Isaiah Chapters 64-66: Our Hope for a Prosperous Future
Note: PRS.work is a plug-and-play video Bible Study. Everything you need to connect the Bible to your work is in the video above. Feel free to press play and just listen. Or follow along with the transcript below.
Welcome to PRS.work, a video series that helps us hear the Bible together at work. In this video you'll hear a brief introduction, a Psalm read as an opening prayer, a long passage from the Bible, and a commentary about what this means for work, workers, and the workplace. When the video ends you can discuss how this applies to your work.
In the last chapters of the book of Isaiah, the prophet describes a prosperous future where work is both productive and satisfying.
In the end, God’s people will enjoy the fruits of their labor in a land where their enemies are vanquished: A place where God rules over all.
Isaiah’s vivid portraits of the perfect kingdom of God serve as the basis of the New Testament’s end times imagery and theology.
Before reading along to a dramatic recording of Isaiah chapters 64-66, we will open with Psalm 34 in prayer.
A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He guards all his bones;
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
Oh, that You would rend the heavens!
That You would come down!
That the mountains might shake at Your presence—
2 As fire burns brushwood,
As fire causes water to boil—
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
3 When You did awesome things for which we did not look,
You came down,
The mountains shook at Your presence.
4 For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.
5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness,
Who remembers You in Your ways.
You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
In these ways we continue;
And we need to be saved.
6 But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
7 And there is no one who calls on Your name,
Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us,
And have consumed us because of our iniquities.
8 But now, O Lord,
You are our Father;
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all we are the work of Your hand.
9 Do not be furious, O Lord,
Nor remember iniquity forever;
Indeed, please look—we all are Your people!
10 Your holy cities are a wilderness,
Zion is a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and beautiful temple,
Where our fathers praised You,
Is burned up with fire;
And all our pleasant things are laid waste.
12 Will You restrain Yourself because of these things, O Lord?
Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?
“I was sought by those who did not ask for Me;
I was found by those who did not seek Me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’
To a nation that was not called by My name.
2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in a way that is not good,
According to their own thoughts;
3 A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face;
Who sacrifice in gardens,
And burn incense on altars of brick;
4 Who sit among the graves,
And spend the night in the tombs;
Who eat swine’s flesh,
And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
5 Who say, ‘Keep to yourself,
Do not come near me,
For I am holier than you!’
These are smoke in My nostrils,
A fire that burns all the day.
6 “Behold, it is written before Me:
I will not keep silence, but will repay—
Even repay into their bosom—
7 Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together,”
Says the Lord,
“Who have burned incense on the mountains
And blasphemed Me on the hills;
Therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom.”
8 Thus says the Lord:
“As the new wine is found in the cluster,
And one says, ‘Do not destroy it,
For a blessing is in it,’
So will I do for My servants’ sake,
That I may not destroy them all.
9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
And from Judah an heir of My mountains;
My elect shall inherit it,
And My servants shall dwell there.
10 Sharon shall be a fold of flocks,
And the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down,
For My people who have sought Me.
11 “But you are those who forsake the Lord,
Who forget My holy mountain,
Who prepare a table for Gad,
And who furnish a drink offering for Meni.
12 Therefore I will number you for the sword,
And you shall all bow down to the slaughter;
Because, when I called, you did not answer;
When I spoke, you did not hear,
But did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.”
13 Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, My servants shall eat,
But you shall be hungry;
Behold, My servants shall drink,
But you shall be thirsty;
Behold, My servants shall rejoice,
But you shall be ashamed;
14 Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart,
But you shall cry for sorrow of heart,
And wail for grief of spirit.
15 You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen;
For the Lord God will slay you,
And call His servants by another name;
16 So that he who blesses himself in the earth
Shall bless himself in the God of truth;
And he who swears in the earth
Shall swear by the God of truth;
Because the former troubles are forgotten,
And because they are hidden from My eyes.
17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.
20 “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be 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 as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord,
And their offspring with them.
24 “It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,”
Says the Lord.
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
2 For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.
3 “He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck;
He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood;
He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.
Just as they have chosen their own ways,
And their soul delights in their abominations,
4 So will I choose their delusions,
And bring their fears on them;
Because, when I called, no one answered,
When I spoke they did not hear;
But they did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.”
5 Hear the word of the Lord,
You who tremble at His word:
“Your brethren who hated you,
Who cast you out for My name’s sake, said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified,
That we may see your joy.’
But they shall be ashamed.”
6 The sound of noise from the city!
A voice from the temple!
The voice of the Lord,
Who fully repays His enemies!
7 “Before she was in labor, she gave birth;
Before her pain came,
She delivered a male child.
8 Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day?
Or shall a nation be born at once?
For as soon as Zion was in labor,
She gave birth to her children.
9 Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord.
“Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.
10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem,
And be glad with her, all you who love her;
Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;
11 That you may feed and be satisfied
With the consolation of her bosom,
That you may drink deeply and be delighted
With the abundance of her glory.”
12 For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.
Then you shall feed;
On her sides shall you be carried,
And be dandled on her knees.
13 As one whom his mother comforts,
So I will comfort you;
And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
14 When you see this, your heart shall rejoice,
And your bones shall flourish like grass;
The hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants,
And His indignation to His enemies.
15 For behold, the Lord will come with fire
And with His chariots, like a whirlwind,
To render His anger with fury,
And His rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire and by His sword
The Lord will judge all flesh;
And the slain of the Lord shall be many.
17 “Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves,
To go to the gardens
After an idol in the midst,
Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse,
Shall be consumed together,” says the Lord.
18 “For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. 19 I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. 20 Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. 21 And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites,” says the Lord.
22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord,
“So shall your descendants and your name remain.
23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.
24 “And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
Our Hope for a Prosperous Future
From the Theology of Work Bible Commentary on Isaiah
In Isaiah’s vision of the new Zion, one of God’s promises is that people will enjoy the fruit of their own labor. The people of God will no longer be oppressed but will build their own houses, drink their own wine, and eat their own food.
In the Old Testament, farming was the major occupation of the majority of the people. Thus many examples in the Bible are drawn from agrarian life and expectations. But the larger principle is that God calls us, regardless of our vocation, to trust him in our work as well as in the more apparently religious aspects of our lives.
God enjoys the creative roles his people play as they endeavor to excel at what they do under God’s covenant. “They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit!” (Isaiah 65:21). The problems arise when we try to overturn the Creator/creature distinction by replacing God’s values and provision with our own values and unchecked ambition. This happens when we compartmentalize our work as a secular affair that seems to have nothing to do with the kingdom of God.
Of course, in a fallen world, living faithfully does not always result in prosperity. But work done apart from faith can lead to even worse outcomes than material poverty. The early chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy witness to Judah discovering exactly this.
Throughout the book, Isaiah encourages Israel with the hope that God will eventually put to right the wrongs the people are suffering in the present. Work, and the fruits of work, are included in this hope.
In chapters 60-66, this hope is finally expressed in full. God will gather his people together again, vanquish the oppressors, redeem the rebellious who repent, and establish his just kingdom. In place of Israel’s faithless leaders, God himself will rule. The change is so radical that it amounts to a new creation, of parallel power and majesty to God’s first creation of the world. “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).
It may be surprising to some how much of this portion of Isaiah is related to work and the outcomes of work. Isaiah chapters 65-66 describe food and drink, construction and housing, and prosperity and wealth all coming together with health and long life to bring the work of God’s people to complete fruition at last.
All these things have eluded Israel in their faithlessness to God. Indeed, the harder they tried to achieve them, the less they cared to worship God or follow his ways. The result was to lack them even more. But when the book of Isaiah presents Israel’s future hope as the New Creation, all the preceding promises in the book come to the fore. The picture portrayed is that of a future eschatological or final day when the “righteous offspring of the servant” will enjoy all the blessings of the messianic age depicted earlier. Then the people will actually receive the things they work for because “they shall not labor in vain” (Isaiah 65:23). Israel’s sorrow will be turned into joy, and one of the dominant motifs of this coming joy is the enjoyment of the work of their own hands.
As Christians living in the tension between the inauguration of God’s kingdom and its coming fulfillment, our enjoyment of our work and the fruit of our labor to the praise of God’s glory foreshadows the coming day when the tension will be removed. It might be said like this: when Christians enjoy their work and the fruit it produces to the praise of God’s glory, they taste a bit of heaven on earth. When all is made right and the heavens and earth are as they were originally intended, work will not cease. It will continue and will be a great delight for those involved, for the sting of the Fall will have been finally and irrevocably removed.
Work and enjoying the fruits of one’s hard work, are gifts of God to be enjoyed and shared with others. When work and labor are enjoyed in the context of loving God and loving neighbor, a little bit of the new heavens and the new earth are tasted in the here-and-now.
How Does This Apply To Your Work?