The Lord Will Be Your Everlasting Light (A Study in Isaiah)

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The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. 21 Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever. They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified. 22 The least of them shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the Lord; in its time I will accomplish it quickly. (Isaiah 60:19–22)

In these final words in the chapter, the prophecy moves to an even more lyrical level that it had been previously. Clearly, here, we are talking about last things—the age to come. This is confirmed by the way the Revelation of Saint John clearly makes use of this same language (Rev. 21:22–26). Both passages speak of the wonder of that time when we will no longer need created light, because uncreated Light will manifest itself in undimmed form. No longer will there be any night, and no oppressors will remain, so the gates of that city will never need to be closed (see v. 11 above, and Revelation 21:25). The time for mourning will be over; mourning over injustice and death and oppression will be gone forever. What wonderful thoughts, what a hope to look forward to!

Notice the personal pronouns in verses 19–21. Yahweh is not merely the Light, but your Light. Nor is God merely glorious, but he is your glory. This language is emphasizing once more the profoundly personal relationship God wants to have with us. As the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” speaks of Yahweh’s amazing condescension in being willing to belong to the people of Israel, so here he wants to be the Light and the glory of each one of us. What does that mean? For him to be your Light means that he will enable you to recognize his truth and to walk in it. For him to be your glory means that you no longer have to struggle to gain significance and recognition, but can give up that struggle with a sigh of relief, knowing that it is as you give yourself up to God, his reality and honor will invade your life, and you will find your true self in him and in his service. We will be a “shoot” that he has planted (v. 21), one that the world may well call worthless, but one that has eternal worth in him. In that light, each of us will become greater and be worth more than we could ever imagine (v. 22). As God gives his glory to us, we in turn will glorify him; as he makes us more real, our lives will demonstrate his reality more fully.

In this light, the opening statement of verse 21 is important. How do we glorify God? We do so by manifesting his character in our lives, by doing what is right. This is not something we do on our own, thus glorifying ourselves. God plants us and nourishes us, and his character springs up in us as we cooperate with him. Jesus uses a similar figure when he identifies himself as the vine and us as the branches (John 15:1–6). On the one hand, the vine would die if it had no branches, but on the other, the branches are dead if they are cut off from the vine. We live and produce divine fruit only because of our attachment to him, but it is through us that his fruit is picked by the world.

1. What is the great danger in the self-esteem movement?

2. What is the great danger in a theology that says we are only considered by God to be righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, but that we can never actually be righteous in our daily lives?

3. How does God manifest his glory in our lives?

The Bible study The Book of Isaiah: Part III (Chapters 56-66) is now available from our store. If you enjoyed this entry, you’ll appreciate the profound lessons that can be learned from Dr. John Oswalt’s exposition of this important text. This third part concludes his teaching through what’s often called the “Fifth Gospel,” which expounds the heart of God’s plan of salvation for the entire world. In the book of Isaiah we see a promise from God to make all things new and give his people new hearts. Get multiple copy discounts in order to start group studies, and preview the video element below. View this study in our store here.

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Dr. John Oswalt is Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. His expertise is in Old Testament studies, Hebrew language, and Hebrew religion. His writings have appeared in Bible encyclopedias, scholarly journals and popular religious periodicals, and is a leading scholar on the book of Isaiah. He is married to the former Karen Kennedy, and they have three children and two grandchildren.

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