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Background Scripture: Isaiah 60:1-22

 

Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that the men may bring you the wealth of nations – their kings led in triumphal procession.  Isaiah 60:11

Isaiah 60 describes a triumphant time for Jerusalem.  The text is addressed to the city itself.  It begins with a declaration of God’s favor: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you” (Is. 60:1).  It ends with an assurance of its coming certainty: “I am the Lord, in its time I will do this swiftly” (Is. 60:22).  In between, we find a vivid, end-of-the-age picture of a shining city drawing people and things from afar to its bright light.  The luminous pull of the city has resulted in a great procession of the ships of the sea and the desert through the gates of the city.  They are carrying Jerusalem’s scattered sons and daughters, as well as the produce, livestock, and precious metals of the nations.  We are also told that kings will be drawn to the brightness of its light (Is. 60:3) and that the kings of the nations will be led in procession through the city gates (Is. 60:11).  The same episode is described in Revelation – the kings of the earth bringing their splendor into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24).

What are we to make of the presence of these kings in the New Jerusalem?  Will all kings enter the Holy City?  Will only “saved” kings enter her gates?  There are two variations of the “saved” king interpretation.  In the first, a few kings will be saved.  In the second, all kings will be saved in the end.  If forced to choose, I prefer the first view because it is in accord with the persistent call throughout the Bible for repentance and faith.  The second interpretation trivializes our response to God’s call upon our lives.  Both of these interpretations assume that the kings are present in the Heavenly City to take up permanent residence.  I would suggest that the presence of all the kings is required for another reason – political reckoning.

The kings of the earth, or more comprehensively, all government authorities, have been put in place by God for the good of those they govern (Rom. 13:1-5).  However, they frequently misuse the power they have been given.  Sin taints the orders of presidents, the laws of legislatures, and the pronouncements of courts, as well as the edits of kings.  Many people have suffered injustice at the hands of sinful rulers.  This situation must be remedied.  There must be an accounting for the ways in which political power has been handled by those who govern.  Many martyrs cry out for justice (Rev. 6:9, 10).  Those who have been unjustly accused and punished must be vindicated in the presence of their oppressors (Is. 60:14).  Thus, all the kings of the earth, as well as other rulers, will enter the gates of the New Jerusalem for a settling of accounts.  The Lord will right the wrongs of the past.  He will show Himself to be the only perfect and righteous judge.

Something else is worthy of note in this passage: The end of the age does not mean an end to politics.  The language of governance survives the gathering of the nations.  Kings will serve the people of God (Is. 60:10).  They will be a source of life – king-mothers will feed the people of God (Is. 60:16).  Peace and righteousness will govern the city (Is. 60:17).  And the redeemed of the Lord will reign with God for ever and ever (Rev. 22:5).  The political past will be purified for a new king of political order.  A key part of that order will be judicial.  A new, transformed legal system will exist in the Holy City.

What application might be made of this passage for those of us involved with legal matters today?  First, the certainty of the coming political reckoning should encourage us to do justice now.  Our attempts to do justice will be imperfect to be sure, but we are called to establish just relationships between and among people and institutions.  Second, the future redemption of judicial authority establishes a continuity between what we do professionally in the here-and-now- and what we may do in the here-in-after.  What lawyers and judges do in service to the Lord will one day be redeemed.  This suggests not only that there will be lawyers in heaven, but that they will also practice law.  Until that amazing day, we are called to find ways of practicing law that anticipate the future reckoning and redemption envisioned in the 60th chapter of Isaiah.

Mark Greenlee

Suggested Readings: My approach to interpreting this passage is drawn from Richard J. Mouw’s book, When the Kings Come Marching In, particularly pages 22 through 38.  I highly recommend the full text of this little book.

 

– This article comes from AI’s devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?”

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