6On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 8Then the LORD GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.
9It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
There are parallel passages at Revelation 7:17 —
17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
— and Revelation 21:4:
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
These passages have bothered me for a long time.
The Isaiah was one of the appointed Sunday lessons about six weeks ago. It gained fresh relevance for me in May 2015, given current events in Baltimore, as I was compelled to tell someone online: for me, Armageddon is here and now; this is the war of Gog and Magog; this is the Great Tribulation.
When we first studied this in Sunday school, I remarked as follows.
This is one of many passages in the Hebrew Bible that express the desire that God someday establish a worldwide Jewish empire, with its capital at Jerusalem.
At the time of this prophecy, the people had become tired of their ongoing subservience — having to pay tribute — now to this foreign, heathen empire, now to that. The big names in the Hebrew Bible are Assyria and Babylon. In the time of Jesus, it was Rome. Pilate installed a Roman eagle over the main entrance to the Temple, so that even as Jews approached their holiest activities at their holiest, most Jewish place, they had to face again the reality of foreign, heathen rule.
The “disgrace” of the Jews mentioned in verse 8 had to do with subservience, with being “lower,” being “less,” being poor. After all, Deuteronomy 28 had promised them they would always be the highest and the greatest, and rich. That promise has never been met, to this day. Moreover, the tribute could be so harsh as to actually impoverish the people. King Solomon’s taxes did that, which led to the revolt against his son (1 Kings 12:4).
As to verse 8, I do not anticipate any Golden Age. I anticipate no Messiah. Jesus is not coming soon — or ever. The universe will continue to operate in the future just as it does now and always has in the past. There will always be occasions for tears.
Verse 8 finds its truth in that, in any occasion for tears, God in God’s love is present to humanity, sharing our pain; and, if human beings are willing to accept God’s grace, they can move on through the tears and anger and sorrow, to recover and be healed. In that sense, God wipes away every tear.