March 13, 2015.
Daily Reading: Isaiah 51-55.
Background: Isaiah 45-50.
Concepts and Connections.
Zion’s coming comfort: In chapter 51, the oracle calls to the righteous of the land, to the people of God, to proclaim the coming comfort that would come from the Lord. This call goes out to a people who might have felt abandoned by the Lord, losing hope that He was listening to them or maybe even thinking that He had forgotten about them due to their current circumstances of captivity. But the Lord speaks through the prophet here to remind the people who He is and to assure them that He has not forgotten about them and that HIs comfort was soon coming. The people are called to awake twice in this chapter, putting on the strength of the Lord, for the people had forgotten the Lord their Maker, fearing men who could do very little rather than fearing God who laid the foundation of the earth and stretched out the stars. The people were given into the hands of their enemies because they had forsaken the Lord God, but the ransomed would indeed return to Zion with singing, finding great joy and gladness, having their sorrows washed away. Though they were drinking the cup of wrath from the Lord, soon this cup would be removed and the people would be comforted. Comfort was coming for the people of God.
Zion’s coming salvation: Not only was comfort coming for the people of God (see previous chapter), but even more importantly, salvation was coming. We will see that these chapters are leading up to the quite famous chapter about the Messiah, Isaiah 53. Indeed, the end of this chapter begins the well known oracle about the suffering servant who would be lifted up on a cross for our sins (compare with John 8:27-29). But before the oracle tells of the Messiah, a proclamation of His coming salvation first paves the way, similar to the way John the baptizer paved the way of the Christ. Once again Jerusalem is called to awake and put on the strength of the Lord, for their redemption was coming. Then there is a beautiful praise of the one who spreads the good news, the news of salvation, near and far. A similar phrase is used in Nahum 1:15, and Paul quotes part of this passage (“How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news.”) in Romans 10:15. In that day, the Lord would comfort His people and redeem Jerusalem. All the ends of the earth would see the salvation of the Lord. The Lord would be with His people, surrounding and protecting them as both the front and the rear guard. How wonderful it is to have good news to preach. This is the gospel that we are to spread to a lost and dying world. Let us spread this gospel with joy and enthusiasm. For indeed, how beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news!
The suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 is probably the most well known Messianic prophecy in the entire Old Testament. This passage is called upon on many different occasions, perhaps most prevalent during the holiday season. The oracle of the suffering servant actually begins in 52:13 and follows though the end of 53. Just as we have “the gospel according to Matthew,” or “…to Mark,” ect., this chapter (and the surrounding chapters) can be considered as “the gospel according to Isaiah.” The vivid imagery and detail used in this section is almost more descriptive than the accounts in the gospels. If you didn’t know that this was an Old Testament passage written hundreds of years before the time of Christ, you might actually think Isaiah was at the cross, describing what he saw. He talks about Christ’s humble beginnings, and the rejection He would receive from His own people. He would be a man acquainted with grief, who would bear our sorrows and be pierced for our transgressions. Like a sheep before the shearers is silent, He would not open His mouth, suffering in our place for our transgressions. All we like sheep have gone astray, but our iniquity was laid on Him that He might make intercession for our transgressions. The Ethiopian Eunuch was reading this passage as he traveled back from Jerusalem when Philip joined his chariot (see Acts 8). Philip began in Isaiah, and taught Jesus to the Eunuch, which resulted in his desired to be baptized into Christ. We too should use prophecy to proclaim the good news of salvation. The bad news is that our iniquities have separated each and every one of us from our God (see Isaiah 59:1-2). The good news is there is someone who loves us and has taken care of that, suffering in our place, offering up Himself as a sacrifice to cleanse us of our sins. May we ever spread the good news.
The anger of the Lord lasts for but a moment: Continuing on with the topic of comfort and salvation, the people of Israel are once again reminded that their time of oppression and hardship was soon coming to an end. They had been put into captive by the anger of the Lord at their transgressions, but the anger of the Lord lasts but for a moment, for He loves His people. The Lord had compassion on His people, and His everlasting love would prevail. The Lord is depicted as a husband to the children of Israel, similar to the picture given in the book of Hosea and the concepts found in Ephesians 5:22-33 and Revelation 21:2. Though for a brief moment the Lord had given them into the hands of the Babylonians, His anger would soon be quelled and He would comfort His people. A remnant of Israel would be saved. Oh how great a God we serve, who’s steadfast love endures forever. Let us ever praise His name and spread the good news. The Lord loves His people.
Seek the Lord while He may be found: The Lord’s compassion on His people is once again the subject matter of this chapter, as it opens with a quenching of thirst and satisfaction of hunger (compare with Matthew 5:6 and John 7:37). The people are called into audience with the Lord, to incline their ears to His word, so that He might make with them a steadfast, everlasting covenant for the sake of David (though whom the Christ would come). The people are called to seek the Lord while He might be found. Just as in the days of Noah when the ark was shut and the rain began to fall, there will come a day that will be too late to seek and find the Lord. When the Lord returns, it will be too late. However, this verse could also be referring to the living Jews in the time of Jesus, pleading with them to seek God while He was present. The oracle reminds us that God’s thoughts are above our thoughts, and His ways above our ways, a thought that Paul echoes in I Corinthians 1:18-30. Unlike the word of man, the word of God will always accomplish the will of God. Let us seek the Lord while He may be found, and find His joy and His rest. The Lord has had compassion on His people. Salvation has come through Christ. This is good news.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 26-28.
How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news.