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Isaiah 25:6-9

Have you ever been in that place of devastation? Failure. Loss. Discouragement. A song of hopelessness like: grief, anxiety, depression, ostracization, or death drown out any sort of hymn of hope.

And then the text comes; “Why don’t you come over to our house for dinner?”.

A stirring inside happens. New imagination begins. A tune, previously drowned out, is faintly heard. A song for the future is filled with joy, even in the midst of grief. A hymn of hope starts being hummed for others to hear.

Have you ever been in that place of birthing hope?

Isaiah 24-27 can be treated as a unit. The theme voiced in Chapter 24 is filled with divine judgment on the earth. Humanity has disobeyed instruction, (24:5CEB), severed covenant and the world is utterly broken (24:19NRSV). Appropriate judgement is prophesied and a restoration of the people of God and God’s kingdom over all the earth. The moon will be diminished, and the sun will fade, since the Lord of heavenly forces will rule on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, glorious before his elders. (24:23CEB).

This final verse is catalytic to Isaiah’s praise. The prophecy of judgment continues in chapter 25 yet, is held in tension with the hope of restoration. The first part seems to allude to temporal mercies, like the destruction of tyrant nations, yet counter-balanced with eternal blessing of God’s restoration of ALL the earth.

Verse 1 of chapter 25 invites humanity to join the prophet’s hymn of praise while bearing witness to God who is Lord (25:1). So will we sing that God is Lord of all or not Lord at all?

As a preacher, it’s important to recognize that this is prophetic poetry and yet has deep theological implications that need to be exegetted. There’s more under the surface of this text that one can excavate.

Even in this poetry, judgment is inevitable, but it’s simultaneously held in tension with an indisputable invitation from the Lord to celebrate and feast.

Vs. 6: On this mountain (Zion), the LORD of heavenly forces WILL PREPARE for ALL peoples a rich feast, a feast of choice wines, of select foods rich in flavor, of choice wines well refined.

Feast and festivals are in abundance in Scripture. Fellowship around a table was central to the Ancient Near East culture then and now. A feast of abundance (food, wine, fixings) with friends or family was also inspirational. So what of the banquet feast in our text? Undoubtedly celebratory even in the midst of turmoil.

Scholars debate on where these passages (Chapters 24-27) lie historically. However, whether written in exile or in the midst of a return – a celebration of God’s salvation and triumphal establishment of his kingdom is paramount. Just prior to our lectionary text, verses 4-5, indicate God to be a refuge who restores, while Israel is admittingly poor and needy.

This is hard for Western affluent society. To appreciate this text, we must embrace a posture of need and even poverty. This can be difficult for ones who hold tightly to doing “it my way”, or “self-sufficiency over God-dependency”. Check out this site Those who embrace their poverty understand mysteriously that; blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3) and if this is the case, this is celebratory, even if God’s kingdom has not yet come in fullness.

The banquet set by God is pregnant with hope and not just for the Israelites but for all. The God of hospitality is the host for all peoples (vs. 6) and when all peoples gather to celebrate God’s kingdom coming, it actually does come on earth just as it is in heaven. Strangely enough, the Israelites believed that on Mount Zion is where heaven and earth meet.

If God is hosting all, who are we to put a limit on hospitality? Hospitality – that is, the opening or creating of space for the other – must be for all, otherwise it’s not hospitable. Our unwillingness to open ourselves to another just might cripple our ability to sing a hymn of praise like the Israelites, even while oppression remains.

Vs. 7-8 He will swallow up on this mountain the veil that is veiling all peoples, the shroud enshrouding all nations. He will swallow up death forever. The Lord will wipe tears from every face; he will remove his people’s disgrace from off the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken.

It’s difficult to not read this passage in light of Jesus. In fact, it would be unwise to, even though it’s 6th century poetry. It would be wise as well, to remember that apocalyptic poetry was prominent in the Ancient Near East. Typically, writings about doom and destruction would follow with a text celebrating salvation. Like in Isaiah.

Scholars speak of the Canaanite mythology, where Baal hosts a banquet to celebrate his defeat of the Yamm and then his enthronement as king of the gods. The chaotic forces that Baal subdued are unleashed again and the god of death, Mot, opens his mouth and swallows up Baal. This battle reoccurs time and again. However, this is not the case for the God of Isaiah. Yahweh swallows up death, not the other way around.

While it may be difficult to recognize one’s poverty, death remains a problem for all. So the promise of God’s defeat over that enemy moves us to praise, no matter our status. God will swallow up death and in fact, it’s already been accomplished in Christ once and for all.

In light of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we know that new, fully revealed life is to come, begun even today. This hymn here is not just eschatological but also for the present. In the midst of the shroud that still covers, we can sing praises in all circumstances (Psalm 34). Praise needs to be sung even as the shroud of fear, pain, and even death try to capture our imagination more than the triumphant wedding feast of abundance that God is hosting. And God’s work is good news (tidings)… for ALL people (Luke 2:10).

Vs 9 They will say on that day, “Look! This is our God, for whom we have waited – and he saved us! This is the Lord, for whom we have waited; let’s be glad and rejoice in his salvation!” (10a – The Lord’s hand will indeed rest on this mountain)

On that day, a wedding banquet is coming. The Bride will be united with the Groom. A feast to celebrate heaven coming on earth fully, will happen. This is who God is. This is what God wants. In other words, this hymn in chapter 25 is filled with praise undoubtedly, but also hope. We hope, God redeems, even resurrects. Death does not have the last word. We can now say in Christ that resurrection is real! Paul cites this in 1 Corinthians 15:54 when talking about resurrection and Revelation 7:17 quotes from verse 8 to describe how every tear will be wiped away in the eschatological kingdom.

All are invited by God who hospitably will wipe away the tears from our faces. So even now, with present turmoil – individually or societally – peace can be experienced as we trust. We trust, God saves. To trust and obey in waiting is a mysteriously hopeful way to live happy in Jesus. This is trust in the present-and-yet-to-come redemption – a mystery we declare or better yet, sing for Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.

This is a hymn of thanksgiving and gratitude for deliverance and a tune of hope that can be sung mysteriously for the world to hear. Embrace the song and be a witness to the hope. Go ahead and send that hospitable dinner invitation text, it just might be the what someone needs to start singing hope.