7; see also Psa 99:5; 1Chron 28:2).

And instead of violence, devastation and destruction, they will enjoy Salvation and Praise within their borders. Instead of war, peace; instead of wickedness, righteousness; this is why their city gates would be open continually (verses 17-18).

Those who do not pay homage and tributes to God will be forcibly put in subjection, “they shall perish… utterly laid waste” (verse 12). The nations who made them lowly and despised slaves will bow down at their feet (verse 14). They will recognize God’s people as “the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (verse 15). The kings of the earth who hated Israel will be like mothers who will feed and care for lowly Israel (verse 16).

In the previous history of Israel, God did similar great things for Israel, the greatest of which was in the Exodus from Egypt. Out of dread for their lives because God struck down all of the firstborn in the land, the Egyptians gave the Israelites silver and gold jewelry and clothing, “Thus they plundered the Egyptians” (Exod 12:35-36).

Centuries after Isaiah’s prophecy, the Lord has given previews of the fulfillment of these promises. King Artaxerxes of Persia granted Nehemiah’s request to let the exiles go home in peace and use the timber in other lands to rebuild the walls of the city and of the temple (Neh 2:7-8). Another striking proof of this reversal is the Roman Empire itself. With a great ironic twist, the glory of Rome that crucified Christ and persecuted Christians for 200 years ended up favoring Christianity as the state religion when Emperor Constantine declared himself a believer. Kings and kingdoms will ultimately melt before the power and might of the Sovereign Lord.

Since Jesus came and commissioned his apostles to preach the gospel to the whole world, he has been rebuilding God’s temple, the church. This is what James confirmed as he used the prophecy of Amos 9:11-12 to explain that the rebuilding of David’s fallen tent, God’s house, is fulfilled in the salvation of the Gentiles, “After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name” (Acts 15:14-17).

But even as there are rebellious people from all nations whom God will conquer, there are also people from the four corners of the world who will be made to willingly come to God.

In the Nations Willingly Coming to Him
Isaiah prophesies that the Lord will beautify his own people, and its beauty and glory will magnetize the nations. He tells the people to look expectantly with joy for a coming day of restoration of not just Israel, but of the nations of the earth, “Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you” (verse 4). This is confirmed by Paul when he writes to the Corinthians of God promise, “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me” (2Cor 6:18), quoting another text from Isaiah that God will “bring [his] sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth” (Isa 43:6).

Multitudes of God’s sons and daughters will be carried back by camels and brought in by ships from afar. As they return to the Promised Land, they will bring the wealth of the nations: silver and gold and frankincense, the abundance of the sea, flocks of rams, and camels (verses 5-7).

The people of God will become the center of the world, honored by the kings of the earth. The Lord will vindicate his people and fulfill his promises to Abraham of a multitude of descendants and a land in which they would prosper, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3).

Thus, the names of places mentioned in verses 6-7 are all Abraham’s descendants who have settled in and around Canaan, all of them Arabian tribes. Midian is one of Abraham’s sons, Ephah is Midian’s son, and Sheba is his nephew (Gen 25:1–4). From Midian and Ephah descended an Arabian tribe that dwelt in what is today northwestern Saudi Arabia. “Those from Sheba” were a people and a kingdom in southern Arabia that corresponds to modern-day Yemen. Kedar and Nebaioth are place names referring to two sons of Ishmael (Gen 25:13). Kedar is still Kedar in modern Saudi Arabia) and Nebaioth is associated with the Nabateans, whose kingdom used to be in present-day Jordan.

Unlike those mentioned previously who will not bow to the Sovereign Lord, these nations will come willingly. They “shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord” (verse 6). They will worship and serve God acceptably in the Temple, “minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar, and I will beautify my beautiful house” (verse 7). Haggai prophesies the same thing three centuries later, “And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts” (Hag 2:7). “The coastlands shall hope for me…” (verse 9). They will come to honor “the name of the Lord your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has made you beautiful” (verse 9). They glorify God’s name because they see the glory of God’s people.

Partial fulfillment of these prophecies are easily seen in Scripture. Ezra 7:27 uses these words to describe the mission on which the Persian king sent him to Jerusalem, a mission he actually accomplished in the rebuilding of the temple: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem.” When the wise men from the east came to worship the newborn Jesus, “king of the Jews,” they brought gold and frankincense together with myrrh. When Paul preached the gospel to the Gentiles, he says that he did so in order “that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:16). They were acceptable to God only because they offered worship to Christ, the King of the nations.

The light that dawned on Jerusalem has finally illuminated the whole world after Jesus came as the “great light” (Isa 9:1-2; Matt 4:15-16), “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). Many are still coming to the brightness of its rising until God finally glorifies his people in the heavenly city.

In the Final Glorification of His People
While all the preceding verses have been fulfilled partially, the last four verses, 19-22, are completely looking towards the far reaches of time.

From creation all the way to the end of the world, God gives light to the earth by the sun, moon and stars. But when the end finally comes, God’s people will be illumined by the glory of God itself. No sun or moon will be needed, “but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light” (verses 19-20). So there will be no more spectacular sunrises and sunsets to watch, and no more moon watching for romantic lovers. Because the glory of the Lord will eclipse the light of the sun and the moon.

Since all the enemies of God’s people have been conquered and destroyed and all the nations who bow to God honor them, the people of God will dwell securely. There will be no more mourning for the dead. Righteousness will cover the land which they will possess forever. The judgment of the wicked world and the vindication of God’s people will come full circle. The great and mighty will fall, and the smallest and powerless nation—the people of God—will be glorified (verse 22), just as the kingdom of heaven is like the mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, to become a “tree” so big that birds nest under its wide canopy.

John uses this imagery as he describes the new heaven and new earth in Revelation 21. In this new Jerusalem, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). The city will be “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (Rev 21:11). It will be built of all kinds of precious stones and metals, the wealth of the nations: gold, jasper, sapphire, etc. Its gates will be of pearl (Rev 21:10-21).

So the people have their glorious dwelling place, but John says there is no temple there, “And I saw no temple in the city.” Where then will the people worship? John’s answer is wonderful. God himself, who fills the new heaven and new earth, is the temple!“For its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev 21:22). No more will a temple be God’s footstool, for his people will fall down on their faces to worship him before his heavenly throne (Rev 7:11; 11:16). Why then do many people believe and long for a rebuilt temple, when God promises a temple beyond description: himself, who is glorious, holy and beautiful. The psalmist describes this temple as, “His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth… which God will establish forever” (Psa 48:1-2, 8).

As well, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that there will be no more need of the sun or moon for light, the new heaven and new earth will not be lighted by the sun or moon, because “the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev 21:23).

Finally, since all the people there will be holy and righteous, they will walk in the light of the Lord. There will be no need to shut its gates day and night; they are open continually in perfect peace and security. And the nations will enter into it bringing their glory and honor and wealth (Rev 21:24-26). Because all the wicked nations have been destroyed, “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27).

Conclusion
Dear friends, you may be thinking, Why should I be concerned about 2,800-year-old prophecies and prophecies about the future? My concern is the here and now, and how I would overcome today’s struggles and trials to have some peace and prosperity.

But these are words of life and comfort especially for you today. The Lord has promised long ago that he will vindicate his suffering and persecuted people by conquering the nations. All the kings of the earth will bow down and bend their knees, whether willingly or forcibly, to Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

In the midst of persecution, rejoice and be glad! You are blessed when others revile and persecute you because of your faith. You are in good company, and great is your reward in heaven (Matt 5:11-12). In the midst of affliction, do not lose heart! “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2Cor 4:17). “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).

In the midst of this wicked world, reflect the Light of the world in your life! Since Christ is the Light Who has risen upon you, you are to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

In the midst of our difficult pilgrimage in this present darkness, look expectantly to the brightness of the coming Light of the world, Christ who will bring everlasting righteousness, justice, peace, and glory to all believers who persevere with rejoicing in the faith to the end.

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.
Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.
(“Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies” by Charles Wesley, 1740)
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