ISAIAH 51-53

Tonight we will be looking at three chapters in Isaiah. These three chapters can be divided into two areas. Chapter 51 - 52:12 focuses on encouraging the Jews in their captivity. Chapter 52:13- 53 focuses on the suffering Servant, which I pointed out in the last lesson is Jesus. Let us begin:

Isaiah 51:1 "Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.2 Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him." 3 For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in it, Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.4 " Listen to Me, My people; And give ear to Me, O My nation: For law will proceed from Me, And I will make My justice rest As a light of the peoples.5 My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, And My arms will judge the peoples; The coastlands will wait upon Me, And on My arm they will trust.6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished.7 " Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, You people in whose heart is My law: Do not fear the reproach of men, Nor be afraid of their insults.8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment, And the worm will eat them like wool; But My righteousness will be forever, And My salvation from generation to generation."

Isaiah is not talking to the entire nation of the Jews, he is talking to the faithful remnant. These are great words of encouragement because he basically saying remember the power of the Creator. Just as He was able to make Sarah have a child past the normal child bearing years and was able to bless Abraham, from which this remnant descended from, He will have no problem freeing them from their captivity and restoring them.

These same words should encourage us as Christians today. When we feel like our lives have been turned upside down and that the world around us seems to be thriving, we must never forget from whom we came from. We must never forget all that God has done throughout the history of man for His people.

While most of what is being said in these verses were talking to the Jews of the day, most believe that these verses also point to the time of Christ, when spiritual freedom would be realized for all the nations. For example, verse 4 talks about the law proceeding from God, which corresponds to the prophecy of Isaiah 2, which talks about the gospel being proclaimed starting in Jerusalem. Most see the end of verse 4 and 5 as talking about the Gentiles. The law of God or the gospel was called a light in Acts 13:47.

In verse 6-8, we learn that nothing can undo Godís righteousness. Though the earth and heaven may be taken away, Godís righteousness never will. Since nothing can undo Godís way, we should not fear man. Yes, man may try to harm us or wear us down with their many words, but they will not last, because they are weak and their bodies will give out, but Godís righteousness and salvation will last forever. Knowing this should encourage us to keep following Godís way no matter what other may say or do.

Isaiah 51:9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent?10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea, The waters of the great deep; That made the depths of the sea a road For the redeemed to cross over?11 So the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

The name Rahab is not talking about the woman who helped the Jews out, but it is a reference to Egypt. Once again, these Jews are being reminded about what great things there people were able to do with the help of God. Every Christian should remind themselves daily that by ourselves we are nothing, but with God on our side we can do great things when God is helping us along. Though this message is directed to those that would return from captivity, most commentators believe that verse 11, which is a direct quote from Isaiah 35:10, also points to the time of the Messiah. As I have said many times before, there are many verses in Isaiah that apply to the Jews of that time, but also point to the time of Christ. Sometimes this more clear than others. In my opinion, this one is not at as clear as some of the other dual prophecies we have looked at.

Isaiah 51:12 " I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?13 And you forget the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor?14 The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, That he should not die in the pit, And that his bread should not fail.15 But I am the LORD your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared -- The LORD of hosts is His name.16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, 'You are My people.' "

God is our great comforter. We can see how His message should be comforting to His people. Isaiah is making it known that God is still with them. Yes, He will allow them to be punished for the sinfulness, but it will not last, and He will not allow them to be completely destroyed by their enemies. He wants them to understand that they should not fear man who is here today and gone tomorrow. He reminds them again about how powerful He is and how He divided the sea.

Most commentators believe that verse 16 is referring to the servant that Isaiah talked about in previous chapters because He was the one that God put His words into His mouth. It is further believed that the last part of this verse talks about the spiritual Zion, which is the church of Christ. As we will see, the context this is found in will offer a stronger plea for it to be talking about the church.

Isaiah 51:17 Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk at the hand of the LORD The cup of His fury; You have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, And drained it out.18 There is no one to guide her Among all the sons she has brought forth; Nor is there any who takes her by the hand Among all the sons she has brought up.19 These two things have come to you; Who will be sorry for you? -- Desolation and destruction, famine and sword -- By whom will I comfort you?20 Your sons have fainted, They lie at the head of all the streets, Like an antelope in a net; They are full of the fury of the LORD, The rebuke of your God.

Godís people are pictured as being drunk that is fully immersed in Godís fury. There is no one among their people that can save them, and there is no one that is going to feel sorry for them in their predicament because it was deserved. They are as helpless as antelope caught in a net.

Isaiah 51:21 Therefore please hear this, you afflicted, And drunk but not with wine.22 Thus says your Lord, The LORD and your God, Who pleads the cause of His people: "See, I have taken out of your hand The cup of trembling, The dregs of the cup of My fury; You shall no longer drink it.23 But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you, Who have said to you, 'Lie down, that we may walk over you.' And you have laid your body like the ground, And as the street, for those who walk over."

Though Godís people were helpless and could not free themselves from the fury of God, He would be merciful and help them. He would turn His fury away from them and back on the people that were persecuting them. This shows us why our God is so awesome. Yes, He is a just God and we will face the consequences of our sins, but at the same time He is merciful God and He will never forsake us. He will always be there for us. When we are ready to turn back to Him even after we completely turned our back on Him, He will take us back and allow us to be back in fellowship with Him. You would be lucky to find a person that would be willing to put up with half of what God puts up with from us, yet no one is more loving and merciful than our heavenly Father, and that should make us rejoice and praise Him every day of our lives.

Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean Shall no longer come to you.2 Shake yourself from the dust, arise; Sit down, O Jerusalem! Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion!

Since our Chapter is a continuation of Chapter 51, it offers more support that Chapter 51 is talking about the time of the Messiah because much of what is said in this Chapter is easier to see as ultimately pointing to the time of Christ, especially when we get to Isaiah 53.

Once again, Godís people are being told to wake up. They are to put on their strength because God is with them. On the surface, we could easily say this is simply saying to the Jews that would be in captivity to be encouraged because God is going to deliver them from their captivity. Surely this is true, but noticed some of the language used in our text. I believe our text ultimately describes the heavenly Jerusalem. When do we put on beautiful garments? Well, Jesus described us putting on a wedding garment as we enter into heaven in the Parable of the Wedding banquet in Mt. 22. The only time that is said that the unclean will not be allowed into Jerusalem is when John is talking about the heavenly Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 21:27).

We can easily apply the bondage as referring to sin, but at the same time much of what is said here can also be applied to the Jews that would be freed from their physical captivity. While we need to be careful not to make a text say more than what was intended, I am in awe just how deep Isaiah is when it comes to some of the dual applications from his prophecies from God. There are many of these dual prophecies that we would have a hard time identifying unless the N.T. writings did not tell us they were.

Isaiah 52:3 For thus says the LORD: "You have sold yourselves for nothing, And you shall be redeemed without money." 4 For thus says the Lord GOD: "My people went down at first Into Egypt to dwell there; Then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.5 Now therefore, what have I here," says the LORD, "That My people are taken away for nothing? Those who rule over them Make them wail," says the LORD, "And My name is blasphemed continually every day.6 Therefore My people shall know My name; Therefore they shall know in that day That I am He who speaks: 'Behold, it is I.' "

The immediate application is that the Jews would not be purchased by the Babylonians, they would be taken over, but not owned by them because they belonged to God. Godís people would know that when He freed them from their captivity, that God is the one that made it possible. They would be redeemed without money.

A deeper application come from the idea that we have all sold ourselves into sin, but our redemption does not come from money. We are redeemed through the blood of Jesus. As Peter said:

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"8 Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, With their voices they shall sing together; For they shall see eye to eye When the LORD brings back Zion.9 Break forth into joy, sing together, You waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.10 The LORD has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations; And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God.

Once again we can see the immediate application of this pointing to when the Jews would be freed from their captivity and would praise God for freeing them, but the deeper application is the freedom that all of Godís people can experience from sin when God would make it possible for us to release the shackles of sin through His Sonís sacrifice on the cross.

Paul use of verse 7 in Romans 10:15 and applies it to the preaching the gospel and then quotes from Isaiah 53:1. This shows how much application we can glean from Isaiahís prophecies. God delivered us from sin through His Son; there is no greater victory than that, and we should rejoice and be comforted knowing what He has done for us.

Isaiah 52:11 Depart! Depart! Go out from there, Touch no unclean thing; Go out from the midst of her, Be clean, You who bear the vessels of the LORD.12 For you shall not go out with haste, Nor go by flight; For the LORD will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

The immediate application is for the Jews to leave Babylon and not cling to unclean things. This would be challenge for them because they would have been in captivity for 70 years and many changes would have to be made. However, they are encouraged to do so knowing the God would be in front of them and behind them as they left that place.

The deeper application is that we are also called depart the evil way. We should not be living like the world, and we can also know that God is with us and will help us along the way. The final 3 verses of our chapter serve as introduction the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 52:13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men;15 So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; For what had not been told them they shall see, And what they had not heard they shall consider.

This servant, who is no doubt Jesus, will deal wisely with those He encounters and He will be exalted and extolled very high, just as the New Testaments says He was (Phil. 2:9-11). These verses talk about He was marred more than any man, this is referring to the punishment He endured before the cross and on the cross. When the nations consider what Jesus did and went through for us, they too will be in awe because Jesus died for us all.

While some may struggle to see parts of Isaiahís prophecies pointing to Christ, most have no problem with seeing that Isaiah 53 is talking about Jesus.

Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Paul used verse 1 to talk about those who had rejected the teachings about Christ. Also, John quotes verse 1 and applies it to Jesus in John 12:38ff. He would grow up as a tender plant out of dry ground. The dry ground represents how far removed the people were from Godís truth. Since Jesus drew His strength from God, though a tender plant, He would continue to thrive. The image that comes to my mind is when you see a blade of grass that grows up through a small crack in concrete, yet it gets bigger and bigger despite the sidewalk.

Jesus would not be someone who caused people to follow Him just because of the way He looked. His beauty was from within, not outwardly. Outwardly, He was no different than your typical hardworking Jew. Though He came to save the world, many despised Him and rejected Him.

He would be full of sorrow and grief as He saw the condition of man. It is only natural for one to feel such emotions when offering others hope and eternal life and then watching them turn away from it.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Part of this has its fulfillment in how Jesus healed the sick and cast the demons out as Mt. 8:17 points out, but ultimately points to how Jesus bore the punishment of our sins, not just for the Jews or the Romans, but all the sin of mankind. Through Him, we can be healed from the worse disease that has plagued mankind, sin.

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:22 "Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth";23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness -- by whose stripes you were healed.25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Without Jesus, we would all be lost and suffer the fatal consequences of our sins, which is eternal separation from God, but thanks to Jesus, we can be healed by His blood. Only Jesus could do such a thing.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.9 And they made His grave with the wicked -- But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

This gives us more details of this suffering servant, which can be seen in the N.T. as talking about Jesus. Jesus was certainly oppressed and afflicted. Though He could have defended Himself in the end, He did not open His mouth. This can be seen in several verses such as Mt. 26:63; 27:12-14. As Peter declared:

1 Peter 2:23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;

Just as Isaiah says, He was cut off, that is He was put to death on the cruel cross. Philip used this part of Isaiah to teach the Ethiopian Eunuch about Jesus in Acts 8:32-33. Jesus allowed Himself to be put to death for the sake of us all.

As verse 9 points out, those that were crucified were usually put to death for a reason. They had committed a crime, so normally Jesus would have been thrown into the same mass grave as the two thieves that were next to Him. As the Scriptures record, a rich man begged for His body from Pilate and it was granted to him. So, Jesus was buried in a new grave that belonged to this rich man (Mt. 27: 57-60). Jesus had no sin and did nothing deserving the death He endured (Heb. 4:15).

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

Our text is not saying that God found pleasure in watching His Son suffer, but He was pleased that His plan for His creationís salvation was being carried out. It was Godís plan all along as first indicated in Gen. 3:15 that Jesus would be bruised, but a bruise is not fatal. Though Jesus died, we all know that it was temporary as He was raised up on the third day.

Jesus was numbered with the transgressors and was made to suffer the same death as the two thieves. He did it for us. He was obedient to the point of death to show us how much He loves us and to give us an example of what obedience to the Fatherís will is all about. Isaiah 53, cannot be talking about anyone else other Jesus, who is the ideal suffering servant.

We should stand in awe of all the wisdom and preciseness of Godís Word. No man could ever put together such prophecies and make them come true. Only God could do this, which should encourage us and make us realize that God is real and He is control. He loves us and has given us His best. While we were not purchased with money, we have been purchased by the blood of Jesus. Let us never cease to praise God for all that He has done for us so that we could be redeemed through His Son.