Our study of the messianic prophecies of Isaiah continues with today’s Scripture reading. I believe it is the Messiah, the LORD Jesus Christ Himself, who is speaking throughout Isaiah 51 and 52.
The chapter opens with the LORD admonishing His people, “Hearken to me” (Isaiah 51:1, 4, 7), meaning wake up, or listen up! Specifically, the LORD was addressing Israel, those who “follow after righteousness…[and] seek the Lord” (51:1). To those who “follow after righteousness” is to hear and obey the Word of the LORD; only then do men sincerely “seek the LORD” (51:1).
What was the LORD commanding His people to hear?
Hearken: Remember the Past (51:1-3)
God’s people were reminded from whence the LORD had found and chosen them (symbolized as “the rock” and “the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (51:1) referring to Abraham and Sarah (51:2; Genesis 12).
Why was it important for God’s people to remember the past? Because God’s faithfulness to His promises in the past, proved not only to them, but validates to us that God could be trusted to bless His people, and restore the land He had given Israel as an inheritance (51:3). With the LORD’s blessing, the wilderness would bloom like the Garden of Eden, and her deserts become “like the garden of the LORD” (51:3b). Where there had been sorrow and afflictions, there would be “joy and gladness…thanksgiving, and the voice of melody” (51:3c).
Hearken: Look to the Future (51:4-6)
I believe the Millennial Kingdom is the setting of Isaiah 51:4-6, for here the LORD foretells the day when “a law shall proceed from” Him, and His judgment will serve as “a light of [for] the people (51:4). In that day, the LORD’s “righteousness is near” [literally, fixed or established], and His “salvation is gone forth” (51:5a). The LORD will judge the earth, and the “isles” (nations) will trust Him (51:5b).
In that day, the world that had been corrupted by sin will perish, “for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, And the earth shall wax old like a garment,” and all sinners will “die in like manner (51:6a). Those, however, who have placed their faith in the LORD will know His “salvation shall be for ever, and [His] righteousness shall not be abolished” (51:6b).
Hearken: The Righteous Look Within (51:7-8)
The third admonishment was to those who “know righteousness…in whose heart is [God’s] law” (51:7a). Those who knew and walked in the way of righteousness, and according to the law and commandments, were admonished: “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings [abuses]” (51:7).
Why should believers not fear man’s reproaches and scorn? Because men and their taunting and cursing are temporal, like moth eaten garments, and “the worm that eats [garments] like wool” (51:8).
The Cry of the Captivity (51:9-11)
Isaiah prophesied the Jews would cry to the LORD for deliverance during the Babylonian captivity, saying “Awake, awake [wake up], put on strength, O arm of the Lord; Awake, as in the ancient days” (51:9).
Isaiah prophesied the “redeemed of the Lord” would return “singing unto Zion” (Jerusalem), and with “gladness and joy; And sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (51:11).
The Compassion of the LORD (51:12-16)
Promising He is the God “that comforteth” (compassionate, 51:12), His people have no reason to “be afraid of a man” (51:12-13).
Though the Babylonians scorned and afflicted God’s people, believers were reminded the LORD promised to deliver them (51:14). After all, it was the LORD “that divided the sea” (51:15), and who put His words in the mouth of His prophet (51:16a). It was He that planted the stars in the heavens, and laid the “foundations of the earth,” and He had said to the people of Zion (Jerusalem), “Thou art my people” (51:16).
The Awakening of Jerusalem (51:17-23)
Jerusalem would eventually be destroyed, and the people would stagger in their afflictions, upon drinking the “cup of his fury” (51:17). The prophet says that bearing the weight of their sin, no one would come to their aid, and they would be left weakened and snared in the net of their sin.
Jerusalem would fall, not by drunkenness, but by the fierce wrath of God (51:21). The LORD, however, promised He would not forsake His people. Babylon would one day suffer the sorrows with which she had afflicted Jerusalem, and that great city would be humiliated, and marched under foot by her conquerors (51:23).
Isaiah 52 predicts the stirring of the Jewish people to return to their lands and the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem (“Zion” is one of the hills upon which Jerusalem was built – 52:1). After suffering years of captivity, it is prophesied the Jews will rejoice as they leave Babylon to return home (52:7-12).
Isaiah 52:13-14 is a portrait of not only the character of the Messiah [“my servant”] fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but also the astonishing physical suffering He would face when we read… “His visage [appearance; face] was so marred [disfigured] more than any man, and His form [appearance] more than the sons of men” (52:14b).
* Please forgive the late posting of today’s devotional. I am traveling and have limited internet.
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith