“Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
he who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere youth;
he who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the works of their hands.
They will not toil in vain
or bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:20-2)
People had lived a long time on the wrong side of morning. But the dawn finally came. The last of Isaiah’s prophesies predicted a new heavens and a new earth, a time when weeping would cease, when infants would not die shortly after birth, when people would live well into old age, when they would build houses, plant vineyards and harvest the fruit produced and keep it all for themselves instead of giving it to others. When we hear God telling his people about “new heavens and new earth” we are tempted to imagine that God is talking about the eternal kingdom. When we see the wolf and lamb feeding together, the lion eating straw, and dust becoming the food of serpents, it is hard to think of anything else. But in between those words, God spoke of people dying: that those who died at a hundred were dying young. God spoke about babies being born. Neither death nor babies being born seems to fit the normal notion about the Kingdom of Heaven. So what to make of the passage, then?
Are the blessings of the passage literal, or are they analogical? A clue comes from remembering that God chose to speak in poetry. The purpose of the passage is to tell us of the hope that is to come when God truly reigns in the lives of his people. The serpent eating dust takes us back to the curse in Genesis following Adam and Eve’s first sin. God proclaimed victory over the old.
In Christ, we become new creatures. The old has passed away. All things become new. The strength and power of sin are gone, the strong no longer prey on those who are weak. God spoke of the healing of old ills, of joy and life, of security and fellowship with him and harmony in the creation that comes to us in Christ. The kingdom of heaven even now lives in our hearts. No matter what the world may throw at us today, God still reigns.