THOUGHTS FROM ISAIAH

THE JOY OF THE UNIVERSE

In our first meditation on Isaiah we saw God calling upon the entire physical universe as witness to the terrible reality of human rejection of God [1:2].

From the first day that sin entered the world the physical world has suffered under the impact of God’s judgment on human sin – ‘Cursed is the ground because of you …’ [Genesis 3:17]; ‘… it will no longer yield its crops for you’ [Genesis 4:12]; ‘I am surely going to destroy … the earth’ [Genesis 6:13]; ‘the sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron’ [Deuteronomy 28:23]; ‘many times I struck your gardens and vineyards …’ [Amos 4:9]; ‘there will be famines and earthquakes in various places’ [Matthew 24:7].

This chaos, calamity and carnage that presently characterize the physical world were not its original condition. The geological theory of uniformitarianism put forward by Charles Lyell in the nineteenth century assumes, and seeks to prove, that the processes observable in the inanimate world are today what they always have been. The theory of the origin of life put forward by Darwin, also in the nineteenth century, proposes that the tooth and claw, survival of the fittest world that we observe in action is the way it has always been.

These two theories leave no room for a perfect beginning and no room for a perfect future. But the biblical perspective begins and ends with perfection. The agony to which the physical world is subjected because of human sin will come to an end. When all that is evil and all that is sinful has been dealt with at the return of Jesus Christ, perfection will be restored to the physical universe.

This is what the scripture says:

‘The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected in, in the hope that creation itself will be liberated and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning … right up to the present time’ [Romans 8:19-22].

The Old Testament anticipates this liberation and restoration of the physical universe:

‘The grasslands of the desert … the hills … the meadows … the valleys … shout for joy and sing’ [Psalm 65:12,13].

‘Let the heavens rejoice and be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy …’ [Psalm 96:11,12].

‘Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together with joy …’ [Psalm 98:8].

‘The desert and the parched land will be glad, the wilderness will rejoice …
… it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy’ [Isaiah 35:1,2].

‘Sing for joy, O heavens … shout aloud, O earth …
Burst into song, you mountains, you forests, and all your trees’ [Isaiah 44:23].

‘Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains’ [Isaiah 49:13].

This jubilant joy of the physical universe is brought on by the final judgment of God and God’s final redemption of his people. That final judgment and that final liberation include the final removal of all that causes sin and suffering, and the associated restoration of the perfection and glory of the physical world.

For this reason God, through Isaiah, says to all who believe in him from every generation:

‘You will go out with joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands’ [Isaiah 55:12].

The chaos, the calamities and the carnage cease. There is nothing left that will harm or destroy [Isaiah 22:9; 65:25]. Peace is restored. Not only the redeemed, but the whole universe rejoices!

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014