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The City Built on Mercy

Daniel Barta

Dec 21, 2023

The city of the new heaven and earth shall know full joy. The citizens of that city will sing and shout and dance with joy. Rejoicing will ring out from the city walls for all eternity.

What might sustain such joy and gladness for all eternity? Isaiah identifies the source of everlasting joy as the experience of mercy by sinners in the forgiveness of their sins.

About the new city we read,

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. (Isaiah 65:20-23 ESV)

In these few verses, we find God placing Israel in the new heaven and earth with a restoration of good gifts to them. No more will they stand next to the grave of a child; no longer will men and women die before their work blossoms and they see and enjoy its fruit. No longer will they labor in vain or see their children suffer. No longer will foreigners seige their homes or steal that for which they worked.

Instead, they shall be like a tree well nourished and watered. They shall flourish. They shall last.

At first glance one might conclude that the grounds for this city’s lasting joy is a constant supplying by God of all that makes the people happy. As if God would change His posture and, like a genie, begin to supply all that would satisfy the appetites of the people. We might, if not careful, conclude that their joy would be restored because their circumstances would change.

In order to avoid this mistake we must remember why the people lived in exile and experienced the taking of their homes, the bloodshed of their children, and the stealing of the fruit of their labor. They experienced such calamity because of their sin. I encourage you to read the whole of

Deuteronomy 28:15-44. Here is just an excerpt.

25 “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies… 30 You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall ravish her. You shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but you shall not enjoy its fruit… 32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless. 33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors… (Deuteronomy 28:25-33 ESV)

The reason the LORD brought to Israel such calamity was not hidden but stated clearly:

45 “All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. (Deuteronomy 28:45 ESV)

Isaiah makes the connection between Israel’s guilt and their suffering unmistakably clear.

1 For behold, the Lord God of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water; (Isaiah 3:1 ESV)

So then if the old city is destroyed by God on account of the people’s sin, on what account does God establish the new city? Isaiah provides the answer,

24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24 ESV)

This can only mean one thing, the people who would inhabit the new city of the new heaven and earth will have their sins and iniquities removed, for it is the sins and the iniquities of the people that kept God from listening to them.

1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV)

Do you see? The people do not enter into this new city because they change their behavior, pay back their debt, or make up for their rebellion. Instead, they receive mercy in the form of forgiveness. God by His Servant removes their iniquities and cancels their debts. He washes their records clean. At one time God judged them on account of their sin, but as Isaiah promised, one day God would deal with them again as a righteous people, not on account of their own righteousness but on account of the Servant’s goodness done on their behalf.

When God brings Israel back to the new Jerusalem they will enter as the forgiven and redeemed. As recipients of mercy they will know and love the LORD their God with all their hearts and minds. They will learn finally to trust Him and to obey Him, and in their obedience all the blessings will return.

God’s Servant, Jesus, Makes Lovers of God by Forgiving Sins

Forgiveness softens hearts, removes hostility, creates love, and sustains obedience (see Luke 7:41-50). It is the good news of the gospel that Jesus has come to forgive great sin.

31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:31 ESV)

He came to remove sins . He came as the Servant to do what God promised through Isaiah

18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

It is through the forgiveness of sins that sinners come to know and understand the glory of God. By the sacrifice of Jesus, they enter into refreshing, joy-filled fellowship with the Father. The joy of the new city is first the joy of being forgiven.

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2 ESV)

God promised to create a new city, a new heaven and earth in which love and righteousness and fruitfulness abound and He intends to do so through Jesus’ death whereby He removes the guilt of sinners. Those who know the forgiveness of the LORD love the LORD and return to the LORD and they do so with joy.

Come to the LORD for Forgiveness

You have many needs, but your first need - the need of greatest importance ,the first in order of priority - is the need to have your guilt removed. You will stand before the LORD and you will either do so as one guilty in your sins or as one forgiven and washed clean.

The offering for your guilt has been made in Jesus. The question which remains is: Do you trust Him? Have you put your faith in the work of Christ or do you press on trusting in your own goodness?

How do you know whether or not you believe? Do you know the joy of being forgiven? Do you love the LORD with your heart knowing that you are forgiven? Is God’s love shed abroad in your heart?

We still await the complete fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. We do not know the day or hour the new heaven and earth will be our experience. We do know however that all those who enter that city will do so as forgiven sinners.

Have your sin’s been forgiven? If not, I leave you with the invitation as given by the apostle Peter,

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. (Acts 3:19-21 ESV)

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