Many passages in Isaiah hint, suggest, or proclaim a universal salvation. This isn’t confined to the later “incarnations” of the Isaiah tradition post-Exile (chapter 40ff.). One of the most popular Old Testament passages for a funeral lays out a vision in which “all peoples” shall enjoy a banquet of salvation:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will provide for all peoples
[A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy rich food and pure choice wines.]
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord God will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the Lord for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
I don’t know why the Lectionary editors omitted the portion in brackets above, 25:6b. Maybe the juicy rich food and pure choice wines won’t be served in the parish hall after the cemetery; only casseroles and lemonade.
Seriously, this passage gives a classic Christian picture of heaven. So why not proclaim and preach it at a funeral? Only four verses, but packed with solid theology and great imagery. A preacher might have to pick and choose from:
- The mountain as the traditional place for the Israelite to encounter God.
- God removes the obstructions of human sin; it is grace that we rely on to remove the tangles of our failures.
- The end of death as a mortal inevitability.
- Our tender God wipes away tears: the gesture of a loving parent.
- Outsiders will have no reason to taunt the redeemed. This, the outgrowth of the ancient competitiveness between Israel (and its God) and the Gentiles (and their pagan gods).
- The power of God’s Word: he has only to say something, and it will be so.
- Those last two lines of this passage strike me as an echo of the Easter refrain from Psalm 118:24.
I think this passage is well-paired with Psalm 23, complementing how God actively pursues and provides for the psalmist with the Isaian expectation of God’s salvific grace for the entire believing and faithful community. That’s a lot of ground to cover. What do you think about Isaiah 25 as a passage for a funeral?