Unpacking the Old Testament: Isaiah

Taken from CatholicExchange.com
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Unpacking the Old Testament: Isaiah

First Reading for this Sunday, August 25: Isaiah 66:18-21.

Context Matters

This reading comes from the very last chapter of Isaiah, a prophet sometimes referred to as the “Shakespeare of the Prophets.” The book can be divided into two major sections: the Book of Judgment (chaps. 1-39) and the Book of Consolation (chaps. 40-66). The first section announces the Lord’s judgment of the oppressive nations and of unfaithful Israel; the second section reveals how the Lord will redeem his people from exile and oppression. Our reading is at the tail end of the Book of Consolation and it brings the prophet’s picture of redemption to a climactic close. The foreignness of the imagery makes this chapter a little challenging to understand at first blush, so I will try to break down some of the details here.

What Kind of Celebration?

When we try to describe what heaven will be like, we are often at a loss for words. We can suggest happiness, rest, unity with God, brightness, clouds, but we can’t quite put our finger on what it will look like. One biblical image that we can grip more easily is heaven as the wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation. We have been to wedding feasts before so we have at least an inkling of what that looks like: eating, drinking, music, dancing, and lots of smiles. Here the prophecy of Isaiah points to the climax of salvation history, the end, the final bringing about of God’s plan. He paints the picture in terms of celebrations the Jews know well, the pilgrimage feasts.

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