Isaiah 66:1-24 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. Isaiah 66 is addressing the people of Israel at the time when they were repairing the temple in the days of King Hezekiah. In the midst of this re-construction work the Lord addresses His people by His prophet Isaiah. Of what does He remind the people? What question does He ask? See Isaiah 66:1-2 (printed below) What do you think He wants them to understand?

This is what Jehovah says, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Therefore, what kind of house will you build for me, and where will be my resting place? (2) My hand has made all these things, so it was that all these things came into being, declares Jehovah. But this is the man I will regard, namely, he who is humble and who has a contrite spirit, he who trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)

The Lord reminds the people of His great majesty: heaven is His throne, the earth is His footstool, He has made the whole creation with His own hands. The Lord then proceeds to ask the question, What kind of house will you build for Me? He is urging them to realize that there is nothing they can make that could even begin to contain the greatness of His presence or begin to do justice to the greatness of His glory.

2. What kind of a person does the Lord regard with favor? See Isaiah 66:2b (printed below)

…this is the man I will regard, namely, he who is humble and who has a contrite spirit, he who trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2b)

The Lord is not impressed by any temple or cathedral that men may build for Him; but He does look with favor upon the man whom He describes as “he who is humble and who has a contrite spirit.” The reference here is to the man who is aware of his spiritual need, is humble before the Lord his God, and exhibits sorrow for sin and a repentant spirit. The man upon whom the Lord looks with favor is further described as the one “who trembles at my word.” Holy fear is a right and proper response for a man to make to the Person of God; as the prophet Jeremiah testifies, “There is none like you, O Jehovah; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. (7) Who should not fear you, O King of the nations? for to you it appertain” (Jeremiah 10:6-7a).

3. What kind of worship is being described in verse 3 (printed below?) (Note the Lord’s comments about the people who are offering this worship) How does the Lord regard such “worship?” See verses 3-4 (printed below)

Whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man; and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog’s neck. Whoever presents a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood; whoever burns frankincense is like one who blesses an idol. Indeed, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations; (4) so I will choose their afflictions and I will bring upon them the things they dread—because when I called, none of them answered; when I spoke, they did not listen. On the contrary, they did what was evil in my sight, and chose those things in which I have no delight. (Isaiah 66:3-4)

Verse 3 is describing worship that merely consists of the offering of the prescribed acts of religious devotion without the offering a life of devotion to the Lord. As verse 3a indicates, the Lord has no respect for those who only offer Him the mere formalities of worship. Worship may be offered to the Lord in strict accordance with the guidelines of Scripture, but if the worshiper lacks the qualities outlined in verse 2, his worship is considered by the Lord to be in the same class as idolatry.

4. In verses 5-6 (printed below) the Lord turns from those whose worship merely consists of religious formalities to once again address those who are truly devoted to Him. What assurance does He give them? Why does He find it necessary to offer such assurance?

Hear the word of Jehovah, you who tremble at his word: Your brothers who hate you, who thrust you away because of my name, they have said, May Jehovah be glorified, so that we may see your joy! But they are the ones who shall be put to shame. (6) Hear the sound of an uproar in the city, a noise from the temple—it is the sound of Jehovah repaying his enemies what they deserve. (Isaiah 66:5-6)

To those who are devoted to Him, the Lord gives the assurance that there shall be a day of justice in which His servants shall be vindicated and those who have persecuted them shall receive their just compensation of divine retribution. The devout presently suffer persecution at the hands of their countrymen: they are hated, they are ostracized; they are mocked for their devotion to the Lord and their continued confidence in His promises. But there is coming a great reversal: those who presently engage in mocking the Lord and His servants shall themselves be put to shame.

5. Verses 18-21 (printed below) speak of a great gathering before the Lord. How is that gathering described? What do you think is the fulfillment of this prophecy?

Because of their works and their thoughts I will come to gather all nations and languages; and they will come, and they will see my glory. (19) But I will work a miracle among them, and those who are delivered from my judgment I will send to the nations—to Tarshish, to Put, and to the famous archers of Lud, to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have neither heard of my fame nor seen my glory. Those who have been delivered shall proclaim my glory to the nations. (20) And these messengers will bring all your brothers from out of all the nations as an offering to Jehovah, conveying them on horses and in chariots and in wagons and upon mules and upon camels to Jerusalem my holy mountain, declares Jehovah, just as the children of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of Jehovah. (21) And I will also select some of them to be priests and Levites, declares Jehovah. (Isaiah 66:18-21)

The Lord has set a date for all the world to stand before Him: to behold His glory and to be confronted with the truth that He alone is God (verse 18). Verse 19 indicates that prior to that appointed day the Lord will “work a miracle among them,” and will send to the nations “those who are delivered from my judgment,” and they shall declare the Lord’s glory among the nations. In the light of New Testament revelation, this appears to be a reference to the day of Pentecost at which time Jews, (who had been dispersed among the nations,) being gathered together in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, heard the gospel and carried the good news of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ back with them to the distant reaches of the Gentile world. Verses 20-21 appear to be a reference (couched in Old Testament terminology) to the in-gathering of all the Lord’s redeemed (believing Jew and believing Gentile alike) by means of the universal preaching of the gospel—and they shall all serve the Lord in the same capacity that was once reserved for only the Levites of the Old Testament nation of Israel.