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Judgment on Iniquity; A New Creation
Verse 1 begins God's answer to Isaiah's entreaty that concludes with 64:12. The Israelites seek God but don't find Him because of their rebellion against Him. Instead, God is found by others. The first two verses of chapter 65 contain some phrases quoted by Paul in his discourse regarding the future restoration of Israel (Romans 10:20, 21). Verse 1, where God mentions "a nation that was not called by My name" is referring, according to the apostle Paul, to gentile converts grafted into Israel spiritually (through becoming part of the Church) that God uses to provoke the natural Israelites to jealousy (Romans 10:19; see Romans 11).
The verses that follow in Isaiah 65 then refer to the rebellious people of Israel, who would not respond to God's appeal and outstretched hands. Some of the rebellious actions of the people are described—practices of those who have forsaken God's true religion. While some of the actions mentioned may have applied literally in Isaiah's day, it is likely that the sins here have some application for our time. In verse 3, sacrificing in gardens could simply refer to worshiping in pagan sanctuaries, i.e. false Christian worship places. Incense is symbolic of prayers in Scripture and could here signify prayer in false worship. In verse 4, sitting among the graves and tombs could refer to vigils and candle burning still carried out in segments of modern Christendom for the dead. Or it could refer to séances and other occultism. The eating of unclean food such as pork (verse 4; 66:17) is replete throughout the nations of modern Israel today. And the "holier than thou" attitude of Isaiah 65:5 is all too common. In verse 11, the people honor Gad and Meni—the pagan deities Fortune (or Luck) and Destiny (or Fate). Consider how many rely on luck and fate even today. God pronounces His determination to punish His rebellious people.
But He will not destroy them all, throwing the good grapes out with the bad (verse 8), for His "elect" and His "servants" of Israel will inherit and dwell in the land (verse 9). Sharon (verse 10), in the west, is the coastal plain between the modern cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. The Valley of Achor (see Joshua 7:24-26), in the east is near the plain of Jericho. Thus, the whole land is meant. Throughout this section, a contrast is made between the rebellious people and God's "servants."
The new heavens and new earth (verse 17) are mentioned by John in Revelation 21:1 as coming at the time the New Jerusalem descends to earth. Yet here in Isaiah 65, the time described is one in which human beings still live on the earth in the flesh (verses 21-25; see also chapter 66:22-24).
How, then, are we to understand this? It would seem that the millennial reign of Christ will experience a measure of a renewed creation—in anticipation of the ultimate new heavens and new earth that will follow man's final judgment. Indeed, the millennial picture of peace in nature and among people (Isaiah 65:25) is repeated from Isaiah 11:6-9. And all of this will continue over into the last judgment period immediately following the 1,000 years of peace (see Revelation 20:11-15). Indeed, some see verse 20 as an indication that this time of judgment will last 100 years.