Peace and Prosperity (Isaiah 9ff.)
In contrast to the arrogant pride and self-sufficiency that will bring us down or the exploitation of the poor in order to gain wealth, a fourth theme in Isaiah is that, as we put our trust in the one true God, we will live in peace and prosperity. The people of God rejoice at the time of harvest (Is. 9:3). By the power of God’s spirit, people will dwell in peace, security and the enjoyment of their work (Is. 32:15): “Happy will you be who sow beside every stream, who let the ox and the donkey range freely” (Is. 32:20).
Similarly, one of the promises that followed Hezekiah’s trust in God’s deliverance from the Assyrian general Sennacherib was the people’s enjoyment of the fruit of their own labors: “And this shall be the sign for you: This year eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that; then in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit” (Is. 37:30). Because of the stress of the impending invasion by Sennacherib, the land had lain dormant. God promised food from it even though it was not farmed. But for a people to enjoy the fruit of the vine, years of peace are required to carry out proper cultivation. Peaceful conditions are a blessing from God. Judah’s successful labor in the field and vineyard served as a continuing sign of God’s covenant love.
In the vision of the new Zion in Is. 62, one of God’s promises related to the people’s enjoyment of their own food and their own wine for which they had toiled (Is. 62:8-9). Similarly, in the depiction of the new heavens and the new earth where the former things will be forgotten in the new creation, the people of God will no longer be oppressed but will build their own houses, drink their own wine, and eat their own food (Is. 65:21-22).
In the Old Testament, farming was the major occupation of the majority of the people. Thus many examples in the Bible are drawn from agrarian life and expectations. But the larger principle is that God calls us, regardless of our vocation, to trust him in our work as well as in the more apparently religious aspects of our lives.
God enjoys the creative roles his people play as they endeavor to excel at what they do under God’s covenant. “They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit!” (Is. 65:21). The problems arise when we try to overturn the Creator/creature distinction by replacing God’s values and provision with our own values and unchecked ambition. This happens when we compartmentalize our work as a secular affair that seems to have nothing to do with the kingdom of God. Of course, in a fallen world, living faithfully does not always result in prosperity. But work done apart from faith can lead to even worse outcomes than material poverty. The early chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy witness to Judah discovering exactly this.
In the Old Testament, farming was the major occupation of the majority of the people. Thus many examples in the Bible are drawn from agrarian life and expectations.