ISAIAH CHAPTER 51.
The Realization of Zionís Salvation.
THE CERTAINTY OF DELIVERANCE. ó V. 1. Hearken unto Me, ye that follow after righteousness, earnestly seeking to obtain it, ye that seek the Lord, in true repentance over their sins, as yet not daring to show a happy faith; look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, namely, Abraham, before the promise of the Lord regarding the birth of Isaac was fulfilled, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged, this cistern of the rock being Sarah, as the context shows. The nation of Israel was called into being by a miracle of God, who gave to Abraham and Sarah the son of promise. V. 2. Look unto Abraham, your father, and unto Sarah, that bare you, the ancestors of the Jewish people and, in a wider sense, of the spiritual Israel; for I called him alone, when he was but one, and blessed him and increased him, the conclusion which follows being that the same God is able to deliver and restore His people at all times. V. 3. For the Lord shall comfort Zion, building up His city anew; He will comfort all her waste places, letting her arise from her ruins; and He will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord, new life and new glory following His blessing; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody, all this instead of the former misery. Cp. Rev. 7; 14; 21. V. 4. Hearken unto Me, My people, the invitation going forth once more and with increased emphasis, and give ear unto Me, O My nation, in the attitude of most careful attention; for a law shall proceed from Me, His Word issuing for the instruction of men, and I will make My judgment, that which is right and good according to his will, to rest for a light of the people, so that it would be a power for the conversion and salvation of all men. Cp. Luke 2,32; Acts 26, 18. The promised renewal is that of the New Testament, which merges into that of heaven. That the interval of time does not exist in the omniscience of God is evident also from the following expressions: v. 5. My righteousness is near, which includes all the mercies promised in the covenant made with His people; My salvation is gone forth, is already an established fact, and Mine arms shall judge the people, His merciful power directing their thoughts to the salvation of the Messiah. The isles shall wait upon Me, to receive the deliverance of the Lord out of the misery of their sins, and on Mine arm, which obtains mercy for them, shall they trust, the heathen thus coming to the knowledge of their Savior. This certainty is now further emphasized. V. 6. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, with its impression of endless stability, and look upon the earth beneath, with its uninterrupted succession of generations, both appearing to the human mind as established securely; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, both of them bound for destruction on account of their inherent vanity, in spite of their apparent permanence, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner, like a snap of the finger; but My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness, His mercy promised in His covenant, shall not be abolished, it will endure throughout eternity. Moreover, the enemies will find themselves unable to hinder the establishment of the Lordís salvation. V. 7. Hearken unto Me, ye that know righteousness, choosing the mercy of the Lordís covenant, the people in whose heart is My Law, who delight in the instruction given in His Word; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings, which were then, as now, poured out upon the believers for their trust in the salvation promised by the Lord; v. 8. for the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool, bring about their destruction, put them out of the way; but My righteousness shall be forever and My salvation from generation to generation, His redemption means an eternal deliverance to all who trust in Him. Instead of continuing the comforting message from the mouth of the Lord, the prophet now, in an eminently dramatic manner introduces the listening believers as speaking, their prayer serving to substantiate the statements which have just been made. V. 9. Awake, awake, put on strength, exhibiting His almighty power, O arm of the Lord, as in carrying out a difficult piece of work; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old, as when He delivered His people from the bondage of Egypt. Art Thou not it that hath cut Rahab, the crocodile, as the symbol of Egypt, and wounded the dragon, the sea-serpent? another symbol of Egypt. V. 10. Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep, that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over? The reference is to the deliverance of Israel at the Red Sea, when Pharaohís might was overthrown. The thought which is implied is this: Even as the Lord overthrew the armies of the enemies in the past, so He can vanquish and annihilate the enemyís hosts at all times. V. 11. Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion, their deliverance from the captivity of Babylon being a picture of the salvation of mankind from the bondage of Satan; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head, like the wreath of a bride; they shall obtain gladness and joy, the very summary of bliss, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away, be removed forever. Such is the happy condition of the redeemed of the Lord of all times, a fact which they cannot realize too thoroughly or trust in too implicitly.
THE LOOSING OF THE EXILES.ó V. 12. I, even I, am He that comforteth you, so Jehovah Himself announces in taking up the topic of the chapter once more. Who art thou that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, why should Zion as such or any individual believer fear any mortal enemy, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass, withering after a very brief life, v. 13. and forgettest the Lord, thy Maker, the almighty Creator of the universe, that hath stretched forth the heavens, chap. 40, 22; 42, 5, and laid the foundations of the earth, established it most firmly; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, of the tyrant among men, of whom Babylon is a type, as if he were ready to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor? This rebuke of the Lord may well be applied in the case of all His children; for their occasional fear of the enemies is equivalent to a lack of trust in the power of Jehovah. The rage of the tyrant is unable to hinder the deliverance which God has planned for those who believe in Him. V. 14. The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, literally, Soon the one bowed down (as captive) shall be loosed, the heavy fetters which bore him down to the ground being removed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail, that is, he should be delivered from prison and have all the bread that he needs. V. 15. But I am the Lord, thy God, the gracious Sovereign, that divided the sea, whipping it into fury, whose waves roared. The Lord of hosts is His name, He who has command of both the heavenly and the earthly powers, He who directs the elements at His will. V. 16. And I have put My words in thy mouth, entrusting them to His people, and I have covered thee in the shadow of Mine hand, sustaining Israel in faith and in His grace, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, as the Creator of the universe, and say unto Zion, with whom He is united by the bonds of His merciful love, Thou art My people. The entire description pictures the perfection of the new order which was to be established by Christ in His spiritual kingdom. V. 17. Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, this call being intended for the time immediately after the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury, namely, in the punishment meted out by the Babylonian army. Thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, the terror brought about by the wrath of the Lord, and wrung them out, drained the dregs to the last drop. The misery of the situation is intensified by the fact that the sufferer is all alone in her tribulation. V. 18. There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth, none to direct her while she was in this helpless state of drunken terror; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand, to uphold and strengthen her, of all the sons that she hath brought up. It is impossible to bring salvation to mankind by a mere outward morality, by a mere social uplift as it is proclaimed in our days. The wrath of God over the sins of mankind may be appeased only by the atonement of the Savior, which turns the wrath into grace. V. 19. These two things are come unto thee, things of two kinds which are presently mentioned; who shall be sorry for thee? Not one showed sympathy with Zion in her deep disgrace. The two varieties of affliction are now named. Desolation and destruction, on the one hand, and the famine and the sword, on the other, the first pair striking the city, the second its inhabitants; by whom shall I comfort thee? There was none to comfort her in her misery. V. 20. Thy Sons have fainted, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem being overcome; they lie at the head of all the streets, at the intersection of all thoroughfares, as a wild bull in a net, as a gazelle which is helplessly enmeshed; they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God, for this invariably brings about death and destruction. But now the Lord turns to Jerusalem with the fullness of His mercy. V. 21. Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, one who has experienced the depths of misery and tribulation, and drunken, but not with wine, the wrath of God alone being the cause of her miserable condition: v. 22. Thus saith thy Lord, the Husband and Sovereign of Jerusalem, the Lord, the God of the covenant, and thy God, that pleadeth the cause of His people, taking their part against the tyrants, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, the terror being induced by the wrath of the Lord over the sins of His people, even the dregs of the cup of My fury, which Zion was just represented as draining; thou shalt no more drink it again, since the Lord now promised His merciful deliverance, v. 23. but I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee, who had brought all this tribulation upon her, which have said to thy soul, Bow down that we may go over, their backs thus serving to be trampled under foot by the enemies, and thou hast laid thy body as the ground and as the street, like a pavement, to them that went over. So great had been the humiliation of Zion-Jerusalem, representing the Church of God. But the Lord was determined to bring salvation to His people through the work of the Messiah.