Isaiah part 41: The Greater Deliverance (49-55), part 4Posted: Fri. Jul, 16 2021
We can look at the course of the Book of Isaiah in many ways, just as we can the Bible, for Isaiah is a Bible within the Bible. We could analyze the Bible in terms of dispensations, Israel, history, types of literature (narrative, poetry, prose), typology, church, etc., and then in each of them we would find the revelation of the Person and work of Christ running through like an unmistakable bright ribbon. The same is true of Isaiah’s book. The first portion, the Book of the King, chapters 1-37, speaks of all the Gentile nations and their sin, Israel and her sin, and the promise of the universal kingdom built by the Lord who controls all history. In the Book of the King, no one is righteous and horrible judgment is going to come upon the world, but in it we find that bright ribbon - grace will triumph over evil and there will be a grand banquet at the Lord’s table at which many, many people will attend. How is it possible that there is so much wrong with the world all throughout history, despite the fact that the Lord is King of it all, and still there will be a paradise filled with men? The bright ribbon reveals itself in the second book, the Book of the Servant (chapters 38-55), but it’s not an “it,” it’s a who: The Servant.
The final book is the Book of the Anointed Conqueror (chapters 56-66) in which He will come again and establish His kingdom on earth. He will judge and He will deliver with the dividing line being faith in Him.
We are currently studying the final section of the Book of the Servant. He is revealed as the only Man ever to live to obey the Father and do His will. He is the only Man in whom the Father delights: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (MAT 3:17). It is also revealed that He will suffer greatly for doing so, but His suffering will be the means of delivering those who will be in attendance at the final banquet in the New Jerusalem.
The third Servant Song contained four sections, each beginning with an emphatic “The Lord God,” revealing the Father acting on behalf of His Servant in preparing the Servant for His earthly ministry and sustaining Him through all His suffering and adversity.
The interim section (51:1-52:12) between the third and four Servant Songs is characterized with mounting excitement. It is composed of eight short, impassioned oracles. They each call Israel and the world to awaken, look, and listen. Even to a people who live in the midst of a society beaten down with sin, they are to awaken to a new situation that the Lord will bring about, which is the day of salvation. And then, as if to answer the unspoken question of how all this has happened, “Behold (look), My Servant (52:13) …” the fourth and final Servant Song.
There are some very exciting and interesting things to see in the eight oracles. I will summarize a few in the spirit of brevity. As usual, to get the full impact of the word of God upon your soul, you will have to read them for yourself. I decided not to copy the entire text into this article. I suggest that you read each oracle as you read the commentary.
Oracle 1 (51:1-3):
In Hebrew poetry, parallelism is fertile ground for couplets, as in vs. 1: pursue/seek. God desires Israel (and the world - oracle #2) to see what He has done by hearing (“Listen”) and pursuing and seeking. In vs. 2, Abraham and Sarah were sexually dead, yet God brought forth millions from them. Sarah is described as a rock quarry. Rock being an appropriate symbol for infertility. God says that in the same manner, the wasteland of Zion would become as Eden - salvation to the people and the land.
Oracle 2 (51:4-6):
The blessing of the Lord is replaced by the phrase “arm of the Lord,” which is always related to His ability to act. God says that His righteousness draws near. Righteousness is all that God does, and here it is the breadth of salvation which He is bringing to His people by His own arm. The earth and the sky will eventually vanish like smoke, but the salvation of the Lord is forever.
My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth,
And My arms will judge the peoples;
The coastlands [nations of Gentiles] will wait for Me,
And for My arm they will wait expectantly.
Notice the plural “arms” (many works of God) in the second line and the singular “arm” in the fourth. The prophet is preparing the people for the climax of all history, revelation of the Servant as the ‘arm of the Lord.’
Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Oracle 3 (51:7-8):
Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
A people in whose heart is My law;
Do not fear the reproach of man,
Neither be dismayed at their revilings.
To those who “know righteousness,” means more than knowing right and wrong. It means having an intimate union with the righteous life of God by conforming to it. Those who know righteousness are not to fear man. The reason is given, matching oracle 2, “My righteousness (salvation) shall be forever.” The third oracle tells us that great things lie ahead, but also that the interim is not easy (“reproach,” “revilings”). Those who are intimate with righteousness will feel the hostility of the world, just as the Servant, and like Him they will need endurance through faith.
Oracle 4 (51:9-11):
In this oracle we find a shift from God speaking to the remnant praying. The remnant (or the prophet) calls upon the arm of the Lord to bring His salvation. It is the proper response to divine promises that we pray for the fulfilment of God’s purposes. “Your will be done. Your kingdom come.” The petitioners point to the past event of the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea. “As You have done, O Lord with Your strong arm, do again, but this time deliver us forever.” It is an emotional and beautiful appeal.
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord;
Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago.
Was it not Thou who cut Rahab [Egypt] in pieces,
Who pierced the dragon?
They will obtain gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Oracle 5 (51:12-16): The Servant is hidden in this one.
“Awake, awake,” of the previous oracle finds a response, “I, even I.” It is as if God is saying that He is fully alert to their prayers. In this oracle, God finds fearful, threatened, cowering people. God’s comfort doesn’t come from an act, but a consideration. “Who are you Zion, and who is your enemy? (vs. 12)” That same consideration is a common thread in the New Testament epistles concerning the believer in Christ. God then promises that they will be released from their captivity and be fed. I liken it to the picture in Joh 10 that Jesus draws for us. The Shepherd will open the door and call His sheep by name and lead them to pasture. O that we would follow Him and eat!
“The exile will soon be set free, and will not die in the dungeon, nor will his bread be lacking. 15 For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (the Lord of hosts is His name).”
No matter how the sea may rage, the Lord is mightier and in control.
More than the sounds of many waters,
Than the mighty breakers of the sea,
The Lord on high is mighty.
And then, hidden in the oracle such that we might pass it by, is the Servant who will eternally plant the earth and the heavens and say to Israel, “You are My people.”
"And I have put My words in your mouth, and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, 'You are My people.'"
Only the Servant could establish forever the heavens and the earth. Only He could say these words. That He is covered in the shadow of the Father’s hand means that He was not yet ready to be revealed. He is kept concealed until the fulness of times.
The final three oracles contain commands, while the first three contain promises. These two sections surrounded the middle two oracles that are an interlude of comforting words. The promises of 51:1-8 become the commands of 51:17-52:12, and all alike rest on the atoning work of the Servant in 52:13-53:12. All three of the final oracles begin with a double imperatives: “Rouse, Rouse,” “Awake, Awake,” “Depart, Depart.”
Oracle 6 (57:17-23): The ending of divine wrath.
In oracle 4, the remnant called on God as if He was asleep, but actually it was they who slept while God was performing momentous deeds, readying them for their salvation in the Servant. Israel should have been ready for all enemies all throughout her history, but she forgot her Lord and was broken by other nations again and again. God even said to them, “How can I comfort you (vs. 19)?”
Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem,
Your sons have fainted,
They lie helpless at the head of every street,
Like an antelope in a net,
Full of the wrath of the Lord,
The rebuke of your God.
Notice how God addresses Himself in His declaration against this situation.
Thus says your Lord, the Lord, even your God
God uses three names for HImself in vs. 22. Adonai, Yavah, even Elohim says … Adonai is His sovereignty; His practical Lordship. Yavah, the revealed One who saves His people by His own choice; compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin (EXO 34:6-7). Elohim, the God who has committed Himself to you and your welfare.
The due reward of their deeds, “the chalice of anger,” is, with perfect justice, averted and satisfied. Only the Servant could have done this.
Thus says your Lord, the Lord, even your God
Who contends for His people,
"Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling;
The chalice of My anger,
You will never drink it again.
23 "And I will put it into the hand of your tormentors,
Oracle 7 (52:1-10): Holiness by salvation.
Jerusalem is roused to enjoy a new condition, true holiness. (52:1-2). This inevitably brings up the question, “How?” His answer : the bondage of His people is something that He cannot tolerate. (vv. 4-5). The day is coming when they will all know His name (vs. 6). Then in vv. 7-10 the victorious act of God for His people becomes the Lord’s victorious homecoming.
How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,
They shout joyfully together;
For they will see with their own eyes
When the Lord restores Zion.
9 Break forth, shout joyfully together,
You waste places of Jerusalem;
For the Lord has comforted His people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared His holy arm
In the sight of all the nations,
That all the ends of the earth may see
The salvation of our God.
The lone runner shouts “Your God is King,” and the cry is taken up by the watchers on the wall and soon the whole city resounds with joy. In vs. 10, “The Lord has bared His holy arm,” but we are still left in suspense as to what act God has taken to accomplish the impossible for sinful mankind.
Oracle 8 (52:11-12): Holy Pilgrimage.
Like Israel’s exodus from Egypt, when bondage flees, pilgrimage starts.They went to Sinai that they might learn the will of their Deliverer/Redeemer and go forth bearing His holy vessels. Isaiah follows this, but looking ahead to the true deliverance of the Deliverer in the flesh, the Servant.
Depart, depart, go out from there,
Touch nothing unclean;
Go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves,
You who carry the vessels of the Lord.
12 But you will not go out in haste,
Nor will you go as fugitives;
For the Lord will go before you,
And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Israel was told to go out from Sinai as a holy nation of priests, and they couldn’t do it. Here they are going out pure, touching nothing unclean, carrying the vessels of the Lord. And this time they are not in haste, as they were in the exodus, filled with anxiety over the fickleness of Pharaoh behind them. They are no longer fugitives set free, but the Lord’s redeemed surrounded by Him at their front and their back. There is a neat connection here with the army of Israel marching around Jericho. Guards marched before and behind the priests bearing the holy vessels (JOS 6:9). Even so does the Lord guard his priestly people.
How could God do all of this for sinners? The solution is revealed in the very next line, ISA 52:13 Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted. Servant Song #4, the suffering Savior.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Joe Sugrue