Nations will come to your light – Isaiah 60:1-6

Today is January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany. In the Eastern Orthodox Church today is the day they celebrate Christmas with special meals and exchanging gifts. An Epiphany means a revelation, a moment of insight and realisation. The feast of Epiphany in the church calendar celebrates that moment when the baby Jesus was revealed to all the nations, to Gentiles as well as to Jews, represented by the Wise Men who visited the infant Jesus.

Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose

It all seems very implausible. Foreigners making long and hazardous journeys to worship the new-born king when even his own people did not recognise him. Guided by a star, or by the stars, to the very house where the baby and his mother were staying. All very unlikely. Until we remember that the birth of Jesus had been foretold centuries before and in so many places. And some of those prophesies indeed looked forward to the events the church celebrates on Epiphany, Three Kings Day.

At the Epiphany FOREIGN NATIONS CAME TO JESUS

Isaiah 2 2 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

In the time of Isaiah, the peace of Jerusalem and indeed the future of the nation was at threat. But God still had a purpose for the Mountain of the Lord, Mount Zion and his holy city Jerusalem, the city of peace. One day it would be exalted above all other nations.
God will exalt His Holy city. But more than that. In time to come God’s blessings will not be restricted to the Israelites. People from other nations will also come there to find God for themselves.

Isaiah 56: 3 ¶ Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.”

The promises were there that salvation would come to foreigners as well as to Jews.

Foreign nations travelled to see Jesus. AND

At the Epiphany FOREIGN NATIONS WORSHIPPED JESUS

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.

All this was foretold in the Gospel in the Old Testament, the book of the prophet Isaiah

Isaiah 49:7 …. Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Psalm 86 8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
9 All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

Foreign nations came to worship Jesus. AND

At the Ephipany FOREIGN NATIONS BROUGHT GIFTS TO JESUS

11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Isaiah 60:1 60 ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

They weren’t kings. They were wise men, magi, astrologers, eastern mystics. They weren’t Jewish – they followed the eastern mystery religions. But that prophecy in Isaiah 60:3 is the main reason why the church has thought of them as Kings.

3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

And that was just one fulfilment of the nations coming to worship and bring their gifts. Isaiah 60 goes on
4 ‘Lift up your eyes and look about you: all assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.
6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.

Gold and incense to celebrate the coming of the King. Isaiah is echoing the psalmist who talked about the nations bringing gifts to God’s anointed King. I talked this morning about Gold as a fitting gift for a king, incense for a priest and myrrh for a Saviour. It actually wasn’t until the second century that the church made those connections between the gifts the Magi brought and the ministry of Jesus as king, priest and Saviour. In truth gold, frankincense and myrrh were just three extremely valuable yet portable commodities, alongside precious jewels of course. The Magi would not have seen any significance in the gifts they brought. Nor did the Magi realise they would be fulfilling prophecies first found in Psalm 72.

Psalm 72 10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him with gifts.
11 May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.
12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
15 Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given to him.
May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long.

Foreign nations came to Jesus. They worshipped Him and they gave Him gifts. And all this reveals a glorious truth about the good news of Jesus Christ.
God’s Blessings are for Everybody!

The thing about Jesus that really annoyed respectable Jews was that they wanted to keep the blessings of God’s Kingdom for themselves, but Jesus offered those blessings to everybody. Tax collectors, prostitutes, even Gentiles (those who were not Jews at all), received God’s love and forgiveness rather than the religious but self-righteous Pharisees. But Isaiah had clearly foretold that the blessings of God’s Kingdom would come to all peoples. The blessings God promises and the blessings Jesus brings are given to all peoples, not just to the Jews to everyone irrespective of race and culture. The Jews weren’t expecting that. But they should have been if they had read Isaiah properly!

Isaiah 49:6 And now the LORD says … “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
7 This is what the LORD says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—
to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers:
‘Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down,
because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’

Again, Kings and princes paying respect and even bowing down to the Messiah who will bring salvation to Israel and indeed to the whole world.

Isaiah 49 goes on 8 This is what the LORD says:
‘In the time of my favour I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
9 to say to the captives, “Come out,” and to those in darkness, “Be free!”

Isaiah 42 6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Prophecies of the Saviour who would indeed bring sight to the blind and bring release to those trapped in the grasp of the devil and all his demons.

And one more promise which Jesus fulfilled at the end of his life rather than its beginning.

Isaiah 56 4 For this is what the LORD says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.
6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him,
to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

A house of prayer for all the nations. Because God’s blessings are not only for the people of Israel but for foreigners as well. For people from every nation. Even to foreigners who choose what pleases God and hold fast to his covenant.

And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him,
to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him,

God’s salvation is for everybody. And that is foreshadowed by the events of Epiphany – Three Kings Day.

This entry was posted in Isaiah.

About

You may also like...

Comments are closed.