I had the joy of sharing one of my favorite texts with the Wisdom class at Woodmont Hills this morning. I love Isaiah 25. It excites me everytime I read it…and for several reasons.
While Isaiah 13-24 rehearses God’s “woes” toward all nations due to their arrogance, injustice and evil, Isaiah 25 (actually beginning with the last verse of Isaiah 24) envisions the reign of God that (1) provides shelter for the poor and needy and (2) trumps death for all peoples and all nations. Mt. Zion, the center of God’s reign in the earth, will be the place of a great feast. God will feed the poor and needy, establish justice upon the earth, and destroy death.
NT writers read this text eschatologically. They take us to the future where death will be swallowed up (1 Corinthians 15) and every tear will be wiped away (Revelation 7, 21). It is the Messianic banquet fully realized though we participate in it every time Jesus breaks bread with us at his table (Luke 13:28-30; 22:16, 18, 28-30).
So, the text does two things for me in the present, at least two things. It fills me with eschatological hope–but also eschatological presence. The eschaton is present now. We eat at a table with Jesus, the risen one. His presence brings the future into the present. I imagine (and it is a spiritual reality rather than pure imagination) sitting at the table not only with Jesus, but with Sheila, Joshua, Dad among others. The table is a present eschatological experience. The table is existential–now…the past and the future united and transformed with a vision of the fullness of God’s kingdom.
But the text does more as well. It calls me to more. The table and the divine act that enables the table are oriented toward the poor and needy. The table is about justice, about social justice. The table is for the poor and needy, and it is God’s act of kingdom righteousness that a table is spread for them. To sit at this table is to commit oneself to that kingdom justice. We cannot sit at the table of the Lord and exclude or excuse ourselves from the poor, needy and injustice of the world. The table is not a place where we hide from the world’s evil and injustice, but where we practice justice and call each other to kingdom righteousness.
God spreads a table for the poor and needy. He uproots the rich and powerful. Which does our church table look like? Is our table one of wealth and priviledge, of power and nationalism? Is our table where we insolate ourselves from the poor and needy as we pretend there is no injustice in the land? If so, it is not the table of the Lord, and we are no better situated than the Corinthians whose own culture cloaked their table.
Isaiah 25 is a word of hope. It is a word that names the death of death. But it is also a word that calls us to justice for the poor and needy. At the table we celebrate the death of death but we also seek the kingdom of God and his justice.