Notes on Isaiah 54-55

Isaiah 54-55
How beautifully seasonable is the voice of the Spirit calling on Jerusalem to sing, after His own clear and full prediction of Messiah rejected of Israel and bruised of Jehovah in atonement! Indeed the last section of the prophecy gave us a most striking and instructive rehearsal or dialog between God and His people, about Messiah, His sufferings and the glories that should follow. Fitly therefore follows the invitation to her who had sorrowed so long and so justly now to rejoice because of her new blessing in His grace.
“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.” (Ver. 1.)
Never ought it to have been a question who is meant. As usual, however, the commentators have confused what is plain and agreed in scarce anything but departure from the true sense and aim. The occasion of stumbling they have in general found, partly in their habit of excluding the Jews from the prophets and so judaizing the Christians (limiting themselves to the past and present, without taking in the future), partly from a misunderstanding of Gal. 4:2727For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. (Galatians 4:27)-through mixing it up with “the allegory” of Sarah and Hagar. But who does not see that the citation of the prophet connects itself rather with Jerusalem which is above, in contrast with Jerusalem which then was? When the prophecy is fulfilled in the millennial day, God will count those who now believe to be Jerusalem's children, as well as the race to come in that day. Doubly thus it will be verified that more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife. For what fruit of the most flourishing times, say under David or Solomon, could compare with the gathering in of the Christian saints since the Jews lost their place as the recognized witness and wife of Jehovah, or, again, with the vast progeny which the Lord will give her after her long desolation, when His reign shall be displayed over the earth? Consult chapters 49:18-23; 60:8, 9.
It is important to see, on the one hand, that though it is according to scripture to regard Christians mystically as the children of desolate Jerusalem far outnumbering those of her married estate of old, the Church, on the other hand, is not yet presented by God's word as in the relationship of the wife either desolate or married.
The bride, the Lamb's wife, will not have made herself ready till she has been caught up to heaven glorified, and the harlot, Babylon, the anti-church, has been judged of the Lord God. The real position of the Church meanwhile is that of one espoused; her responsibility is to keep herself as a chaste virgin for Christ. The marriage will be in heaven, just before the Lord and His glorified saints appear for the destruction of the Antichrist and all his allies. (Comp. Revelation 19).
On the other hand, it is undeniable that the Jews, or Zion if you will, had the place of nearness to Jehovah, which is represented under the figure of the marriage-tie, that she had been faithless and played the whore with many lovers, even the idols of the Gentiles, and that in consequence she was divorced, she became a widow and desolate under the righteous dealing of God. No one in the least familiar with the prophets can have failed to notice this and more said of Israel. Then it was she became barren and did not bear. Praise is still silent for God in Zion; but the vow shall yet be performed to Him; and the barren-one shall sing and be no more barren but bear, astonished to find during those days of literal barrenness such an abundant harvest in the saints glorified on high, whom grace has been the while actively bringing in.
Nor is this all. “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” (Ver. 2, 3.) The land, the earth must be filled with a suited seed; for Jehovah shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Jehovah and His name one. Yea, Jehovah deigns to be the husband of Zion, not now a testimony and display of responsibility of man under law, but in the efficacy of grace when glorying is no more in the flesh but in the Lord. “Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is His name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.” (Ver. 4-6.)
Thus, and thus only, our chapter flows in its own proper channel: the exclusion of Israel by and by, and the appropriation of it to the Church as its intended scope, produce nothing but violence and confusion. It is not true that God has forsaken the Church even for a small moment, nor that in a little wrath He hides His face for an instant from the Christian. Of the Jew as such it is precisely the fact: as surely will He gather His ancient people in His mercy forever. “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I bid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that Lath mercy on thee.” (Ver. 7-10.) No doubt the application to the Maccabean epoch falls infinitely short of the terms of blessing and indeed casts no small slight on the character of the word of God. But this is the fault not of scripture but of its misreaders. A people are in question who, having once stood in full favor and near relationship to Jehovah, forfeited it for a season, and finally are restored more than ever and forever. There is but one such people: impossible that God should fail to have mercy on Israel.
“Oh thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear; and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” (Ver. 11-17.) Thus it is not everlasting mercy alone re-instating the ancient people, but along with it images of beauty and glory with which the Lord will adorn them.
Truth will be theirs, for they all shall be taught of Jehovah; peace too, great peace shall be enjoyed; and established in righteousness, they shall be far from oppression and fear, though not from hostile intention, as we know from Ezek. 38:39 at the beginning of the millennium and from Rev. 20:7-97And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Revelation 20:7‑9), at the end. Happy is the people that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people whose God is Jehovah.
Chapter 55 does not, after these remarks, call for many words. Its connection with what goes before is plain and makes its own bearing evident. The call is to Israel, but in such largeness of language as to warrant an aspect to the Gentiles. “He, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.” (Ver. 1-4.) Here plainly some outstanding One is referred to, as to whom no believer need. hesitate. It is the Lord Jesus, but in relation to Israel (ver. 3), and withal a witness and commander to the nations. (Ver. 4.) The thoughtful mind—at least taught of God—will not overlook the divine application of verse 3 to the resurrection of our Lord, contra-distinguished from the use of Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7), in Acts 13:33, 3433God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. (Acts 13:33‑34). His resurrection is both the security for the accomplishment of what was promised to Israel and the occasion for the outflow of the grace which calls and shall yet call Gentiles into a share of God's blessing and of the knowledge of Himself. Before death and resurrection, though He could never deny His deeper glory and grace to the faith that saw either, He was not sent save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Crucified and risen, He is the attractive object for all indiscriminately. And the spirit of this wide grace breathes fragrantly through this chapter. “Behold thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Ver. 5-13.)