Why is God so eager to pour his eternal blessing on simple people like you and me?
It’s a question too many of us don’t ask at all. Life often seems hard and bleak and stressful, and we grow blind to God’s present blessings and the cause for future hopes. God’s people, stuck in Babylonian exile, could relate.
Their precious city, Jerusalem, was now a heap of smashed stones. Their temple, burned and trashed (Isaiah 64:11–12). In the rubble, the hopes and dreams of God’s exiled people probably never got much higher above imagining a return home for a chance to rebuild and restore their home.
But into the crumbled-down world of God’s covenant people, Isaiah 60 paints a stunning picture of God’s promises and future blessing. Where God’s exiled people may have simply been happy with new walls around old Jerusalem, God promises a new creation.
The images are forceful. Just as the darkness once covering the formless earth was broken by light in the first creation (Genesis 1:1–2), so the darkness of sin fallen on the world, and felt deep in the bones of his exiled people, will be broken by the light of this new creation city (Isaiah 60:1–2).
Radiating from this light shine all the promises of Isaiah 60. Not only will the city be rebuilt, this New Jerusalem will become the 24/7, never sleeping, epicenter of world travel, global wealth, and cosmic praise to God. It will be a beautiful city filled with God’s people made beautiful.
There God’s people will be made majestic, and rejoice forever. They will become “a joy from age to age.” They will be fitted in gold. Adorned in beauty. Living in peace.
Behind all these promises was the most stunning and unimaginable promise of all: The sun will become obsolete as it gives way to the manifestation of the glory of God, his “everlasting light,” which will illuminate this city forever. In God’s radiant presence, all sorrow will cease. All sin will be done away with. All enemies will be vanquished. God’s people will possess this new land forever with no threat of exile. Nothing can take away their joy.
These breathtaking promises blow the lid off all human expectations for exiled believers living in Babylon. None of them could have envisioned a remodeled Jerusalem coming close to the images of this New Jerusalem (images that all foreshadow the new creation in Revelation 21).
Isaiah 60 is compounded blessing upon compounded blessing cascading down in holistic human flourishing. It’s almost impossible to believe.
So this raises the question we asked at the beginning. Why? Why would God make such glorious promises to his exiled (or recently un-exiled) people? Why would he adorn them with wealth, and promise them eternal joy and peace forever?
The answer comes in Isaiah 60:21:
Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.
There’s the answer: “that I might be glorified.” Or, “for the display of my splendor” (NIV).
In the words of Jonathan Edwards, “All the preceding promises [of Isaiah 60] are plainly mentioned as so many parts or constituents of the great and exceeding happiness of God’s people; and God’s glory is mentioned rather as God’s end, or the sum of his design in this happiness.”
It all lands here. God loves to ravish his children with blessings beyond imagination because it magnifies his own worth. When God’s people are made eternally happy, God is shown to be eternally glorious. All his plans and promises are meant to ultimately spotlight his majesty.
The Glory-Seeking Joy-Giver
Our eternal joy in God spotlights his beauty. Or to say it in a way we like to repeat: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. This is the sweet purpose for why we exist. This is why God is so eager to bless us beyond our wildest imagination, forever.
“Man was created ‘to glorify God and enjoy him forever,’” wrote C.S. Lewis of this one unified aim of our purpose in eternity. “Whether that is best pictured as being in love, or like being one of an orchestra who are playing a great work with perfect success, or like surf bathing, or like endlessly exploring a wonderful country or endlessly reading a glorious story — who knows?”
Yes. Who can catalogue all the joys God has planned for us? Lewis was wise enough to leave it there, and anticipate an eternity of what Dante simply called the “intoxication of universal laughter.”
Whatever radiant blessings are to come, they will exceed our wildest imagination. Because God will have his glory.
Sources: Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey and John E. Smith, vol. 8, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Yale, 1989), 477. C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis (HarperCollins, 2007), 3:856.