The Calvary Baptist Church of Detroit
"Church of the Open Door: Year of the Lord's Favor" Revelation 3.8; Luke 4.18-19
When Death Dies
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 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 shallow 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. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. – Isaiah 25.6-9 (NRSV)
The Holy Spirit and Dr. John H. Hayes inspire today’s lesson.
This passage from Isaiah, one of the every rare Old Testament texts containing an explicit promise of the abolition of death (v. 8), is placed on Easter Day among the classical New Testament resurrection texts.
In terms of form, Isaiah 25.6-9 is an announcement of salvation with strong eschatological overtones. That is, unlike earlier prophetic announcements that say the intervention of God in terms of historical events such as military defeat or return from exile, this one sees a radical transformation of the human situation. Its main focus is a banquet that the Lord will prepare on Mt. Zion (“this mountain,” v. 6). The meal will include the richest possible food, and “all peoples” will participate. In the background of this promise stand cultic meals (Exodus 19; 24.9-11) that symbolize the intimate relationship between Yahweh and Israel, and perhaps also the sharing of sacrifices. One day, the visionary says all peoples will come to the holy place for communion with one another and with the one God.
But there is more. With the eschatological banquet, God will inaugurate a new age of joy and peace. The “shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations” (v. 7) must refer to the attire for mourning God “will wipe away the tears from all faces” (v. 8). Mourning cannot be ended as long as there is death; consequently, “He will swallow up death forever” (v. 7). This language seems to be indebted to Canaanite mythology, which tells of the defeat of the god Mot (Death), but it has a very different construction here. Death is not another deity, but a human reality; and its defeat does not recur each year in the Spring, but is a single act of God when the new age begins. The apostle Paul cites the verse in his account of the nature of the resurrection (I Corinthians 15.54ff).
When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the laws. But thanks be to God, who gives is the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the most important features of this passage should not be overlooked on Resurrection Day. The announcement of the new age of joy and peace extends to all peoples. For God so loved the world… (John 3.16).
Lawrence T. Foster