“No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days.” (Isaiah 65:20)
One of the most poignant places you can ever visit is the children’s section of a cemetery. We walk past those often tiny graves, plaques and headstones, read the birth and death dates and do the calculations: one week old, a few days, even just a few hours. As our modern society claims to become increasingly comfortable with death as a “natural” part of life, the children’s section of the cemetery cries out in protest: “No! This is not as it should be. There is more pain and grief here than any family should need to bear!” For death to intrude precisely at that moment when the promise, hope and joy of new life has come brings a grief rarely surpassed by anything else.
Our verse for today comes as part of the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the new heavens and new earth God promises. He lists a number of things that will characterise this new creation, such as a lack of weeping and distress (verse 19), a peaceful life of home and work for God’s people (verses 21 and 22), and the absence of violence as even the wolf and lamb feed together (verse 25). However, what strikes me most powerfully among these characteristics is the prophet’s description of infant mortality rates. “No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days …” (Isaiah 65:20). There will come a day when children’s sections in cemeteries will be no more — in fact, where cemeteries themselves will become redundant.
What the people of old could scarcely have guessed, though, is that Isaiah’s vision of the new creation would be brought about by the suffering servant he also predicted (Isaiah 53). And although somewhat strangely, Jesus’ own birth was the indirect cause of many infant deaths at the hand of the murderous Herod, through his own life, death and resurrection, Jesus has ushered in this new age where he is making all things new. Our Lord Jesus Christ will raise his people from their graves — including the infants — and then the perishable will put on the imperishable, and the mortal will put on immortality. Then death will be swallowed up in victory, and we will be able to say, “O death, where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:54,55). Until then, we still grieve, but not as those who have no hope.
Lord, we hope in the promise You’ve made, that death will no longer sting, and we will all live together in Your loving embrace, free from fear, guilt and sadness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.