Connections 09.11.2016: The Hope of “That Day”


Isaiah 25:6-10a

If you’re a regular reader of Coracle—or a regular participant in a Bible study class that uses it—you may or may not read the Scripture references before you read the articles. Today, I encourage you to look up Isaiah 25:6-10a and read it thoughtfully before you go any further.

Finished? Now take a moment to skim back through the verses and picture the images the psalmist creates. What do you see?

I see a majestic, breathtaking mountain like the ones my friends photographed on their recent trip to Colorado. There at the peak, the Lord has created a safe place to enjoy the view. No acute mountain sickness; everyone is breathing easy. No chills; though we enjoy the beauty of snowy caps, we are warm. No dangerous wildlife. No poisonous plants. No risk of falling off a cliff. Instead, God has spread a table in this safe place, and it’s full of the richest food and the finest wine (v. 6).

This all sounds fantastic, but the best is yet to come: this feast is extraordinary not only because of what is served or the One who is serving but also because, for the first time ever, we can all enjoy it with no burden of sin, no ache of grief, no fear of enemies, and no threat of death (vv. 7-8). I’ve had some wonderful meals in my lifetime, but I’ve never eaten one free from the constraints of being human. Being human comes with knowledge of loss and sorrow and danger and dying. Even if we don’t walk around thinking of those things every day, they are part of us, and we can’t escape them as long as we live on Earth.

Fifteen years ago today, Americans got a terrible taste of what people groups in other countries face every day: terrorism. If you were old enough at the time, you probably remember where you were when you heard about the attacks at New York City’s World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The attacks were one of the most horrific sights I’ve ever witnessed. They were made worse by the clarity of the images and the constant repetition of video footage. Nearly 3,000 people died, and many more were injured. All of us were dealt an emotional blow.

Events like this one—and many more larger and smaller tragedies that humans face—are etched into our consciences. We know that to live is to risk loss. That is the burden of our entire lives. How beautiful, then, are the promises of God like the ones we find in today’s passage:

“And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken”
(vv. 7-8).

We are most certainly in the period of waiting for God to fulfill these promises. I don’t know about you, but I am grateful for the hope we have in “that day.” I believe it will come. I look forward to joining with you and saying, “This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain” (vv. 9b-10a).


1. Why do you think the psalmist uses the image of a fine meal on a mountaintop as the setting for God’s fulfillment of a promise?
2. Where were you when you learned of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001? What other terrible events in human history can you recall? How do you feel when you remember them?
3. What are some of the more personal tragedies you have faced? How did you move through these times?
4. What do God’s promises in verses 7-8 mean to you? How might they affect your reactions to tragedy?
5. We are not yet living in “that day” (v. 9), but we can still put our hope in it. What can we do while we wait for that time to come?

Reference Shelf

Verses 12-14 can be read in two somewhat differing ways. They may recount fatalistic attitudes on the eve of war, reflected in the celebration of a final feast rather than in saving provisions and praying for deliverance. In this reading, all military preparations have been made, but the city’s inhabitants still fail to heed the divine call to repentance, to a change of heart that could move God to relent from plans of destruction. In this view, Isaiah sees God’s people trying everything except humility, and finally, on the eve of the crisis, feasting rather than fasting, engaging in fatalistic frivolity rather than soberly praying for deliverance. Alternatively, these verses, as well as vv. 1-4, may be read as reflecting the celebration of Sennacherib’s withdrawal from the city rather than mourning, like the prophet, for the loss of life throughout Judah. In that case, the quotation “eat and drink for tomorrow we die” depicts a general attitude about the brevity of life rather than the expectation of battle. In either case, what is missing is any sense that the crisis has theological import and calls for sober reflection.

Once again, this is not the way the story is told in Isaiah 36–37. There, King Hezekiah is the very model of piety, as are his three officials (including both Shebna and Eliakim, who will appear later in chapter 22 in far less exemplary roles). That account is discordant not only with this chapter but with Isaiah’s prophecies in chapters 28–31, which are filled with denunciations of the king’s plans to rebel against Assyria.

What led the tradition surrounding Hezekiah’s favorable image to exert such pressure as to militate against the tone and intent of Isaiah’s messages, to reverse the role played by God from one of threat to one of salvation, and to transform the prophet from the king’s chief critic to his chief supporter? Differences between these two profiles are “fundamental and irreconcilable.” Perhaps the discrepancy arose through significant later additions to bring Isaiah more into line with the theology of the editors of 2 Kings who, unlike the prophet, supported rebellion against foreign rule and asserted YHWH’s unconditional protection of Jerusalem. If so, the prophetic indictment of a thoughtless Jerusalem in Hezekiah’s time, and not the pastoral support gently offered to a righteous, distressed king, more accurately reflects conditions during the conflict with Assyria.

Patricia K. Tull, Isaiah 1–39, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2010) 347–49.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters, and watching television shows on Netflix.


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