Isaiah 51


‘Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many. The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.’ Isaiah 51:1-3

Everlasting Salvation For Zion

This chapter speaks of the salvation of God will come and His wrath is turned away.

The righteous are exhorted to follow in the steps of Abraham. Those who are running after righteousness are instructed to look to Abraham and Sarah, the rock and pit in which the house of Israel was formed. Abraham answered the call of God with obedience, his seed was multiplied, and he was the father of the multitude.

Israel in captivity, her strength and number gone are to remember this. As Sarah, after a long period of barrenness gave birth to Isaac, the son of promise, so will Zion again be fruitful after a long period of desolation. Israel was born from the womb of Sarah, but the church was born from the faith of Abraham.

Kelley, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The fact that the prophet addressed these words to them in the very land in which Abraham and Sarah had indeed received their first call gave added meaning to what is said here.’

‘Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.’ Isaiah 51:4-6

Here we read that the certainty of the Lord’s salvation is assured, and the enemies of the righteous will perish.

The promise goes beyond the physical restoration of Israel, just as the promise to Abraham went beyond the material. The world will be enlightened by the Word of God, Hebrews  1:11, and the light would be a new law that would be applicable to all the world, Jeremiah 31:31-33 / Mathew 28:19-20.

This salvation extends to all, but before the universal salvation can be offered its type must arrive. The emphasis here is on the fact that God will do what He has promised to do.

Israel is summoned to look above because of the destruction that will befall their captors, Isaiah 13:6-16.

‘Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have taken my instruction to heart: Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.” Isaiah 51:7-8

Upon the promise of safety in the midst of destruction, Israel is instructed not to be afraid of men. Like the heavens and the earth, Psalms 102:26 / Isaiah 34:4 / Hebrews 1:11-12 / 2 Peter 3:10-12, men would be quickly carried away but God’s righteousness shall not be abolished.

‘Awake, awake, arm of the LORD, clothe yourself with strength! Awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old. Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through? Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over? Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.’ Isaiah 51:9-11

Here we read Israel’s response. The exhortation of verses 7-8, arouses a longing for salvation which brings forth this response.

The word ‘Rahab’ here means Egypt, Psalms 88:8 / Psalms 89:10 / Isaiah 30:7. The king of Egypt is the monster or crocodile, as some translations render the word, which was pierced, Psalms 34:13-14 / Ezekiel 29:3 / Ezekiel 32:2.

The deliverance of Israel through the Red Sea, Exodus 14:21, is the literal and historical definition for these two metaphors in reference to the salvation of the saints. God’s people were ransomed from captivity.

Many Egyptians died in the Sea when they were redeemed, they were redeemed from captivity from which they couldn’t deliver themselves. Knowing that God would keep His promise, His people sing the promise, Isaiah 35:10.

Jamieson, in his commentary, says the following.

‘As surely as God redeemed Israel out of Egypt, He will redeem them from Babylon, both from the literal Babylon in the age following Isaiah, and from the mystical Babylon revealed in Revelation 18:20-21, which is the last enemy of Israel and the Church, from which they have long suffered, but from which they are to be gloriously delivered.’

‘I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor? The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD Almighty is his name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand—I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isaiah 51:12-16

God now encourages Israel to believe. They are to trust in God and upon his all-sufficiency to release Israel from captivity. Cyrus loosed the people from the captivity of Babylon just as the Lord Jesus Christ releases us from the captivity of sin.

The more we understand the greatness of God, the less we will fear those who seek to oppress us. God has pledged his absolute power to fulfil the promise, and now this promise reaches new glory for Israel.

The Cup Of The LORD’s Wrath

‘Awake, awake! Rise up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger. Among all the children she bore there was none to guide her; among all the children she reared there was none to take her by the hand. These double calamities have come upon you—who can comfort you?—ruin and destruction, famine and sword—who can console you? Your children have fainted; they lie at every street corner, like antelope caught in a net. They are filled with the wrath of the LORD, with the rebuke of your God.’ Isaiah 51:17-20

God now cries for Israel to awake, they need to be confident because God is their help.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The common view taken of the passage is, that it means that the cup had been drunk to the dregs. All the intoxicating liquor had been poured off. They had entirely exhausted the cup of the wrath of God. Similar language occurs in Revelation 14:10.’

Jerusalem had become a drunken and desperate castaway. She was completely ruined and there was none to help her. When they found themselves without mercy in captivity, God came for them.

‘Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people: “See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.” Isaiah 51:21-23

Now God’s wrath was fulfilled and He would take it away from Israel and pour it upon her captors, thus, the situation is reversed.

The cup was the cup of God’s wrath, Jeremiah 25:15 / Jeremiah 49:12 / Jeremiah 51:7 / Lamentations 4:21 / Habakkuk 2:16 / Ezekiel 23:31-33. It was first poured out on Israel, now it was going to be poured out on those who persecuted His people.

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