Yahweh of armies will make for all peoples on this mountain a banquet of oils, a banquet of aged wine, of marrow, and of fine wine. On this mount, he will consume the veil that shrouds all peoples and the covering that cover all nations. He will consume death forever. Yahweh Adonai will wipe tears away from every face. So, he will remove the shame of his people from all the earth. Indeed, Yahweh has spoken.
Isaiah’s twenty-fifth chapter profoundly meditates on the central problem of death. Death veils all peoples and covers all nations. But, on Zion, God consumes the veil and the covering. He consumes death forever, the power of our ancient foe (Isa 25:6-7).
Our first parents brought us death by their transgression on the mountain. But from the mountain, God will save us from death, the last enemy (Isa 25:9). The serpent, cursed as he was, ate dust. His future included a foot, a foot that would crush his head. And from the mountain, God treads down Moab Isa 25:10). He will lay them low, and they will eat dust (25:12).
In that day,
the LORD will punish with his sword—
his fierce, great and powerful sword—
Leviathan the gliding serpent,
Leviathan the coiling serpent;
he will slay the monster of the sea. (Isa 27:1 NIV).
Moab is a cipher for the great serpent, the age old foe, the devil.
The devil has enslaved us all because we fear our mortality, our corruption. As the ancient writer says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb 2:14-15). The devil has power over death, and he enslaves us by the fear of it.
And yet: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (John 3:8).* By his death, the Son of God swallowed death forever. He consumed it. He crippled the serpent’s power. He proclaimed victory in Sheol. He freed the souls awaiting the resurrection to life from the realm of the dead.
The veil over us no longer shrouds our life. The Spirit has shone in our hearts as God declared, “Let light shine out of darkness.” (2 Cor 4:6). So the darkness of death fled. Darkness can never overcome light. Light gives darkness flight.
On the mountain, death was put to death. And life was returned. The enslaved set free. The serpent defeated. And fear fled because perfect love casts out all fear.
* I owe this insight to Richard Beck, The Slavery of Death, p. 6. Beck also underscores the importance of Hebrews 2.