Death remains our greatest fear and the last enemy. Death is the just consequence and punishment for sin. Exile from the land was going to be a death like experience for God’s people. With that in mind, I want to suggest that what comes next is perhaps one of the most significant passages in the Old Testament.
Read Isaiah 25
Isaiah interrupts the prophetic judgement pronounced on Israel, Judah, the surrounding nations and the world with a song of praise. He declares Yahweh to be his God and says that he will lift up and praise his name. He praises God for what he has done, in line with his eternal plans (v1). God is to be praised because he is the one who defeats enemies, destroying their cities and palaces(v3).
God is to be praised because he is seen to prioritise the poor and oppressed, offering them shelter and protection. The point about foreigners here is not that they are the enemies of God’s people who have sought to wipe the out. Isaiah is able to see both, looking backwards to past victories fr Israel and forwards to future rescue and see that God delivers and vindicates (v4-5).
Isaiah looks again to a future day when Jerusalem and Mount Zion will be at the centre of God’s plans for the world. There will be a celebratory feat and the nations will be invited. This points to a time of peace and prosperity for God’s people (v6).
It is there and then that the final enemy will be faced and defeated. This enemy is said to cover the people, or overshadow them suggesting fear. The enemy is death and it will be swallowed up. With that tears, mourning, grief and shame will also be removed (v7-8).
The defeat of death in this immediate context refers to the end of threatened death from invasion and genocide. This is seen as Isaiah again describes the defeat of an enemy. Moab is specified here, perhaps with Isaiah looking back to a past victory over an exemplar rival. The implication of course is that if God were able to defeat enemies like Moab, Edom and Philistia in the past, he can do it once again to Assyria, Babylon and Persia.
Oh death where is your sting?
In 1 Corinthians 15:5-58, Paul draws on the language of death swallowed up in victory to show that Christ in his own death and resurrection has defeated death. The greater fulfilment of the prophecy is not just about an end to bloodshed from war and invasion. Rather, Christ died to take away the sting of death, we no longer have to fear the punishment because Christ took the penal nature of death on himself. We know that death is not the end, that there is resurrection to look forward to,
Meditate on v1
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
- Are you able to say “God is my God”?
- What can you praise God for?
Meditate on verse 8
He will swallow up death
Thank you Lord that we do not need to fear death. Thank you for the gift of eternal life. Thank you that although we grieve the loss of loved ones that we do not mourn as those without hope.