17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD-- and their descendants as well.
24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent-- its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.
Isaiah 65:17-25 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It envisions a time when Jerusalem will be a city of wholeness and life rather than a place of destruction and death. Crying and grief will cease to exist. Infant mortality will be a pain of the past. Instead, babies will live long and fruitful lives. Folks will consider those in old age to be young adults in their prime.
Tension and gaps between the haves and the have nots will prevail no more. No longer will some build houses for others but not have a place for themselves in which to live. No longer will some plant crops for others to enjoy and not have enough food for themselves and their families. Even predators and prey will coexist in peace. The wolf will eat with the lamb rather than have the lamb for lunch. The lion will not feed on other animals but will eat straw as does the ox. The things that divide people such as greed, jealousy, and hate will come to an end and the people will live in peace and harmony. What divides the animal kingdom will never again prevent the animals from living and eating together. The mountain upon which the city of Jerusalem rests will become an idyllic place as destruction and pain will cease to be present.
One of the things I enjoy about Isaiah 65:17-25 is its effort to see a world in which there are no divisions and factions. In our present day, there are too many things that divide us. Such things include: religious doctrine, biblical authority, political views, how or how not to protect ourselves in a pandemic, racism, sexism, immigration status, greed, oppression, and power. Feel free to add to this list. How nice it would be if we could take hints from this passage and begin to eliminate divisive things from this list and find commonalities that unite us instead of antagonistic problems that divide us.
In Walt Wiltschek’s devotional for today, he focuses upon the latter part of v. 22: “for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” In Walt’s discussion of this verse he emphasizes the longevity of life. He compares this longevity to the fact that some trees live for a thousand years or more. The privilege of long life is certainly a primary theme of vv. 17-25. As I study Isaiah 65:17-25 and reflect upon Walt’s essay, one take away I would like to consider is that while hostile divisions tend to shorten or eliminate life spans, unity and harmony aim to lengthen the time we spend together.