Day 1 – Isaiah 60:1-3 (NIV)

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

It’s amazing how often people quote the Bible without even knowing it. Have you ever been woken by someone with the words “rise and shine”? Well, here these words are tucked away in Isaiah 60. This was initially God’s prophetic word through the prophet, Isaiah, to His people and it will be fulfilled in the final days, but NOW it is His word to us, as the collective church, and to you and I as individuals – “Arise, shine…”

What a great scripture to start the day! The Message version of verse 1 says “Get out of bed, Jerusalem! Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.” That sounds like a bit of a shake up to me. Whether you’re an early riser or not, the reality is that darkness is for lying down and light is for rising up.

It’s hard to rise up, to stand up and walk in the darkness. We bump into things, we can stumble and fall, but once the light has come, now we can see, now we can stand up, now we can rise up and navigate our way forward.

As the church, as the people of City Church, we are now called to rise up, to stand up, to stand firm, to endure.

  • So what might that mean for us as a church, to rise up, to stand up, to stand firm? What does that look like?
  • What does it mean for you individually? Are there areas in your life that have felt dormant, dead or defeated where God could bring revival, restoration and resurrection? Remember, God is into doing the seemingly impossible. In what areas can you sense God cheering you on to rise up and to stand firm?

Our “light has come” and the light stems from God’s glory. Spurgeon once commented, “The church is like the moon, which shines with borrowed light.” God shines on us, the church, with His glory and now we reflect His light. We are called to shine the light; we are called to be the light. What an amazing privilege – that we get to represent God on the Earth!

There may be darkness all around us but God’s light overcomes the darkness. At City Church we are literally “a city on a hill” that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. Light is attractive; it draws people from every nation and background; it draws leaders and influencers.

  • How can we, as City Church, be light in the Blue Mountains and in our sphere of influence? How can we show His glory to people?
  • In what areas in your own life can you BE the light – at school or uni, in your workplace, at home with your family and in your neighbourhood?

Prayer Point: God, thank you that because you are for us and not against us, we can rise up and stand up. Help us to be the light today.

Day 2 – Isaiah 60:4-6 (NIV)

“Lift up your eyes and look about you:
    All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
    and your daughters are carried on the hip.

 Then you will look and be radiant,
    your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
    to you the riches of the nations will come.

Herds of camels will cover your land,
    young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
    bearing gold and incense
    and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.

Imagine by the grace of God the church becoming the centre of attraction. We, as the church, have the potential to be so attractive to people, so compelling that people will come from all around to see what’s going on, to feel the buzz. Imagine City Church as a hive of activity, abuzz with the things of God, so alive with His love and goodness that people have to come and check it out for themselves!

This is what is promised here through the prophet, Isaiah – a regathering of sons and daughters from a long way away, as we know will happen with the gathering of the Jewish people from every nation on Earth into the land of Israel in the final days. The enemy likes to scatter; God is in the business of regathering.

  • So what does this look like for us as a church – for sons and daughters to regather and come back home? Are there people you feel led to pray for today as you read this passage?
  • What does it mean for you individually? Maybe you know of literal prodigal sons and daughters and you are inspired to pray for them today.

There are so many great promises here in the rest of this reading for today. Imagine your heart throbbing and swelling with joy as you see the people coming in!

The Message puts it this way in verse 5 –

“When you see them coming you’ll smile—big smiles!

Your heart will swell and, yes, burst!”

The King James Version says of verse 5 your heart will be enlarged and this is the meaning of the original Hebrew word – “to be or grow wide, to enlarge”. Surely this is what God calls us to do now – to open wide our hearts and make room for all the people who are being called in.

  • How is God enlarging your heart and your expectations as you read this passage today?

Prayer Point: Lord, we choose today to lift up our eyes and see all that you might do through us, your church, today. Give us fresh eyes to see and enlarge our hearts in preparation.

Day 3 – Isaiah 60:7-9 (NIV)

All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you,
    the rams of Nebaioth will serve you;
they will be accepted as offerings on my altar,
    and I will adorn my glorious temple.

“Who are these that fly along like clouds,
    like doves to their nests?

Surely the islands look to me;
    in the lead are the ships of Tarshish,
bringing your children from afar,
    with their silver and gold,
to the honour of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendour.

As a child of God do you expect the favour of God to come to you? David wrote in Psalm 23:6 that God’s goodness and mercy would surely follow us all the days of our lives. A more accurate translation of this verse is that God’s goodness and mercy will chase us down.

Do you believe that? And why is God so eager to pour out His blessings on us, His people? It’s so easy for us to lose sight of God’s kindness to us and to ignore His promises for our future.

Isaiah 60 was written to God’s people, His covenant people, whilst many were trapped in exile in Babylon. Can you imagine how defeated they might have felt? If you feel trapped or defeated today, you are not alone. Their precious city, Jerusalem, was a pile of rubble and their temple had been destroyed. All they wanted to do was return home and rebuild.

Yet God promises them so much more in this chapter. He paints a magnificent picture of all His promises and future blessings to them as His people. When it comes to Jerusalem, He has more than “a rebuild” in mind. The New Jerusalem will be a vibrant city that never sleeps, the epicentre of world travel, global wealth and eternal praise to God. Wow! That’s so much more than a rebuild.

Here in today’s reading, we see Isaiah prophesying that great treasure will come to the nation of Israel in the time of the Millennial Kingdom. The “wealth of the Gentiles” will come. Yesterday’s reading mentioned “herds of camels”; today’s reading mentions flocks of rams and “ships of Tarshish” loaded with silver and gold.

So how does that translate to us now as 21st Century believers living in the Blue Mountains? You are never forgotten by God. He saw His people in exile; He sees you. He promised future blessings to His people and restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. He promises blessings to you and restoration and rebuilding of your life and family and future.

So let’s go back to my original question: why is God so eager to pour out His blessings on us, His people? Why did God make such lavish promises to His exiled people – promising them wealth and eternal joy and peace?

Isaiah 60:21 answers that question –

Then all your people will be righteous
    and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
    the work of my hands,
    for the display of my splendour.

God showers His blessings on us, beyond our wildest dreams, as it brings exceeding joy to us, and when God’s people are eternally happy, God is shown to be eternally glorious. Every one of God’s plans and promises throws a spotlight on His majesty, His glory, His splendour.

So it is OK to enjoy God and His blessings to you today, even though they won’t arrive by camel. Not only is it OK to enjoy His blessings but it is encouraged as it brings glory and honour to Him. You may have heard the saying “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” C.S.Lewis put it best “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”

Prayer Point: God, thank you for your blessings that will come to me today. I choose to enjoy you today, which brings glory to your name.

Day 4 – Isaiah 60:10-12 (NIV)

“Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
    and their kings will serve you.
Though in anger I struck you,
    in favour I will show you compassion.

Your gates will always stand open,
    they will never be shut, day or night,
so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations—
    their kings led in triumphal procession.

For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish;
    it will be utterly ruined.

Imagine God’s people hearing this prophetic word spoken to them…. the promise that foreigners, people from another nation, possibly their enemy, the very ones who previously had attacked the walls of Jerusalem in an attempt to break them down, are now rebuilding the walls. Their kings are now bowing down and serving them. They must have thought at first they were hearing things!

How might God deal with your enemies? I love this quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

God is in the business of changing the status quo of relationships. He can turn your enemies into your friends, as nothing is impossible with God.  And even if they remain your “enemies”, He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5). In other words, He will lavish His goodness and favour and blessing on us, despite the presence of our enemies.

Here there is nothing but favour and blessing promised to God’s people. Foreigners will not only rebuild their walls and kings bow down and serve them, but any nation or kingdom that will NOT serve them will perish – it will be utterly ruined.

I love Ephesians 1:23 in The Message. It reads: The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” This same thought is expressed here in this prophecy of Isaiah.

  • Can you imagine City Church having this sort of favour in the community, where those who perhaps once opposed the church now join in to help build?
  • Can you imagine our doors open 24/7 so people can come in and bring their praises to Jesus?
  • Can you imagine a church full of leaders in the community, those who carry influence and entrepreneurs, flocking to join us? 

Prayer Point: Thank you God that you love us, your church, and that we are central to your plans. Help us to open our hearts to you today so you can speak to us and through us.

Day 5 – Isaiah 60:13-15 (NIV)

“The glory of Lebanon will come to you,
    the juniper, the fir and the cypress together,
to adorn my sanctuary;
    and I will glorify the place for my feet.
The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you;
    all who despise you will bow down at your feet
and will call you the City of the Lord,
    Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

“Although you have been forsaken and hated,
    with no one travelling through,
I will make you the everlasting pride
    and the joy of all generations.

Who doesn’t love the smell of timber? I remember visiting Strahan in Tasmania a few years ago and stepping into a timber shop full of beautiful and rare wood, some of which was hundreds of years old. Everyone inside the store was doing the same thing – they were running their fingers over the rough bark and the smooth grain of the wood, they were gazing into the deep rich colours and they were breathing in the thick woody aroma. Of course, I had to bring a piece of Huon Pine home with me, and one day it will be made into a beautiful wooden platter.

So can you imagine how incredible the sanctuary of the temple described in verse 13 will be with all the juniper, fir and cypress adorning it? Imagine the rich colours, the grain of the wood, the intricately made objects and the wonderful woody scent. We may be thousands of years removed from the people who originally received this prophecy but we can still enjoy the same sights and smells as they did.

The sanctuary in the temple was the sacred place, the holy place. The original Hebrew word for sanctuary comes from the word “qadash” which means “to be consecrated, prepared, dedicated, to be set aside for a special purpose”. Today, as people who join together as City Church, we meet in a largish auditorium, which is essentially just an empty building until we fill it.

So where is our sanctuary, where is our holy place? You could argue that it is wherever God’s presence is as it is His presence that makes the place holy. And we bring His presence with us into the building every Sunday when we gather. We also take His presence with us wherever we go, 24/7. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

So now as New Testament believers, God’s glory is reflected in us. He shines through us. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. We ARE the church. It may have seemed, for a season, that Jerusalem was abandoned and rejected, but God promises to us in Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

And today, Jesus is building His church across the planet as His “everlasting pride” (verse 15) and His beautiful bride.

Prayer Point: Lord, thank you that you have promised that you will never leave us or forsake us. When we gather together as your church, help us to bring glory to your name.

Day 6 – Isaiah 60:16-18 (NIV)

You will drink the milk of nations
    and be nursed at royal breasts.
Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Saviour,
    your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
    and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
    and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
    and well-being your ruler.
No longer will violence be heard in your land,
    nor ruin or destruction within your borders,
but you will call your walls Salvation
    and your gates Praise.

Have you ever considered how blessed we are to live as 21st Century Christians, on this side of the Cross?

God’s people, in these times, may have known the Lord to be their God…but now we can know Him personally and experientially as our Saviour, our Redeemer, (verse 16). Jesus bought our salvation for us, He redeemed us and it was entirely His work. It secures our eternal welfare when we believe and now we are “grafted in” to the family of God (Romans 11:17).

Their temple may have been knocked to the ground but how much more glorious is the New Testament church, the Bride of Christ?

2 Corinthians 3:10-11 says “For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!”

In this passage, we read that iron replaces stone, bronze replaces wood, silver replaces iron and gold replaces bronze. The more costly and permanent replaces the ordinary and impermanent.

Jesus has come! He is building a royal Kingdom that will never be destroyed. And it starts with you and I…with a response in our hearts. Jesus will govern in peace (verse 17) as He is the Prince of Peace.

Can you imagine City Church as a place where our walls metaphorically ‘speak’ of salvation and the doors metaphorically ‘sing’ praises to God? (verse 18)

Prayer Point: Thank you God for sending your son, Jesus, to be our Saviour and Redeemer. Thank you that you are building a Kingdom that will never end and it starts in me.

Day 7 – Isaiah 60:19-22 (NIV)

The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
Your sun will never set again,
    and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of sorrow will end.
Then all your people will be righteous
    and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
    the work of my hands,
    for the display of my splendour.
The least of you will become a thousand,
    the smallest a mighty nation.
I am the Lord;
    in its time I will do this swiftly.”

1 John 1:5 says: “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Imagine living in a city where God IS the light – no need to ever flick the switch again, no need to change a light bulb or to call the ‘sparky’! There is no need for sun or moon as God will be the everlasting light.

The sun sets at the end of the day, leaving us in darkness and cold; in this city, God’s light never extinguishes or diminishes. The sun will often disappear behind a cloud; in this city, God’s brilliant light and warmth is constant. God is “the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

These verses are a picture of the New Jerusalem, but they also encourage us to look forward to Heaven. We can only imagine how amazing it will be!

I love verse 21 – we are the shoots He has planted, broken off from the wild olive tree and grafted into the good olive, transplanted out of the field into His garden where He tends us. We are the work of His hands (Ephesians 2:10) and a work that takes time but when finished will be for the display of His splendour. And God will get the glory!

Don’t you love God’s promises to us in the final verses of Isaiah 60 –

The least of you will become a thousand,
    the smallest a mighty nation.
I am the Lord;
    in its time I will do this swiftly.”

The Message puts it like this –

The runt will become a great tribe,
    the weakling become a strong nation.
I am God.
    At the right time I’ll make it happen.”

The captives who came out of Babylon were only a few, but they became a strong nation. The early church began as a very small number (only 120) yet it became 1,000 and now is in its billions.

God is in the business of multiplication. We need only faith the size of a mustard seed for God to do His work. Do not despise the day of small beginnings!

  • In what area in your life are you trusting God to bring growth and multiplication, to take the least and make it mighty?
  • God can do in a moment what we could never do in a lifetime. Do you trust God to move swiftly at the right time?

Prayer Point: We are thankful, God, today for your faithfulness and constancy. We trust that we are the work of your hands and we trust your perfect timing.