Isaiah 51:17-52:12 An Awakening To Repentance And Faith.
Jerusalem and the people of the LORD, being the recipients of his fury, needed to awaken to their situation (v. 17 Cf. 29:9; Job 21:20; Jer. 25:15; Rev. 14:10; 16:19). Judgment comes when leaders are either corrupt themselves, or no one is available to assume the mantel of leadership (v. 18). The LORD only could be sorry for them, and comfort them. They suffered from both drought and the sword (v. 19). Their sons fainted in the streets, near death themselves, and unable to defend the nation (v. 20 Cf. 47:9; Lam. 2:11). They were afflicted, and staggered like those drunk (v. 21 Cf. Lam. 3:15). The LORD God himself would have mercy upon them, taking away the cup of his fury, and giving this cup to their enemies. No longer would they be walked over by those delighting in the LORD’s judgment upon them (vv. 22-23 Cf. 14:2; 49:25; Jer. 25:17, 26-28; 50:34; Zech. 12:2).
Again, the prophet repeats the call to the people to “Awake, awake.” First it was a call to repentance, because they were recipients of the LORD’s fury. Now it is to awaken to salvation, described as putting on the “beautiful garments” of holiness (52:1 Cf. 48:2; Zech. 14:20-21; Rev. 21:2-27), after removing the bonds from rebellion (v. 2 Cf. 3:26; 9:4; 10:27; 14:25; Zech. 2:7). Even as they sold themselves for nothing, but they would be redeemed without money (v. 3 Cf. Ps. 44:12; Jer. 15:13). In the larger and more significant analogy here of the spiritual bondage they were in, their own works were worth nothing, and they were redeemed with what could not be bought (Cf. 45:13). They went into exile for their rebellion, but their enemies had no mercy, and they blasphemed the name of their God, so the LORD would redeem for the sake of his name (vv. 4-6 Cf. Ezek. 36:20-23).
52:5 also found fulfillment in the time of the Servant’s arrival in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote that this word through Isaiah found fulfillment in the apostates of Israel-leaders and people (Rom. 2:24). How had they blasphemed? According to the word through Paul, they blasphemed not by teaching people to live according to the law, but in teaching this but failing to do so themselves (vv. 17-24). The situation is the same. A call to repentance, to be sanctified or set apart as holy to the LORD. This message of repentance and faith, and trusting not on one’s own worthless works, but in the redemption of the LORD of the covenant. Those who preach this message are beautiful in any generation. It is the great ‘I am’ who speaks through the prophet, and to know his name is to know him, an echo of the encounter of Moses with the LORD (Ex. 3:13-14; 6:2).
This is the good news, the gospel here proclaimed by Isaiah, a message of peace through redemption or salvation (v. 7 Cf. 40:9; 61:1). Central to this gospel are the words to Zion, his people: “Your God reigns!” Whereas they had no one to guide them, now they will have true watchmen, who will lift up their voices in unison to sing together, seeing “eye to eye when the LORD brings back Zion” (v. 8). They were all in agreement, even as the LORD does not contradict himself, so his word is unified. However, it is also a praise shared in the community because of the redemption and comfort of the LORD, the good news proclaimed before the nations (vv. 9-10; Lk. 3:6 Cf. Ps. 98:1-3). There is also a call to holiness for the redeemed, but only as the LORD goes before them and behind, ie., with his guidance and in his strength (vv. 11-12 Cf. 48:20; 58:8; Ex. 12:11, 33; 14:19-20; Lev. 22:2).