Tonight, we will continue our series on Isaiah. One thing I want to remind you of is that Isaiah prophecies a lot about the captivity of the Jews and their release from captivity and writes as if it has already happened. The reason for this is because he knows it will happen just as God told him, but letís not forget that it will still be another 100 years before the Jews are taken into Babylonian captivity.
Also, many of the prophecies that Isaiah gives have a dual meaning. Part of them point to what is about to happen to the Jews and also ultimately point to the time of Christ and beyond. Chapter 54 is another chapter that people say points to the Jews but is ultimately talking about the church.
As Barnes noted:
"This chapter contains a promise of the enlargement, moral renovation, and the future glory of the kingdom of God, especially under the Messiah. Although designed to give comfort to the captives in Babylon, it was a consolation to be derived from what would occur in distant times under the Messiah ... The design of the whole chapter is consolatory, and is a promise of what would certainly result from God's purpose of sending the Messiah into the world.
Let us begin.
Isaiah 54:1 "Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, You who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate Than the children of the married woman," says the LORD.† 2 "Enlarge the place of your tent, And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, And strengthen your stakes.† 3 For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited.
There is no doubt that these verses are referring to the time of the church because Paul quotes verse 1 in Galatians 4:26-27 where he is talking about the church. Verse 1 is just figuratively saying that the church will produce far more children of God than all of old Israel ever will. The metaphor of enlarging the dwelling places is talking about the growth and prosperity of Christianity throughout the world and that the nations would be influenced by it.
Isaiah 54:4 " Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.† 5 For your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth.† 6 For the LORD has called you Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, Like a youthful wife when you were refused," Says your God.† 7 "For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you.† 8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you," Says the LORD, your Redeemer.
This is an encouraging message to the Jews who would be part of the remnant of Jews who would turn back to God. This is not referring to all of fleshly Israel as God will not just take back every Jew because God has always demanded repentance. This short time of God forsaking them is referring to their 70 years of captivity. When it says He forsake them, I think it just means in the sense of removing His protection because I do not think He ever completely forsake them. God will not stay and protect those who reject Him, but our God is a merciful God and like a husband taking back his wife, God will take us back to Him when we repent. While we do not deserve such mercy, thankfully God allows us to be forgiven and brought back into a relationship with Him.
Isaiah 54:9 " For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.† 10 For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed," Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
Some have trouble with the section of Scripture because people see this saying that God would not allow His people to be destroyed and taken into captivity like they were under the Babylonians. However, I believe this is talking about the time of Christ and the new covenant. Even if you try to limit this to the Jews of the day, Isaiah is not saying that he would never rebuke His people or get angry at them every again, but that He would not do the exact same thing to them. God can and will punish His people for disobedience, but as long as they remain faithful He will not.
The Jews, that is those who rejected Christ, had their city destroyed in 70 a.d. and about 1 million of them were killed and about 30,000 of them were sold into slavery, but this was just a punishment handed by God for their rejection of Christ. Using Noah as an example, God said He would destroy the earth with a flood, but He did not say that He would not destroy the earth again because He will at the end of time, but this time it will be burned up. Though this section of Isaiah can be confusing, we can get a clearer picture when we look at all Scripture together. When we look at the verses as point to the spiritual Israel, instead of the physical one then it becomes easier to see that God will not allow His church as a whole to be taken captive like the Jews were.
As Rawlinson explained:
"Much as the Christian Church has suffered from the world, it has never been with them like it was with captive Jews in Babylon. Here the prophet views the Jewish Church as absorbed and continued in the Christian Church, into which all the better and more spiritual members passed at the first preaching of the gospel."
Something the Jews of that day and we can take from what Isaiah said is that God is control and we can trust in His promises that His will will be done.
Isaiah 54:11 " O you afflicted one, Tossed with tempest, and not comforted, Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, And lay your foundations with sapphires.† 12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies, Your gates of crystal, And all your walls of precious stones.† 13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD, And great shall be the peace of your children.† 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 Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me. Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.† 16 "Behold, I have created the blacksmith Who blows the coals in the fire, Who brings forth an instrument for his work; And I have created the spoiler to destroy.† 17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me," Says the LORD.
I always try not push the meaning of prophecy too far, but I can certainly see applying this to both the Jews of the day and to the time of the church. When the Jews in captivity read this, they could certainly say they were afflicted and tossed to and fro. We can see how God would look at the remnant of Jews as they rebuilt the temple of God and the city as being beautiful like gems because of their faithfulness. If they do what was commanded of them by Moses to teach their children about the way of God, then they will know Him, and they will have peace if they establish themselves in the way of righteousness.
We know when the remnant did come back to Jerusalem and rebuild their enemies tried to attack them, but they failed and were defeated. God would continue to protect them as long as they were remaining faithful. Even when they rebelled and suffered setbacks at times, God never allowed them to be completely destroyed.
From a Christian point of view, we can say that we have been afflicted by sin, but God has made it possible through His Son for us to overcome the power of sin and no longer be tossed to and fro because we have the Word of God as Paul talks about in Ephesians 4. We can see God describing what the church looks like to Him. He sees its inner beauty and what better way to describe it to man than by using beautiful gems that we can relate to.
As predicted by Jeremiah we read:
Jeremiah 31:33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.† 34 "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
We are certainly promised to be blessed spiritually when we live for the Lord by being established in righteousness. While we may have enemies that might succeed at times, God will be with us and help us to be victorious especially spiritually.
There are least 9 things we can learn from this chapter.
1. The church was to be superior to the Jewish system and it is.
2. The universal nature of the church and how it would include all nations is presented.
3. We are not to fear man because God is in control (Rev. 21:8; Lk. 12:5).
4. God is pictured as the husband of His people just as Christ is pictured as the husband and head of the church (Eph. 5:23-24).
5. If we will repent, God will take us back (2 Pet. 3:9).
6. God is superior to all.
7. God will never completely forsake His people (Rom. 8:35-39).
8. The children of Israel were to be taught the Word of God and we are to do the same today (Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 4:2).
9. The enemies of God may win some battles, but they will never win the war (2 Thes. 1:7-9).
In Chapter 55, we learn that God is offering an invitation to all to receive His blessings.
Isaiah 55:1 "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.† 2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.† 3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you -- The sure mercies of David.
These verses ultimately point to the time of Christ, whose message was for all. Through Christ, grace was made available for all as:
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
Accepting Godís grace takes action on our part, and we choose by our own free will to seek it out. Notice, we have to be thirsty for it. In other words, we must understand that we need Godís grace and that without it, we will die.
Water, wine and milk all represent things that sustain life and allow us to grow, which I believe is saying that God provides us with what we really need to thrive and live spiritually, but it does not require money because it cannot be purchased by us, we can only accept it by seeking it out. God paid the price for us through His Son, but it is not automatic. As I said, we have our part† by having an obedient faith to the Lord.
Man can never satisfy himself with bread alone. The only true satisfaction that can be obtained comes from living by the bread of life, which is the Word of God. Our attitude should be that of Jobs:
Job 23:12 I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.
In verse 3, we see more action words, such as listen and come then you will be saved. Universal salvation with no effort on our part has never been true. The only everlasting covenant there is the final covenant made through Jesus. Paul uses this same phrase ďthe sure mercies of DavidĒ to talk about the the time of Christ in Acts 13:34. There is no doubt in my mind that Isaiah is writing about the time of Christ.
Isaiah 55:4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people.† 5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the LORD your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you."
I believe this is talking about Jesus because He was the faithful and true witness and He was the express image of God (Heb. 1:3). No one can deny that He was a leader and commander of His people because Lord of lords and King of Kings. Verse 5 points out how He would call all nations to Himself. This is exactly what Jesus did because His message is for all both Jew and Gentile. Jesus was the one that glorified by the Father as seen in verses like:
John 17:1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,† 2 "as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.† 3 "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.† 4 "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.† 5 "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
Isaiah 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.† 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.†
Notice the urgency of seeking out the Lord today. We must call upon Him now before it is too late. The longer we put off seeking the Lord, the harder it will become for us to give ourselves over to Him fully. Also, we do not know if tomorrow will come and, if we die before we seek the Lord out we will not make it to heaven. As Paul said:
2 Corinthians 6:2 For He says: "In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
When one seeks the Lord, they must be willing to turn away from their wickedness. In other words, they must repent. This is more than just quiting a sin, it also includes changing your thoughts. As Paul said in:
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.† 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,† 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,† 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
All these verses show that we have our part in salvation and maintaining that salvation. While God is ready to forgive us, we must repent and turn to Him and live for Him.
Isaiah 55:8 " For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. †††9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
This is an area where people fail because they begin to think there way is the best. They begin to edit out parts of Godís Word and add in things that they think should be there. This is why we have so much division in the religious world. If more people would focus on what the Scriptures actually teach and would follow them, there would be less division today. We must understand that Godís wisdom is far beyond ours. Though we may struggle about why God wants it this way or why is it wrong to do this, we must put our faith and trust in God because He knows best. We cannot even begin to have the wisdom that He has. As Paul said:
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!† 34 "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?"† 35 "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?"
I hope that we are always humble enough to accept Godís way instead of our way.
Isaiah 55:10 "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,† 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Just as life giving rain will cause plants to thrive and provide man with what he needs to live physically, Godís Word will also go out and accomplish what it set out to do. For those whose hearts are like good soil ready for a seed, they will be changed and salvation will be theirs. They will be blessed with a fruitful spiritual life and will make it to heaven. Those whose hearts are like hard soil will reject the seed, and they will be condemned by the Word of God.
Godís Word will indeed accomplish what God wants it to because it is more powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword. As Christians, we are to do our part by planting that seed and watering it and allowing God to give the increase.
Isaiah 55:12 "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.† 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."†
We can see a dual application in these last two verses because when the Jews come out of captivity by the hand of God, they will rejoice, but ultimately this points to the time of Christ when salvation would be brought to all people. There is nothing more joyful than obeying Godís plan of salvation knowing what that means for us. We serve an awesome and mighty God, and we should be thankful everyday for what He has done for us through His Son and how He is there for us every day.
This last chapter teaches us to seek out the Lord while there is still time by repenting and turning to God. The invitation is for everyone. No matter what evil deeds you have done, they can and will be forgiven by God when you do your part in accepting His saving grace by having an obedient faith. I want to close with the words of Jesus:
Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.† 29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.† 30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."† †††