We return to the book of Isaiah today, resuming our study in chapter 60. The prophet, having periodically declared that the salvation of the world would come through Israel and its Messiah (Isa. 2:1–4; 11:10; 19:16–25; 25:6–8; 45:22–23; 56:1–8), now focuses his attention on the redemption of creation through Israel, thereby illustrating how Israel's relationship to God is key to all of human history.
Isaiah begins with a call for Israel to "arise" and "shine" because the light of the Lord's glory has come (v. 1). In their original context, these words implored the postexilic old covenant community to respond in faith and step into the Spirit-filled life that the Lord would grant to those who receive Him as Savior. That is, the prophet foresaw that when the Redeemer King finally came to Zion, God's people would be saved only if they turned from their sin and embraced the light of His glory (see 59:20–21).
Of course, the possibility that no one would trust the Messiah was not even a fleeting thought in Isaiah's mind when he spoke these words. Isaiah also foresaw that the Son of David would be satisfied by the results of His atonement—His death would accomplish salvation for those the Father had chosen from the foundation of the world (Isa. 53:10– 12; see John 6:35–40). But Isaiah did not know the identity of those to whom God would grant the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8–9), so he gave what was essentially an external gospel call, knowing that the Spirit would create faith in the elect by His Word.
So, Isaiah could be confident that the faithful remnant of post-exilic Israel would believe. In a day of great darkness, faithful children of Jacob would believe, and the Lord's glory would be seen upon them (Isa. 60:2). Having believed and received the Holy Spirit, these faithful Israelites would reflect God's glory and shine so brightly that even foreigners would find "acceptance on [His] altar" (vv. 3–7). Isaiah predicted that when the Messiah came and the remnant of Israel trusted Him, even Gentiles would come to serve Israel and Israel's God, bringing their wealth with them (vv. 8–9).
This is precisely what has happened. Faithful first-century Jews such as Mary, Nicodemus, Peter, Thomas, Paul, and others believed on the Christ, reflecting His glory to the world. The world, in turn, has been coming to serve Israel—Jesus, the ideal Israel— and Israel's God for two thousand years.
Today's passage is being fulfilled even as it is also yet to be fulfilled. The Gentiles are coming to serve Israel's God, and many of us are proof of that. However, we are still waiting for the day when there will be no need for the sun or the moon because the Lord Himself will be our light (Isa. 60:19–21). We are still waiting for that eternal peace on earth that means no city will need to shut its gates for defense from enemies (v. 11). Let us pray for that day to come.