There’s a stunning painting by Holman Hunt in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Jesus, the Light of the World is standing at an overgrown door, knocking and waiting. There’s no handle on the outside deliberately. The handle is on the inside and only we can open the door of our hearts to invite Him in. Isaiah 65 starts with God’s readiness to be found. “Here I am” (v1) He calls out eager to be found. God makes the first move – he is so ready to meet us, that we don’t even need to be seeking Him to find Him. He knocks for us.
God is spreading out his hands, pleading, even begging, patiently longing for a rebellious people to come to Him. The problem is our the human mind “our devices” as the ESV puts it – the structures we have put in place to keep God at a distance. The apostle Paul called them strongholds to be torn down as the Gospel is proclaimed, preached and gossiped over garden fences. People are rebellious – stubborn, rigid, never satisfied – the opposite of a contrite and lowly spirit (57:15). It’s no good being born into a religious country or even family, we need a personal Holy Spirit encounter with Jesus.
In v8 we find a metaphor of harvesting grapes to make wine. The cluster is cut down and some of the grapes are good, some are bad. The whole lot is not thrown away – the bunch is kept and the good and bad separated. Going to church is not enough – outward identification with the church is not enough. For now God is putting up with spiritually artificial people who are mixed in among his responsive people – there will be a harvest separating true and false. Accepting Jesus is the answer – because God saves sinners in Christ. Verse 9-12 speaks to the fruit of that saving faith – an openness to his Word and delight in His pleasures. Verses 11-12 show us an odd but insightful deal breaker. In Isaiah’s day people made idolatrous rituals to bend fate and luck their way – a fear of the future, deep insecurity, wanting control and looking for any way except God’s. The answer is instead to delight in what God delights in.
Verse 13 then begins to connect our present with our eternal future using “therefore”. The Lord looks for authentic faith. Heaven is eating, drinking, rejoicing and singing with gladness of heart forevermore. Hell is hunger, thirst, shame, crying out in pain and wailing in brokeneness forever.
The favourite verses of 17 and 18, the promise of the new heaven and new earth are breathtaking. About five seconds in we will turn to one and another and say “Cancer, racism, rape – what are they? I can’t seem to remember. No matter! Here we go!” All is fixed. No more pain, no more tears. All gone, all healed.
Images of life now are taken to communicate life then. We won’t die at 100 in heaven v20 – it’s Isaiah telling us “The life you’ve always longed for but has always eluded you, always kept just out of reach – that life is preparing for his servants.” (Ray Ortlund).
Hell is simply eternal souls, who don’t want God getting their way, with all its consequences. Heaven is eternal souls who long for God getting all they want – God himself in infinite joy.
If you haven’t done so start enjoying God now. Come to Christ with nothing but your need of Him. He is knocking on the door of your heart today to give you peace and joy for evermore.