Isaiah 49:5-51:16

Isaiah 49‑51  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
In this remarkable chapter we have something in the nature of a dialog. Jehovah’s word to the Messiah, whom He addressed as the true “Prince of God”, we found in verse 3. The lament of the Messiah, having wooed Israel in vain, is found in verse 4, and it was historically verified, as we are told in Luke 13:3434O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! (Luke 13:34). From verse 5 onwards we get the response of Jehovah to this lament. The latter part of verse 5 is really a parenthesis, giving us Messiah’s confidence, based upon what Jehovah is about to say. Israel may refuse and be obdurate, but in the eyes of Jehovah He will be GLORIOUS— and that being so, nothing of God’s purpose will fail.
The answer of Jehovah begins in verse 6. We are prophetically advised that in the coming of the Lord Jesus wider and weightier purposes were involved than the gathering and blessing of Israel and Jacob. Light was to shine for all the nations, and salvation was to be made possible and available to the ends of the earth. Here is a prediction that— praise be to God!— is being verified today. He is the salvation. It cannot be disconnected from Him, as the Apostle Peter made so plain before the Jewish council see Acts 4:1212Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12).
But if we can see the fulfillment of verse 6 today, we wait to see verse 7 fulfilled in a future day, which, we trust, is approaching. Jehovah is truly the Redeemer of Israel, though the One whom He sent is despised and abhorred in the servant’s place. The hour draws near when, in the presence of this Servant, kings shall rise from their seats and princes shall do homage before Him. Men refused Him but God has chosen Him.
Again in verse 8 we have the voice of Jehovah. The humbled Servant whom men would not hear has been heard by Him, helped and lifted up. And this has come to pass in “an acceptable time”, and in “a day of salvation”. The significance of this may have been lost on Old Testament readers, but the Apostle Paul seized upon it in 2 Corinthians 6:22(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) (2 Corinthians 6:2). The rejection of the Messiah, foretold in verse 7, would result in His death, and He would be “heard” and “helped” by resurrection from the dead, and this was to inaugurate the “acceptable time” and the “day of salvation”.
Almost exactly nineteen centuries ago Paul reminded the Corinthian saints that they were living in that wonderful epoch: it was NOW. The epoch of grace and salvation still persists. It is still NOW. May we all be stirred to evangelize, remembering that it may not last much longer.
But in the latter part of verse 8, and onwards to the end of verse 13, the prophecy carries us into the age to come. The once-rejected Messiah is to be “a covenant of the people”, for they will not enter into blessing on the basis of the covenant of law. He, and He only, will bring to pass the blessing on earth so glowingly described in these verses, so that the very heavens as well as the earth will break forth into jubilant song.
Verse 13 however, seems to indicate that an afflicted remnant of Israel is mainly, if not exclusively, in view here. Some will be prisoners, some hiding in dark places; coming over the mountains from distant spots in north and west, and even from “the land of Sinim”, which some identify with China. At last the comfort, announced in the opening verse of chapter 40, will have reached “His people”, and those who for so long had been “His afflicted” will find mercy. MERCY, notice; not merit, as is shown so conclusively at the end of Romans 11.
And it will be unexpected mercy, as the succeeding verses show. Zion, representing the godly seed who will receive the mercy, will be tempted to think in their extremity that they are forsaken and forgotten by their God: but they are not. Amongst mankind there is no stronger tie than maternal love. Yet under extreme pressure even that tie may break. The godly in Israel have a tie with Jehovah that will never break. While they are disowned nationally and set aside, God has wider purposes of blessing, reaching out to the remotest peoples. Yet He is marked by the utmost fidelity to all His promises, given to those who are the seed of Abraham in a spiritual as well as a material sense.
This will be the case in such abundant measure that in verse 18 Zion is told to lift up her eyes and see her children flocking to her side. In the days of her sinful desolation all her children were lost; now they appear in such numbers that the land cannot contain them, and the Gentiles— even their kings and queens— will do them honor, and that because of the glory and power of their God.
But when this great mercy reaches Israel their plight will be very great, as we may infer from verse 24, and the opening verses of Zechariah 14 confirm the inference. Just when they appear to be the helpless captives of their foes there will be a tremendous intervention of Jehovah for their deliverance. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the Jehovah, who according to Zechariah 14:33Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zechariah 14:3) will “go forth, and fight against those nations”, is no other than our blessed Lord Jesus Christ; and by His hands “the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered”.
This will be a work of redemption by power but, as we know, it will find its righteous basis in the redemption by blood accomplished at His first coming. At the present time the Jew still rejects the righteous basis while hoping for national deliverance. It will be otherwise when their Redeemer does appear in power. He will then be manifested as the “Mighty One” of poor crooked “Jacob”; and not merely as the Mighty One of Israel.