[Isaiah 65:17-25] “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
The Former Things Will Not Be Remembered
“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain”, says the Lord. “For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth.” The people of God in Isaiah’s day would’ve liked to see a renewed Jerusalem, that earthly city. But the Lord tells them of a Jerusalem to come – the New Jerusalem – the Jerusalem of heaven which comes down from above. This is a new heaven and a new earth – and in it, “the former things shall not be remembered nor come into mind.” There is an end to remembering the calamities that befall you.
We are at the end of a year. Today is the “Last Sunday of the Church Year.” Next Sunday is the Church’s New Year, with the beginning of Advent. So, today, we end a year on the Church calendar.
What a year it’s been. But, in this world and life, ending a year doesn’t end our troubles. Likely, though God only knows, the beginning of Advent next Sunday will be wrought with all the same trouble we have this Sunday. And, in this life, though a trouble ends, the remembrance of it continues to sting. But not so forever. By God’s grace, there is an end, a coming day for you, after which these former things will sting no more, neither will they come into mind.
In the past year, life’s usual troubles have been amplified by the added difficulties of the COVID pandemic. Every single thing has been more stressful for each one of you and for me. Nearly every regular, mundane daily task has had a layer of thought and decision making added to it that wasn’t there before.
A year of fearing illness. A year of guilt that you might make another sick. A year of coming to Church every Sunday and, each Sunday, not knowing if you should really be here – “Is this the right thing to due in a pandemic?” A year of skipping Church, or Church services being suspended or severely limited, and not knowing if that’s the right thing to do.
You’ve had so many months now of not knowing whether or not you’re doing the right or wrong thing regarding so many and various decisions and situations. By the atoning-death of Jesus on the cross, you are forgiven.
Many elderly have had limited or no contact with their children and friends. They haven’t had a hug or a handshake – or Holy Communion. This is wrong, but it would also likely be wrong to do otherwise.
Not only among us – but including among us – loved ones have died. Children have lost their parents, and parents their children – and siblings their siblings – and so forth. And they maybe didn’t get to see each other before hand, or they didn’t get to mourn them in the ways they needed to afterwards.
Nationally – it’s been the case since March, and continues – suicide has been more prevalent. Abuse of kids and women has been more prevalent and more hidden. And, likely, we’ll find that divorce rates will have increased nationally. The nation’s opioid epidemic probably is not being helped by this health pandemic. And there are the employment and financial issues. And the election season with its political climate has caused its stresses on us too.
In truth, all the trouble and calamity of life – which you have each experienced each year of your life – has been a little bit worse this year. But, in truth, brothers and sisters, this year has only been a magnification – a highlighting – of what trouble man has and has always had in this earth. It is a fallen, sin-broken – and temporary – existence. But, behold, a New Heaven and a New Earth, in which these former things will not be remembered, nor will they come into mind.
What won’t we remember in the new heaven and new earth? Will we remember each other? There has been an idea that has gone around that somehow we won’t remember or recognize who each other are anymore in the next life. This simply isn’t true – Scripture never speaks that way. We will know who Jesus is, and He is fully human. You will still be you, and others the same. In fact, there, being freed from sin, we will all know and love each other perfectly and much more fully.
Yet, that new heaven and earth will be a new beginning for us. A new beginning in which the “we” that we know will not be defined by family ties and blood relation – but by Baptism, faith in Christ, mutual membership in the family and household of God. The “we” there will be our truest and forever-family. These former ties will bind no more.
“Could I ever possibly have peace in heaven if some of my dearest loved ones are not there?” That’s the real question behind that whole idea of not knowing each other. The answer to that is that our peace will not come from who we won’t know, but from who we will know – Jesus Christ.
The peace of God truly is a peace beyond all understanding [Philippians 4:7] – it will come, though we don’t know now how that will be. We do know that the current pain – the current fear – the current broken heart – these will have an end and will not be remembered or come into mind anymore. These are the former, forgotten things. Every pain of this life has a terminus. Peace comes in this life only by leaving the “how” and the “why” up to God your Savior, who is very good.
The things of this sin-broken existence are indeed former things. Jesus has brought sin, death, and the devil to an end. Their rule over you – and the devil’s rage against you – have a Last Day. Jesus has already brought sin, death, and the devil to an end by His cross, death, and resurrection. Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished”. And it is indeed finished. Pain and calamity are now set to be former things.
But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days…”
“…for the young man shall die a hundred years old…” In other words, even the dead will have youth, and old age is now young age. Death is swallowed up in victory [1 Corinthians 15:54]. “…and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.” The old, open sinners of the world will no longer lead the young astray. They have lost their power.
You will build houses and keep them. You will plant and have plenty to eat. The offspring of the blessed will live there. And “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox” - but “dust shall be the devil's food.” He has become a former thing.
The Last Sunday of the Church Year is our reminder of the coming Last Day of this world. All that has troubled and pained you this year and every year prior, brothers and sisters, will end as easily as a day on the calendar comes. On that Last Day, all the good that your Lord Jesus has bought for you at the price of His atoning-blood will have it’s First Day, and never a last. Amen.