DIG: Chapters 51:1 to 52:12 are an extended poem, summing up ADONAI’s intent for the believing remnant. How is their current situation like that of Abraham and Sarah? Since Abraham was so old and his wife, Sarah, was barren, why would God use this example for the righteous of the TANAKH? If the previous verses were meant to give hope to the faithful remnant, what would these verses do for them? What does this indicate about the LORD’s purpose in restoring Zion? Compare 51:6 with Genesis 15:5. How does the heavenly vision of the faithful remnant compare with that of Abraham? What does this stress about God?
REFLECT: When have ADONAI’s promises seemed to you like mere words? At those times, what forces seem to be stronger to you than the LORD? When you feel like that, how might the faith of Abraham, who waited 25 years to see one child born, encourage you? If you were being persecuted to the point of death, what would it mean to you to realize that God’s promises are more enduring than the stars or the earth around you? How might meditating upon the lesson of the stars give you a new perspective on the problems that face you today? Do you believe that the salvation granted by the Servant will last forever and never fail? What is the basis for your belief? How do you hide ADONAI in your heart? How are you at odds with this fallen world? Has it cost you anything? Do you have a light touch on the things of this world? How so? Is there anything you need to let go of?
Chapter 51 is a far eschatological prophecy to a generation that had not even been born yet. It was a message of comfort (40:1-11) to the last Jewish generation before the Messiah returns at the end of the Great Tribulation (see Kg – The Second Coming of Jesus Christ to Bozrah). They were being persecuted, hunted down and killed like animals by the antichrist and the armies of the world; therefore, the LORD gives His chosen people three messages of comfort because her sin had been pardoned. First, He asks them to look at their glorious past in order to learn lessons for the future (51:1-3). Secondly, there is the comfort of God’s salvation (51:4-6), and thirdly, there is comfort from knowing that their enemies will perish (51:7-8).
The first message of comfort comes from Israel’s origin (51:1-3). Just as ADONAI had blessed one man, Abraham, by making him the ancestor of numberless descendants (Genesis 13:16), He would also bless Abraham’s offspring who were being persecuted and slaughtered by the antichrist.199 Those whose hearts are hardened toward God will not particularly be disturbed by His, in their minds, apparent failure to keep His promises, if they were even aware of them at all. But the believing remnant will be discouraged. They will be decimated, scattered, and desperately trying to avoid death at the hands of the antichrist and his Gestapo. However, those who would listen to the voice of the Servant would learn and receive encouragement from what had happened in the past.
Listen to Me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD (51:1a). This call, listen to Me, is clearly directed to the faithful remnant. Only those who pursue righteousness and seek the LORD are faithful. During the Great Tribulation, in the midst of their turmoil and pain, God will ask the holy ones (Job 5:1; Deuteronomy 33:2-3; Psalms 16:3 and 34:9; Zechariah 14:5) to think about the background of their nation.
Figuratively speaking, Isaiah asks the believing remnant to look to the rock from which they were cut and to the quarry from which they were hewn (51:1b). The rock was Abraham and the quarry was Sarah, “founders” of the nation. What is the point He is making? How big was the Jewish nation in the days of Abraham? The entire Jewish race was literally in Abraham. There was only one Jew and his wife. Yet, out of that one Jewish couple came a nation. And certainly the faithful remnant was greater than one Jew. And if God can make a great nation out of one Jew, He could certainly make even greater things out of a small faithful remnant.
Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth (51:2a). When God told them to look, He used the same verb that He used in Genesis 15:5 to command Abraham to look up at the heavens and count the stars. So just as Abraham was called on to look and believe for a numberless offspring to come from the barren womb of his wife Sarah, Israel will be called on to look and believe at the faithfulness of ADONAI in the past and to trust that He would yet again keep His promises to a barren Zion with children from around the world during the Great Tribulation. Here again the path to righteousness with the LORD is through belief, truth, and faith in His promises (Genesis 15:6).200 Would they believe that? Do you believe that?
When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many (51:2b). Here God used three Hebrew words (phrases in English) concerning Abraham. ADONAI says I called him, I blessed him and (then the main point), I made him many. This was the comfort Isaiah spoke of. The LORD says, when I do the calling, then I do the blessing. And when I do the blessing, then it multiplies. When Abraham was but one, I called him, I blessed him, and I made him many. That is, He gave the patriarch many descendants as He had promised (Genesis 12:2, 15:5, 17:6, 22:17). For many years Abraham and Sarah had no children, but they believed ADONAI's promise (Genesis 15:6). The same will be true of this faithful remnant, the Hebrew believers of every age. Although small in numbers, God does the calling, God does the blessing and eventually, God will multiply them. Though they had not yet seen the fulfillment of the LORD's promises about Israel living at peace in the Land (Genesis 15:18-21), they have His sure word that the Messianic Kingdom would be established upon the earth.
ADONAI will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins (51:3a). Comfort for the past should provide comfort for the future. Just as the LORD had prospered Abraham even though his nephew Lot had selfishly chosen the well-watered plain of the Jordan, which was like Eden or the garden of the LORD (Genesis 13:10-11), so also God would now bring the believing remnant back to the Land and make her deserts like Eden, and her wastelands like the garden of the LORD (51:3b). The result will be joy and gladness, thanksgiving and the sound of singing (51:3c).201 Therefore, the first message of comfort comes from Israel’s origin.
The second message of comfort comes from God’s Salvation (51:4-6). A second call comes to the believing remnant just before the Messiah returns at the end of the Great Tribulation. Here the address is made even more personal than in 51:1. Who are these people who are desperately seeking ADONAI? They are His people, His nation. The Servant says: Listen to Me, My people; hear Me, My nation (51:4a). No matter what happened in the distant past, no matter how far they had missed the mark, no matter how much they had sinned, if they were truly seeking the LORD, He calls them His own. All His promises are theirs. Thus, we know God is not talking to the whole nation but only the faithful remnant.
My [just rulings] will go out from Me; My justice will become a light to the nations (51:4b). What just rulings is He referring to here? They are not the Torah, these are the just rulings that Isaiah mentioned at the beginning of his book. There, Isaiah first announced that the Messianic Kingdom would draw all the Gentile nations to it. But notice what is drawing them: In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s Temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say: Come, let us go up to the mountain of ADONAI (also see Isaiah 22:5-6; Zechariah 8:3, 14:5) to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths. His just rulings will go out from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2-3). These rulings Isaiah is referring to are not the Torah because it was never given to the Gentiles to begin with. He is dealing with the just rulings of the messianic age that will be applied to the Gentile nations at that time, and from these just rulings He will establish His justice, which will become a light to the Gentile nations.
As a result, the context here will not allow this to be a message to the exiles returning to Jerusalem from the Babylonian Captivity. God’s justice did not become a light to the Gentile nations around the world at that time. That will not happen until His millennial reign. In fact, later in 70 AD the Romans would come and destroy Jerusalem, killing over a million Jews and sending the rest into the Diaspora for twenty centuries.
The Servant says: My righteousness draws near speedily, My salvation is on the way, or gone forth (51:5a). All this is said to be imminent. On the way is a prophetic perfect, meaning that the prophet sees the reality of what ADONAI is going to do so clearly that in his mind it is already done. As they were being tracked down and hunted by the antichrist and the armies of the world, without realizing it their salvation was speedily near. As the noose was tightened around their collective necks in Jerusalem and Bozrah, the spiritual scales would fall from their eyes and they would recognize that Yeshua was the Messiah and cry out for Him to return (see my commentary on Revelation Ev – The Basis for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ), and the LORD would battle with the antichrist and the armies of the world (see Kh – The Eight Stage Campaign of Armageddon).
Righteousness is the result of salvation. When we receive Messiah we become saved by virtue of being saved, meaning we believe that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (First Corinthians 15:3b4). The result of having salvation is being declared righteous. That’s what justification means, to be declared righteous. All the righteousness of Messiah is imputed, or credited to our account, and then we are declared righteous (Romans 1:17; Second Corinthians 5:21). In other words, we do not get to heaven by our own righteousness, but by the righteousness of Christ. Righteousness is a result of salvation and that salvation will go out to all the Gentile nations during the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6).
ADONAI says: My arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands (or the ends of the earth) will look to Me and wait in hope for My arm (51:5b). Here we have the fourth of nine references to the arm of the LORD (30:30 and 32, 40:10, 50:2, 51:5 and 9, 52:10, 53:1, 59:1 and 16, 62:8 and 63:5). How could someone hope or trust in an arm? At this point Isaiah is introducing a theme that will be developed beautifully in Chapter 53. There will be interplay between the arm of God and the giving of salvation. In 53:2, Isaiah says: He grew up. The pronoun He refers to the Messiah who is about to die for Israel’s sins. So the arm in 51:5b refers to the Messiah, the Servant of the LORD.
My righteousness (which is a result of salvation) draws near speedily, My salvation is on the way (the Hebrew word for salvation is Yeshua, or Jesus). He could say: My Jesus is on the way; and My arm (God’s judgment) will bring justice to the Gentiles, or the nations. The islands will look to Me and wait in hope for My arm.
But My salvation will last forever, My righteousness will never fail (51:6b). Having spelled out that salvation will come by means of the arm of the LORD in 51:5, here Isaiah points out that the salvation granted by the Servant will last forever, or be eternal. Once we are saved, does eternal mean eternal? Yeshua says to us today: My sheep listen to My voice: I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (John 10:27-30).
Some questions need to be asked about eternal salvation. Would Yeshua use the word eternal if our salvation were temporary? We are a gift from God the Father to God the Son (also see John 6:37-40, 17:2, 6, 9 and 24). Would Jesus ever refuse a gift from the Father? Would Jesus ever allow that precious gift to be lost? If believers could lose their salvation, the Father would have to take back those whom He gave to the Son as a gift. Why would ADONAI ever present someone as a gift to the Son if He knew they were going to lose their salvation? If we could lose our salvation, could we get re-saved? Why doesn’t the Bible ever mention being re-saved? Is salvation that will last forever to be considered cheap grace? Read Chapter 53 and decide for yourself. Does the LORD mean what He says?
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies (51:6a). But, in stark contrast to the transitory nature of the heavens and the earth, His salvation will last forever. Therefore, the doctrine of the security of the believer is not merely a New Covenant doctrine: it is already found here in the First Covenant. Divine instruction, justice, and salvation will be a light to the world. The nations will seek guidance from God and the righteous will be assured of His everlasting salvation and favor.
The first comfort was for the faithful remnant to look back on Israel’s history because God can do great things through small numbers of people. Secondly, they should rejoice and be happy over their salvation, which will be extended to the Gentile nations. ADONAI has only one kind of salvation - it will be eternal. Thirdly, we see in the next two verses, comfort against Israel’s enemies.
The third message of comfort comes from knowing that all God's enemies will perish (51:7-8). Hear Me, you who know what is right, you people who have My Torah in your hearts (51:7a). The eternal salvation and favor promised should provide the faithful with moral courage and strength to withstand the momentary taunts and abuse of the ungodly. Once again there is a message of comfort to the faithful remnant at the end of the Great Tribulation. We know it was addressed to the faithful remnant because of two phrases: you who know what is right, and you people who have My Torah in your hearts (Psalm 119:11). Notice that both of these statements point to inward conviction and not external practice. The Torah does not save us, nor does external religiosity. Some people put on a good show, but are far from the LORD. Will spending time sitting in your messianic synagogue make you one of the righteous of the TANAKH? Will spending time sitting in your garage make you a car? No! One can keep the Torah externally and be lost. But what we believe saves us. The heart is a symbol in many societies for the seat of our emotions. For example, Jesus says: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Therefore, knowing from 51:6b, that God’s salvation will last forever, and that His righteousness will never fail, we should take courage and not be terrified. Anyone who fears God and listens to Christ will certainly find themselves at odds with the fallen world.
The point here is this, do not fear the criticism of men, or be terrified of their insults (51:7b). Why? For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But My righteousness will last forever, My salvation through all generations (51:8). In the same way, God says your enemies will perish like a moth eaten garment. But the salvation and righteousness that believers possess, through the arm of the LORD, will last forever. Is that Good News or what!
The cries of the oppressed for justice and deliverance have hardly ever been heard so loudly as in the twentieth century. The brutality of oppressors was not new, but science and industry gave them an ability to extend and multiply their oppressive force in previously unheard-of ways. As a result, we have the terrors of Auschwitz and the “killing fields” of Cambodia. In situations such as these, the cry comes again: Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the LORD (51:9). And again: How long, O Lord? Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood (Revelation 6:10)? Why does God not act on behalf of His people, or if they are not His people in particular, at least on behalf of the helpless and downtrodden, whom the Bible declares have a special place in His heart?
If there were an easy answer to this question, it would have been given long ago, and there would be no more books on the problem of evil. As in the book of Job, the Bible does not answer the question, but it does offer an alternative. We can serve the God of the universe who loves justice and will ultimately balance the books (see my commentary on Revelation Fo - The Great White Throne Judgment). The only other option is to have a world in which we and our abilities are supposedly supreme. A wise person will certainly choose to serve the LORD, as Job did, for to choose that path is not to answer the problem of evil in the world, but to render it sheer nonsense. If ADONAI is good and just, then we have hope that oppression can be, and will be, overcome.202 In short, we must have faith (Hebrews 11:1). Then along with Job we can say: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my body has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God (Job 19:25)!
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2013