From Isaiah 54-58
The LORD forgives Israel and calls her back. His words reflect on the past and explain his actions. They also show him to be forgiving and compassionate. For a nation that had just been punished for her sins and sent into exile. Hearing these words would be a relief. We should give thanks for the forgiveness the LORD has shown us.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comment
We can apply today’s passage to the Jews who returned from exile and captivity. The LORD speaks to his people and promises to restore them.
54 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities. (Is 54.1-3)
The author calls out to the people to once again rejoice. He calls the people ‘O barren one’. Having many offspring was a sign of the LORD’s favour. If they are called ‘barren’ then it assumes the opposite. But this will change. Their time of punishment has ended and the LORD makes some promises. They will have offspring and they will possess the nations and empty cities.
4 “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
5 For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
6 For the Lord has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God. (Is 54.4-6)
The author uses husband – wife imagery to describe the LORD’s relationship with Israel. In her youth Israel abandoned the LORD and committed adultery with other gods. Thus the LORD punished her and threw her away. But the LORD still remembered his vows (promises), so he will now redeem her and call her back. The LORD has called Israel back to the promised land, back to a faithful relationship with him as their God.
The author describes the LORD in several ways. ‘Maker’, ‘Holy One of Israel’, ‘God of the whole earth’ and the ‘Lord’.
Which of these impact your understanding of God?
7 For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
8 In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord, your Redeemer. (Is 54.7-8)
The LORD forgives Israel and calls her back. His words reflect on the past and explain his actions. They also show him to be forgiving and compassionate. For a nation that had just been punished for her sins and sent into exile. Hearing these words would be a relief.
We should give thanks for the forgiveness the LORD has shown us.
9 “This is like the days of Noah to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
10 For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Is 54.9-10)
The author recalls the story of Noah. During those days the LORD sent a flood which destroyed all the earth except Noah and his family. Afterward the LORD promised never again to wipe out the earth. He made a rainbow covenant (Gen 9.8-17). Likewise the LORD promises never again to punish Israel like he did here. His covenant love will continue, they will be at peace with the LORD.
11 “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
and lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of agate,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your wall of precious stones.
13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children. (Is 54.11-13)
The LORD continues to promise their restoration. The imagery he uses describes the value and strength of the foundations their nation will be built upon (cf. 1 Cor 3.10-13). The people will no longer be taught by the priests, the levites. The LORD will teach them directly. I suspect the promise alludes to the giving of the Holy Spirit (Eze 36) and the LORD writing his laws on their hearts (Jer 31).
14 In righteousness you shall be established;
you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
15 If anyone stirs up strife,
it is not from me;
whoever stirs up strife with you
shall fall because of you.
16 Behold, I have created the smith
who blows the fire of coals
and produces a weapon for its purpose.
I have also created the ravager to destroy;
17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (Is 54.14-17)
The righteousness the author mentions refers to the LORD’s covenant righteousness. In faithfulness to his promises the LORD will establish his people. He will protect them from other nations. I like the expression, ‘no weapon fashioned against you shall succeed’ (Is 54.17). This is what the servants of the LORD have to look forward to. The LORD will justify them – set them right and above all nations.
Praise the LORD.
Story of Israel
Even though Israel did return from their captivity and exile, still many of these promises had yet to be fulfilled by the LORD. They still had their problems with sin and death. They still remained under foreign rule. They still waited for him and prayed.
Story of Jesus
Our passage in Isaiah likens the relationship the LORD has with Israel with that a husband has with his wife. The pattern still continues in the New Testament. This time Paul draws the parallel between Christ and the Church.
We are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5.21).
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Eph 5:21–33)
Christ is the head of the church, Christ is its saviour, Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her on the cross, that he might sanctify her, through baptism and the word of the gospel, so that he might present her holy and without blemish to the Father.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.