Isaiah

Isaiah 58 The Servant Will Repair The Breach And Restore The Paths.

Isaiah, and the other servants of the LORD, were called upon to declare the sins of the people (v. 1). There was a real dichotomy that existed, they were very religious, daily seeking the LORD, seeking to learn his ways, even claiming to wanting to know the “ordinances of justice” (v. 2). They fasted and afflicted their souls, but were complaining that the LORD did not see or take notice (v. 3a). They feigned fidelity to the ceremonial or religious ordinances, but they failed to follow the rest of the law and the prophets (Cf. Lev. 16:29; 23:27). Like Jezebel’s scheme to Ahab, to use the pretence of religious devotion as an occasion for the murder and theft of Naboth, the nation now was very religious, even claiming to want to know the ordinances of justice, yet all their religiosity was just a cloak to cover their injustices (vv. 4-5 Cf. I Kgs. 21:9).

A better fast in their situation was, “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (v. 6). Like Nehemiah would later preach when they were returned from exile and rebuilding the city, the people needed to rebuild their lives together, by taking heed to the law, including its civil code, the very “ordinances of justice” they claimed to seek (Cf. Neh. 5:1-13). There are ordinances regarding the selling of sons and daughters as slaves (Ex. 21:7; Dt. 15:12-18), and charging usury to members in the covenant 22:25. Throughout Leviticus we find ceremonial laws alternating with the moral and civil ordinances. Then at Leviticus 25, after the ordinances related to the Sabbath of the seventh year (vv. 1-7), we find that regarding the year of Jubilee (vv. 8-17).

There is then the provisions for the seventh year (vv. 18-22), then comes the redemption of property, where we find that the land was not to be sold permanently, because the land was the LORD’s (vv. 23-34). There then follows at Leviticus 25:35-38 the dual command to lend to the poor, and to charge no usury (Cf. Dt. 15:7-11; Cf. Lev. 16:29). We then read of the ordinances regarding slavery, that any member of the covenant community who served as a slave was to be released at the year of Jubilee, because just as the land was the LORD’s, so are his servants-all members of the covenant community (vv. 39-55 Cf. Ex. 21:7). At chapter 26 there then follows the promise of blessing and cursing for fidelity to these moral and civil ordinances.

The later prophets also hearkened back to the moral and civil ordinances in the LORD’s judgments and calls to repentance (Cf. Ezek. 22:12; Zech. 7:5; Mal. 3:13-18), as did Ezra and Nehemiah (Cf. Neh. 5:9; Ezra 10:5), recognizing that this is what is involved in taking the covenantal oath, like the example of Josiah and the people under him (II Kgs. 23:3). Jeremiah also stated this after his revealing the LORD’s intent to renew the covenant with the remnant (Ch. 31; 34:8-11). This is what is involved with verses 6ff. If they fulfilled their covenantal oath they would then be a like a light dispelling the darkness, all to the glory of the LORD, and he would then hear their prayers (vv. 8-9a, 10b).

In the end, if they and we, keep the oath and follow the whole law, he will then guide us continually, satisfy our souls, strengthen our bones, and water us like a garden, with water that will not fail (v. 11). This is what is really involved in rebuilding and reconstructing “the old waste places…and raising “up the foundations of many generations” (v. 12a). However, we will not be able to do this in our own strength, therefore the LORD God promised his Servant, who would also “be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets (or Paths) to Dwell In” (v. 12b). With this Servant, his people will truly be keeping the Sabbath, resting from their own works, finding their delight in the LORD (vv. 13-14a). Then the people will be fed with the heritage of Jacob as covenantal blessings, for it is the LORD who has spoken (v. 14b).

Isaiah

Isaiah 57 Judgment And Renewal.

The righteous merciful are taken away from evil, but no one notices (vv. 1-2). Judgment will include the sons of idolaters who seek hidden knowledge from a sorceress (vv. 3-5). They made stones their idols, setting them up with their own sacrifices (vv. 6-7). They were engaged in immoral practices, breaking the covenant they had with the LORD and making one with evil (vv. 8-10). They took advantage of the LORD’s patience and forbearance, lying to him and not keeping him in their thoughts (v. 11). Works which they regarded as righteous will be exposed as evil, and when they cry out, they will realize how worthless are their idols and idolatry. However, those who put their trust in him will possess the land, and shall inherit his holy mountain (vv. 12-13 Cf. Mt. 5:5).

For some their judgment will be complete, but others who are of the remnant, will be contrite and humbled by this judgment, and for these the LORD would revive their spirits and their hearts, that is, it will radically go to the core of their beings (vv. 14-15 Cf. 61:1-3). The time would come when this division would be made between the covetous, and those who found contentment in the LORD, because the LORD would heal the remnant of their backsliding (vv. 16-18 Cf. 9:13; 45:15). The LORD is the one who will create in the remnant their words of confession, reflective of their changed hearts (v. 19a Cf. 51:16; 59:21; Heb. 13:15). Peace will come as a result of this healing, but the wicked will not find rest (vv. 19b-20). “‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (v. 21 Cf. 48:22).

Isaiah

Isaiah 56 Salvation For The Remnant, But Judgment On Apostacy.

The LORD through Isaiah just issued an invitation to abundant life. Here he reinforces the point that this call also goes out to the Gentiles. These are those who keep the law, but do so by resting from their own works, keeping the Sabbath unto the LORD (vv. 1-2 Cf. 46:13; 58:13). Anyone holding fast to the covenant is welcomed, and will receive a place and an everlasting name in the LORD’s house, a future better than physical sons and daughters (vv. 3-5 Cf. 14:1). However, any latter will also be joyful in the LORD’s house of prayer, and the worship of his people from all nations will be a pleasing sacrifice (vv. 6-7Cf. 2:2-3; 60:11). The remnant of Israel will be joined by a remnant from all nations, gathered together in one house. (v. 8 Cf. 11:12; 27:12; 54:7; 60:3-11; 66:18-21).

In contrast to this gathering of the remnant of the ransomed ones, the apostate leadership of Israel are charged with being like brute beasts-blind and ignorant. They were supposed to be watchman, but they were like dogs who don’t bark, preferring to sleep while the LORD’s people are unprotected (vv. 9-10). Such would be the charge which the Lord Jesus would lay against the apostate leadership of his day as well (Mt. 15:14; Lk. 6:39). Furthermore, they are greedy dogs, never having enough (v. 11a Ezek. 13:19). They were shepherds without understanding, walking in their own ways (v. 11bc). They gathered together to get drunk, believing that they would carry on the next day as usual, with their own idea of abundance (v. 12 Cf. 28:7). They were presumptuous (Cf. Ps. 10:6; Lk. 12:19).

Isaiah 55

Isaiah 55 An Invitation To Abundant Life.

There is nothing anyone can exchange for the abundant life promised by the LORD (v. 1). The invitation goes out to all who can hear (Cf. Mt. 5:6; 13:44; Jn. 4:14; Rev. 21:6; 22:17). John in fact quoted directly from this verse as finding fulfillment in the Lord Jesus (7:37-38). This is eternal life. People should listen to the LORD and stop spending their money on that which cannot satisfy the hungry soul (v. 2). Abundant life is to be found in a covenant relationship with the LORD, an everlasting covenant in direct continuity with the last of the old covenant administrations, “the sure mercies of David” (v. 3b Cf. 61:8; II Sam. 7:8; Ps. 89:28; Jer. 32:40). Paul quoted from this verse in his message at Antioch, seeing it as fulfilled ultimately in the resurrection of Jesus, this finished work of the Christ as the grounds for the justification of the saints (Acts 13:33-39).

This continuity must come to a descendant of David, this is the Servant who would be “a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people” (v. 4 Cf. Rev. 1:5; Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23; Dan. 9:25). Furthermore, the renown of this leader will also come as an effectual call to the nations who previously did not know him in any redemptive sense, because of the LORD his God, the Holy One of Israel, who would glorify this Servant (vv. 3, 5a Cf. 52:14; 60:5, 9; Mt. 11:28; Jn. 18:37; Eph. 2:11-13). People are called to “seek the LORD while He may be found,” and to “call upon Him while He is near” (v. 6). This is both an invitation and a warning, people will not always be able to seek and call upon the LORD. This would also find fulfillment in Messiah’s advent (Cf. 49:8; Ps. 32:6; Mt. 5:25; 25:11; Jn. 7:34; 8:21), the response  showing the divide between apostate Israel and the remnant (Heb. 3:13).

This first of all is a call to repentance, for “the wicked to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts” (v. 7a Cf. Zech. 8:17). Frankly this ought to be the dual emphasis in a Christian’s apologetics. Without a doubt a person’s way reflects their deepest thoughts, what for them is really real. So often one must be confronted with their way, to reveal their deepest thoughts. We can be present with people breaking bread, while their hearts are far from us, even so are some men before God, no doubt all of us to some degree. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7a). Repentance is turning from our own thoughts and ways to the LORD’s thoughts and ways (v. 7b Cf. 1:16; 59:7). Repentance is not in vain because it is based upon the LORD’s mercy. “He will abundantly pardon.” “Great is His mercy toward those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:11).

This is where we find the contrast between the sinner’s thoughts and ways, and that of the LORD’s (vv. 8-9). We must make his thoughts and consequential ways for us, our own. However, even though one’s way must be changed, the priority and necessary prerequisite for that change must be the renewing of one’s mind, only then can our way reveal his will and be an acceptable sacrifice of worship (Rom. 12:1-2). We must begin with the core of our thinking, and this renovation has only one source capable of effecting this change-God’s word. It is his word alone that is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword (ie., the old and new covenant scriptures together), – “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It is the seed sown that will accomplish the LORD’s purposes like no other word can, and it will bear fruit and prosper (vv. 10-11; 49:9-11).

Moses blessed the covenanted nation in his song of witness, that the LORD came to them with a fiery law which they received as their heritage (Dt. 32:1-4). The Servant Messiah, whom Isaiah wrote about, will come to fulfill both the law given and the words of his servants the prophets, and in particular, all peoples will serve him as their God, bowing the knee before him (Is. 45:23; Mt. 5:17-20). Paul saw this as a call to Jesus (Rom. 14:11), through whom alone the saints are justified (Is. 45:24-25). The ransomed remnant will thus “go out with joy, and be led out with peace” (v. 12a Cf. 35:10). No doubt this is a covenantal redemption, involving cursing and blessing (vv. 12b-13 Cf. 41:19-20; Ps. 98:8). However, the mountains may also refer to the ransomed of the LORD from the nations great and small (Cf. 35:10; 51:6; Ps. 96:10-13; Mt. 24:35).

Isaiah

Isaiah 54 A Perpetual Covenant Of Peace And Prosperity.

The covenant people will go from barrenness to an abundance of offspring or godly seed, and these children “will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited” (vv. 1-3). Paul quotes verse 1 (Gal. 4:27) to show that there is a distinction within the covenant between those who were mere external members of the administration of the covenant of grace, and those who are true children of promise. The former make the covenant one of works or physical heredity, but the latter experience the covenant as a relationship based on grace, appropriated by faith in the promise of redemption (vv. 21-31). Those born only “according to the flesh” (Gal. 4:23), are destined to be at war with the children of promise, and it all goes back to the seed promise of Genesis 3:15-there is a spiritual enmity involved in the course of history.

The children of promise will expand until they inherit the whole earth (v. 2 Cf. 49:19-20). This includes inheriting the nations (v. 3 Cf. 14:2; 49:22-23; 60:9). The children of promise will no longer be, or be put to shame, in that their widowhood would be forgotten (v. 4 Cf. 41:10). Their Maker was and is their husband, and this because he is also their Redeemer. The “God of the whole earth,” is their covenant “LORD of hosts” (v. 5 Cf. Rom. 3:29). This is what separates the two seeds. It is indeed possible for the children of promise to be backsliders, but the LORD will bring these back, and it will not be based on mere physical membership in a family, for this work of redemption will separate families into the two seeds (Jer. 3:14). The marriage analogy is used to convey this covenantal idea (Hos. 2:19). “And the LORD shall be King over all the earth” (Zech. 14:9).

The children of promise are also called by the sovereign LORD (v. 6 Cf. 62:4), and though he disciplines, in this and their restoration, they experience  his “great mercies” (v. 7 Cf. 26:20; 43:5; 56:8; 60:10; Prov. 3:11-12; II Cor. 4:17; Heb. 12:6). The exile was not permanent, he would restore the godly seed to inherit the whole inhabited earth, because of the mercy of their Redeemer (v. 8). It is love in an everlasting covenant of peace, which is another name for the new covenant (Cf. v. 10; 55:3; Jer. 31:3ff.). The mountains and hills are the nations great and small, including the apostate nation of Israel (Cf. 51:6; Ps. 46:2; Mt. 5:18). In fact, the LORD through Isaiah goes back to the promise of the Noahic covenant, that the waters would no longer cover the earth, the earth itself would be shown mercy through the mercy shown to the children of promise (v. 9 Cf. 12:1-2; Gen. 8:21; 9:11; Ezek. 39:29; Rom. 8:19).

The new temple or house of the LORD and the city of Jerusalem, will be built with gems, its foundation with sapphires, its pinnacles with rubies, its doors with crystal, and all the walls made of precious stones (vv. 11-12). The work of David and Solomon would approximate the promise here (I Chron. 29:2), but even it would be inferior to the greater house to come (Rev. 21:18-21 Cf. Heb. 3:1-6; 12:22-24). Children from every tongue and tribe and nation “shall be taught by the LORD” (v. 13a Cf. Jer. 31:34; I Cor. 2:10; I Th. 4:9; I Jn. 2:20). Jesus in fact quoted this verse in the context of the Father’s effectual call of his children from among all the peoples (Jn. 6:45). Great would be the peace of these children of the covenant of peace (v. 13b Cf. v. 10). It is the peace of those established in righteousness (v. 14 Cf. Ps. 119:165). They will not fear the oppressor, though they assemble together against them, they will fail (v. 15 Cf. 41:11-16).

The LORD creates the blacksmith, an example of God sovereignly predestinating in His providence, the people and the history they occupy, to serve as instruments for his work, even as the craftsman uses fashioned instruments for his work (v. 16). However, no weapon formed against his people would be allowed to prosper, including and primarily that of the words of those who assail the biblical worldview and the position of covenant blessing of his people (17:12-14). Drought physical and spiritual is the food of those who oppose Zion, the people of the LORD (v. 29:8). This is their heritage, that of the servants of the LORD. The reason that this is the case, is not because of their own righteousness, but because their righteousness comes by faith from the LORD (v. 17 Cf. 54:14). As has always been and forever shall be, they will all be justified by faith (45:24-25).

Isaiah

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 The Servant Part IV – Suffering, Exaltation, And Reign.

In the preceding three occurrences of the servant (42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11), there was some overlap in that both Israel and the Servant were being referred to in various parts. However, this final passage can have no other fulfillment but in the Servant. It was a favourite passage for the apostles and NT writers. Dealing prudently means that “the Servant will discern and perform God’s will, and as a result achieve His glorious purpose” (NGSB p.1119). So this Servant comes from an exalted position (v. 13 Cf. 42:1; 57:15), and when His work is done he returns to this exalted position (Cf. Phil. 2:9). Many would be astonished at his marred visage (v. 14 Cf. 53:3; Ps. 22:6-7; Mt. 26:67; 27:30; Mk. 15:17-19; Jn. 19:3). “So shall He sprinkle many nations” (v. 15a). The participation of many nations, in the benefits of the Servant’s sacrifice, would come through the sprinkling of his blood (Cf. Ex. 24: Lev. 4:1-5:13; Heb. 9:19; I Pet. 1:2). “Kings shall shut their mouths at Him” (52:14b).

As with people, so with kings, they will see this Servant and be forced to consider him. “For what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider” (52:14c). Revelation would accompany redemption as Paul taught (Rom. 15:21 Cf. Eph. 3:5, 9). John also saw this verse and others in Isaiah as key, believing that Isaiah in fact saw the Son in “His glory and spoke of Him (12:41 Cf. Jn. 12:37-40; Is. 53:1; Is. 6:9-10). Those who previously had the gospel mystery closed to them would hear, but also many would not believe the report (53:1; Jn. 12:38). Paul also referred to this passage to make this same point, that apostate Israel had rejected the gospel (Rom. 10:16). He would come “as a root out of dry ground” (v. 2). So he would come as hope in the midst of a barren spiritual wilderness. This wilderness motif figures prominently in the NT, with apostate Israel following in the pattern of the apostate wilderness wanderers (Cf. Heb. 3:7-19).

He would not come as a typical leader, and his appearance would cause many to despise and reject him (v. 3 Cf. 49:7; Ps. 22:6; Lam. 1:1-3; 2:15-16). These words also found fulfillment in many NT passages (Mt. 27:30-31; Lk. 18:31-33; 23:18; Jn. 1:10-11). Verses 3-5 will be expounded on by the writer to the Hebrews as he argued that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). This Servant would be “acquainted with grief,” which was because, among other things, that “He has borne our griefs and carried away our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (v. 4). In other words, even though he healed many, it was believed that he deserved what he got-that this is why God had judged him. This verse also found fulfillment in several NT passages (Mt. 8:17; Heb. 9:28;).

“They believed this about the Servant because the Law said, “he who is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). The onlookers thought Christ was suffering only what He deserved, but His experience of pain and anguish was for His people (1 Pet. 2:24). The extremity of His suffering shows that His compassion is real and not theoretical (Heb. 2:17, 18)” (Ibid. p.1120). “He was wounded (or pierced through) for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (v. 5 Cf. 53:10). Again, as with the preceding verses, this verse is added as seed material, as it were, for the preaching of the gospel in the new covenant scriptures. Christ “was delivered up for our offenses” (Rom. 4:25), and “died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3), “and by His stripes we are healed,” quoted by Peter (I Pet. 2:24).

Peter does not quote verse 6 word for word, but he does apply it to his audience, and to all who would follow, immediately after quoting the end of verse 5 above. This is no coincidence for he wrote that “you were like sheep going astray.” We did this by going our own way, but the covenant “LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” “Even as we all sinned, so He died for all of us (2 Cor. 5:14, 15 Cf. Ps. 51:5)” (Ibid. p.1120). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). As Isaiah continues we again find seed material for the new covenant proclamation of the gospel, the best of commentaries on this passage. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth (v. 7a Cf. Mt. 26:63; 27:12-14; Mk. 14:61; 15:5; Lk. 23:9; Jn. 19:9). “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (v. 7b Cf. Acts 8:32-33; Rev. 5:6).

“He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation” (v. 8a Cf. Mt. 27:11-26; Lk. 23:1-25)? “For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (v. 8b). This same thing was predicted by Daniel. “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself” (9:26). At his crucifixion he was “cut off” (Cf. Mt. 27:50, Mk. 9:12; 15:37; Lk. 24:26; 23:46; 24:26; Jn. 19:30; Acts 8:32), “but not for Himself” (Cf. I Pet. 1:21). “And they made His grave with the wicked-but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence” (v. 9ab Cf. Mt. 27:57-60; Lk. 23:33). “Nor was any deceit in His mouth” (v. 9c; I Pet. 2:22; Cf. I Jn. 3:5). “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief” (v. 10a). This occurred when the LORD made “His soul an offering for sin” (v. 10b Cf. Jn. 1:29; Acts 2:23). So the Servant Messiah suffered in the totality of his human nature-body and soul! How incredible a thought!

However, of this Servant Seed, we also read that after this suffering “He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand” (v. 10c). Peter also saw this fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, in His resurrection from the dead and ascension to the right hand of the Father, to begin his Messianic reign (Acts 2:24). “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied” (v. 11a). “By His knowledge My righteous (Cf. Rom. 5:19; I Jn. 2:1) Servant (Cf. 42:1) shall justify many (Cf. Acts 13:38-39; Rom. 5:15-18), for He shall bear their iniquities” (v. 11bc). The Servant’s knowledge is that which he shared with the Father, and the Spirit, in the counsels of eternity, concerning this plan of salvation and redemption. “‘Justify’ means “to declare righteous.” Christ’s righteousness is imputed to His people (53:6), and in return He accepted their guilt so as to ‘bear their iniquities’” (Ibid. p.1121). All of this is referred to in the following ‘therefore’.

“Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great” (v. 12a). There is no break here between the Servant’s work in the sacrifice of himself, and the immediate exaltation to reign. This portion which He then received were all the nations of the earth, borne out also by the witness of the psalmist at 2:8. “And He shall divide the spoil with the strong” (v. 12b) “Principalities and powers” have been “disarmed” Cf. Col. 2:15), and the strong ones are the Servant’s seed, that is, His church. “The seed are those who come to life through His death (John 12:24; Gal. 3:29)” (Ibid. p.1121). This is the case “because He poured out His soul unto death” (v. 12c Cf. 50:6; 53:10; Rom. 3:25), “and He was numbered with the transgressors, and bore the sin of many” (v. 12de Cf. Mt. 27:38; Mk. 15:28; Lk. 22:37; II Cor. 5:21), “and made intercession for the transgressors” (v. 12f Cf. Lk. 23:34). This is our humbled but exalted Lord (Phil 2:5-11).

Isaiah

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).

Isaiah

Isaiah 51:1-16 The LORD Comforts Zion.

Those who sought the LORD were called upon to listen, to take heed to their true beginnings as the people of the LORD, to Abraham and Sarah not so much ethnically, but to that covenant made with Abraham, and of that righteousness he had by faith (vv. 1-2 Cf. Gen. 12:1; 13:10; 24:35; Ezek. 33:24; Rom. 4:1-4; 9:30-33; Heb. 11:11). This covenantal bond is the only comfort for the LORD’s people, a covenant which also encompasses the whole created order, restoring the earth to an Edenic garden state (v. 3ab Cf. 40:1). “Joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody” (v. 3c Cf. Ps. 102:13; Joel 2:3). Part of the reason for this joy is that through the law the LORD’s justice will rest “as a light of the peoples” (v. 4). The law would be the standard of justice for all peoples!

This echoes how Isaiah began this book. “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (2:4). The church of Jesus Christ, the Servant of the LORD, is the new temple of the LORD, and Zion on which the city of Jerusalem also rests, is his messianic kingdom (Cf. Heb. 12:22-24). The whole of scripture must be proclaimed, taught, and followed by the church to all peoples, that the Lord’s kingdom would come, that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven-this includes the law, the whole of the law! By this law the nations of the earth would not only have the true standard of justice, but it would also be that standard by which all will be judged (v. 4a). However, it is that promise given in the garden, and reiterated through Abraham, that the Lord through his covenant would establish peace (v. 4b).

His salvation has gone forth, this coming before judgment, that the remnant of all peoples might through faith claim the Servant’s righteousness as their own, and escape the judgment to come (v. 5 Cf. 46:13; 60:9; Ps. 67:4; Rom. 1:16-17). The heavens and the earth spoken of here are referring to the old covenant administration which would come to an end with the coming of the Servant (Cf. 65:17; Mt. 24:35). However, though administered differently in the new covenant, it would be the same salvation of justification by faith. “My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished” (v. 6 Cf. 45:17). It is heresy to suggest that the saints under the old covenant administration were not justified by faith the same as those under the new covenant.

The NT defense for justification by faith is based upon the scriptures of the old covenant. The Christian must keep in mind what Jesus said concerning the law and the prophets at Matthew 5:17-20, that he did not come to abolish but to fulfill. The law continues as noted above, however, so does the way of salvation, the Lord’s righteousness as ours by faith. This is the righteousness that “exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.” The Lord and the new testament witnesses laboured to show that far from departing from the way of salvation under the old covenant administrations, like the scribes and Pharisees did with their teachings and tradition, they argued that Christ came to fulfill that salvation by grace through faith, as the one whom the saints looked ahead to by faith.

Those who are clothed with the LORD’s righteousness have the law in their hearts, therefore they need not fear the reproach of men (v. 7 Cf. Jer. 31:33; Mt. 5:11-12; Acts 5:41; Heb. 10:16). “The remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward” (37:31). This was grounded on a way of salvation by grace through faith “from generation to generation” (v. 8). This salvation goes back to “ancient days,” the covenant of grace initiated with our first parents spoken of at Genesis 3:15, where the coming Seed would wound the serpent and his seed (v. 9). This Servant Seed is the one who dried up the sea, “for the redeemed to cross over” (v. 10, 14-15). Even as he redeemed them out of the bondage of Egypt, he would also redeem from their exile (v. 11a Cf. 35:10; Jer. 31:10-12).

Ultimately the Redeemer of his people through the generations, has redeemed all of us from our sin, both that which we committed in Adam, and that which we also commit ourselves. All the people of God throughout the generations will “come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (v. 11b). The LORD alone is our comfort, and he upbraids all who therefore fear men (v. 12 Cf. 40:6-7; Ps. 118:6; II Cor. 1:3). Those who fear men forget that their Redeemer is also the Creator and sovereign over the whole of creation, including history (v. 13 Cf. 17:10; Dt. 6:12; 8:11). Isaiah, like the prophets of old, spoke what the LORD had given them to say, under his cover (v. 16 Cf. 49:2; 59:21; Ex. 33:22; Dt. 18:18).

Isaiah

Isaiah 50 The Servant – Part III.

Through the prophet the LORD made clear that Israel separated themselves from the LORD through their own sins (v. 1). The LORD came to them, and called them, and asked them if he was not able to save them, he who governs the whole of creation including history (vv. 2-3). Isaiah attributes his ability to speak, and what he had to say and write, to the LORD, who awakened him morning by morning, and opened his ear to hear his word (v. 4). Unless the LORD opens a person’s ear, we all will remain rebellious (v. 5). However, with verse four we also learn that one would also come as the promised Servant, who would take upon himself the rebellious acts of sinners (v. 6). The LORD will help Isaiah, but also the coming Servant, so that they would speak with confidence, and not be ashamed (v. 7 Cf. Lk. 9:51).

These servants would stand justified, able to oppose those contending with them (v. 8 Cf. Acts 2:24; Rom. 8:32-34). Those who oppose will “grow old like a garment; the moth will eat them up” (v. 9 Cf. 51:6-8; Job 13:28; Ps. 102:26). This verse is quoted by the writer to the Hebrews, who saw in the Son this Servant, anointed and presented before the heavenly thrown (1:11). There is a clear contrast between those who will perish, and the Servant whose kingdom will remain. He is the eternal One (Heb. 1:12). Through Isaiah an invitation is made to all who fear the LORD, to obey the voice of this Servant, to “trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God” (v. 10). Some will still seek to walk according to their own light, but they will lie down in torment (v. 11 Cf. Jn. 9:39).

Isaiah

Isaiah 49:14-26 The LORD Would Remember Zion.

Zion, the LORD’s covenanted people, felt abandoned and forgotten (v. 14 Cf. 40:27), but the LORD assured them that they were not forgotten by him (v. 15 Cf. Ps. 103:13; Mal. 3:17). He himself inscribed them on the palms of his hands, and he guarded their walls as a watchman against their enemies – a possible allusion to governance by the law (v. 16 Cf. Ex. 13:9; Hag. 2:23). Their enemies would flee from them, as their sons return in strength in burgeoning numbers, including from the Gentiles (vv. 17-22 Cf. 54:1-3; 60:4; Zech. 10:10; Mt. 3:9; Jn. 4:35; Rom. 11:11). The LORD, through an oath, would also cause the kings of the nations to serve him and his people (vv. 23-24), and he would contend with those who contend with his people (vv. 25-26a). All people would know that the LORD was the Saviour and Redeemer of his people (v. 26b).