• The Explore the Bible Lesson for Oct. 4 focuses on Isaiah 25:1-10a.
Whereas chapters 13-23 of Isaiah provide a series of judgment oracles against various foreign cities and nations, chapters 24-27 “zoom out” and articulate a vision of God’s judgment on the entire world as a whole.
The language, literary style and themes of Isaiah 24-27 set it apart as a distinct unit within the book, and many scholars have taken to labelling these chapters as “the Isaiah apocalypse,” comparing this extended passage to later biblical books like Daniel and Revelation.
Some of the finer technical details of such a discussion need not concern us, but these four chapters of Isaiah put forward a key idea necessary for understanding our text today: God has a plan for the whole world, not just for the people of Israel.
The Faithfulness of God
In 25:1-5, the prophet praises the Lord for his faithfulness. God, who existed long before time began, has done “wonderful things” which he planned in the past (25:1). While mortal humans’ plans may falter or fail, God’s plans do not. But God is not only capable of fulfilling his plans; he is committed to fulfilling them, as well. God is defined by his faithfulness, not simply his power.
God has brought his enemies low, and even fortified cities—such as Tyre—cannot stand against him (25:2). Here, however, we see an interesting twist. Isaiah speaks of people outside Israel honoring and revering the Lord (25:3).
The prophet takes a turn, highlighting how God provides refuge for the poor and the needy. Marginalized people have hope and security in the God of Israel, who can and will protect them from violent oppressors (25:4-5). Again, this is not simply an example of God’s power; it is an example of God’s faithfulness.
It was common in the ancient world for people to assume the rich and powerful enjoyed divine favor, whereas the poor and weak were under the wrath of God/the gods. Isaiah paints a different portrait. God, out of faithfulness to his own nature and character, is a defender of the weak. God is not partial to those who have more money, especially if they have received their wealth through corruption and oppression.
However, in verses 6-10a, we see the faithfulness of God expressed in even more surprising terms.
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A Feast of Rich Food for All Peoples
The final verses of our passage describe a lush banquet that the Lord has prepared for his people. But there is a twist: the people welcomed at this feast are not limited to the people of Israel.
A key element of biblical religion is the belief that God has a special relationship with the people of Israel. Even Christians living under the new covenant in Christ must recognize the special place Israel/Jewish people hold in God’s plan (see especially Romans chapters 9-11). But this does not mean that only ethnic Israel receives the blessing of God. God tells Abraham, “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). The verses from Isaiah we are considering today are another key Old Testament text expressing this truth.
The phrase “on this mountain” occurs repeatedly in this passage (Isaiah 25:6, 7, 10a). This is a reference to Mount Zion, where Jerusalem and the temple are located. But even though Jerusalem holds a central place in this picture, all nations will partake of the feast which God has prepared (25:6).
God will remove that which has kept foreign nations from recognizing and worshipping him as God, poetically called a “shroud” and a “sheet” (25:7). As a result, people from every nation will recognize and worship the God of Israel as the one true Lord of the universe.
Isaiah presents a vision of cosmic restoration, with even death being undone (25:8) and all mourning being taken away. While “life after death” is a relatively late idea in the Old Testament, Isaiah 25 provides an early text expressing hope that God will “undo” death once and for all.
Isaiah 25 in the New Testament
Two key New Testament texts cite Isaiah 25. These passages are 1 Corinthians 15:54 and Revelation 21:4. Both texts present images of the new creation, redeemed and resurrected by God in defeat of sin and death.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is discussing the nature of the resurrected body as being a glorious transformation of the perishable human bodies we now have. When Christ returns and raises the dead, those who are still living will be transformed into new and glorious bodies. And this, Paul says, will be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54, paraphrasing Isaiah 25:8).
In Revelation 21, John the seer receives a vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1). All suffering and death will be removed, and John alludes to Isaiah 25:8 when he says, “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4).
Although it was originally given to the people of Judah in the 700s B.C., Isaiah’s vision of the future is rich with meaning and significance for Christians today, as it articulates our steadfast hope that God will redeem people from every nation and will defeat death once and for all.
Joshua Sharp is a writer and Bible teacher living in Waco. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Truett Theological Seminary.