Isaiah 51

Isaiah 51  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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Chapter 51 opens with a call to the godly; for such are those that “follow after righteousness”. The figure of a quarry is used to direct their thoughts to their origin as descended from Abraham, who had originally been called out, and in whom the promises had been deposited. When Isaiah wrote, the people had for centuries been under the law of Moses and they might easily assume that they would ultimately attain to blessing on a legal basis. But they will not. The blessing will only be theirs on the basis of the covenant with Abraham. It will be theirs not on the ground of their merit but of God’s MERCY, as the end of Romans 11 so clearly states.
Therefore, remembering His covenant with Abraham, God will yet “comfort Zion”, and bring about rich earthly blessing. At the present time the diligent work of returned Jews is producing in the land fertility where barrenness has prevailed for many centuries, but there are forebodings and distress and a voice of anxiety rather than of melody. At present it is but a national and purely human movement.
Verses 4 and 5 show what will come to pass when the movement proceeds from God and they are obedient to His law and ordering. Then His salvation based on righteousness will be manifested. There will be blessing, not only for those whom He acknowledges as “My people” and “My nation”, but also for “the peoples” — for the word at the end of verse 4 and the middle of verse 5 is in the plural. The distant isles will be brought under Divine rule in that day. The secret of it all is this: — “on Mine ARM shall they trust.” That ARM was introduced to us Earlier in the verse “Mine arms” are mentioned; these we believe to be glorified saints, enjoying a heavenly portion, such as those to whom the Lord spoke the words recorded in Matt. 19:2828And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28). In that day the trust of men, who are blessed, will be centered in Jehovah’s mighty ARM, but saints will act as His “arms”, deputed by Him to “judge the peoples”.
What a wonderful day that will be; for nothing either in heaven or on earth is stable, as verse 6 declares. Things physical and men themselves pass away but the salvation which God will bring to pass in righteousness will abide. We are called upon to hearken to God’s word in verses 7 and 8; and we who “know righteousness” cannot but rejoice that only what is established in righteousness will remain and all else will be worm-eaten and destroyed. In the assurance of this no saint need fear the reproach and revilings of men.
These verses have unfolded before our minds a glorious and desirable prospect, only to be realized when the Lord Jesus comes again. Hence the call of verse 9: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O Arm of the Lord”. In prophetic vision John saw Him so doing, in Revelation 19:11-1611And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11‑16), when He will be displayed as King of kings and Lord of lords. The Lord Jesus has ever been the Executor of the purposes of God. He acted in the mighty scenes of creation. It was He who cut in pieces Rahab— a name meaning “Arrogance”, given to Egypt in contempt— and dried up the sea, when God brought the people under Moses out of the land of their bondage. When He puts on strength and acts in the future day, there will be a far greater deliverance, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return to Zion with singing, and their joy will be everlasting and not transient and fleeting as all joyful deliverances have been hitherto in this sinful world. We today may call upon the Arm of the Lord to awake, only the language we use is, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”
In verse 12 and onwards another call to the godly is before us. Their tendency was, as our tendency today is, to have their eyes on man, and fear as all his evil tendencies and activities are observed. But men die and the One who comforts His people is the Maker of heavens and earth. When God acts, where will the fury of the oppressor be? These striking verses are intended to put heart into the saints of God in all ages. They have done so in the past and doubtless they are doing so today, especially where saints are confronted with “the fury of the oppressor”, whether he be Communistic or Romish.
God is far above the actions and agitations of men. The nations are like the sea with its roaring waves but He divides them at His pleasure. In verse 16 the One who is the Arm of the Lord is addressed, for He is the One who speaks on God’s behalf, the Divine word being in His mouth; just as He is the One who acts beneath the Divine hand, and the result of the speaking and the acting is given.
The result is going to be threefold, as this remarkable verse states. The first is that the heavens are going to be planted. The reference here is not to creation, for that was mentioned in verse 13, but, as we believe, to what God is doing today. The Lord Jesus Himself said, “Every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:1313But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. (Matthew 15:13)); thus showing that to plant is a figurative expression for establishing in a place of blessing. By the Gospel today men are being called out from the nations for His name, and theirs is a “heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:11Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; (Hebrews 3:1)). The coming age will display that the heavens have been planted by the grace of God in this age.
Secondly, the foundations of the earth will be well and truly laid. Again, this not the material creation, but laying the moral foundations in righteousness, for at present “all the foundations of the earth are out of course” (Psa. 82:55They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. (Psalm 82:5)). Through the centuries men have striven in vain to establish a righteous order of things and the best of them have utterly failed. They could no more accomplish it than they could reach up to plant the heavens.
But there is a third thing that is to be brought to pass: Zion is to be formally acknowledged as God’s special people. The prophet Hosea lived about the time of Isaiah, and it was through him that God said, “Ye are not My people and I will not be your God” (1:9). So up to this present moment they are disowned, though not set aside forever. The day will come when they will be owned and blessed.
And these wonderful results will come to pass through the One who is presented to us in Isaiah as not only the lowly Servant but also the mighty Arm of Jehovah our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. No wonder that the next words of the prophecy are the call, “Awake, awake”. Jerusalem will awake presently: let us, who are called that we may be planted in the heavens, see to it that we are very much awake today awake to our God; awake to His service. We are exhorted to this in Ephesians 5:1414Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Ephesians 5:14).
Chapters 51:17-53:9