“On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation’ ” (Isaiah 25:7-9).
Daniel J. Habben
Where do you plan on retiring? I dream of living in the mountains. I love how the peaks and valleys are a canvas on which the sun practices its coloring and shading, never tiring of its artistic mission.
God seems to have a special liking for peaks too. Many important biblical events have taken place on mountains like Sinai, Carmel, and Calvary.
On judgment day, death’s wretched heart will beat its last.
But there’s a peak that stands higher than these. The mountain in our reading from Isaiah is not one you can find or measure with Google Maps. Isaiah calls it Mount Zion (24:23). That was a place in Jerusalem, but it is much more than that. It symbolized the place where God would reign “with great glory” (Isaiah 24:23).
There God will destroy the sheet that covers all nations. This sheet is more distressing than the hood a kidnapper slips over the head of his victim to obscure her vision. This sheet is the veil of death, the final curtain. And it hangs over every person, rendering us sightless, breathless, helpless. How will God remove this veil?
Destroying the shroud
The answer to that question is found in the events of Holy Week, where we witness God’s power and his deep passion for us.
To destroy the shroud of nations, God’s Son first had to wrap death around himself. Like a brave soldier who gives his life by diving onto a grenade to absorb its impact, Jesus gave his life in order to be a shield for all sinners. A soldier might save the lives of a few by jumping on a hand grenade, but Jesus threw himself on what destroys all people—death itself. Only one man, the God-man Jesus, could absorb the blast of God’s anger to keep the rest of us safe. And Jesus did not shrink from the task. He satisfied God’s righteous, raging anger over sin by letting that anger consume him. That’s the truth of Good Friday.
Then, three days later on Easter, Jesus tore a hole through the shroud of death when he rose again! Yes, death still greedily wraps itself around those we love, swallowing them whole like a terrible snake. But the hole that Jesus ripped in death is a gaping wound that will not heal. Death is dying.
Rejoicing in life everlasting
It’s no wonder Isaiah says that on Mount Zion the Lord will also wipe our tears away. No more cancer diagnoses. No more late-night notices about fatal car crashes. No more senseless shootings. We can hardly imagine such a time. But take heart. It’s coming. On judgment day, death’s wretched heart will beat its last.
So, while your heart is still beating, continue to put your faith in Jesus. Keep rejoicing in the events of Holy Week. Then one day you will join Isaiah and all the other saints on Mount Zion in this declaration: “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.”
Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 107, Number 04
Issue: April 2020
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