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THE IRREVOCABLE CONSOLATION
How wonderful is the movement mobility in Isaiah! Thus you can move from Ch. 10 from the arrogance of Assyria and the Lord's dealing with that nation, with His deliverance of Israel, suddenly in Ch. 11 to the deliverance that counts most, that in the Messiah in this last Chapter, seen in His glory to come, ruling the earth, Jew and Gentile alike; and the latter indeed will find that His "resting place is glorious," Isaiah 11:10 thus anticipating Matthew 11:27ff.. In Isaiah 12, we find a simple delight in the free waters of salvation, making a duo of cause and effect in 10-11, together with an assignment of the taste of this saving knowledge of the Lord, in 12.
In Isaiah 24 we find the vast devastation in the earth (cf. 24:19-20), followed by praise to the Lord for His enduring reliability, even to the weak, the widow, and the power He will use to restore; and then the depths arise again, to the height that "He will swallow up death for ever," 25:8, while His people say, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us," bringing down the mighty and rescuing Israel, butt of this world's power from its terrors.
In Isaiah 30, we turn from exposure of false trust in a mere nation (in this case Egypt), devious diplomacy (reminding one of the Allies who turned to help and be helped by USSR, while fighting Hitler!) to the spiritual call back of personal life as of national at that time:
"Return to Him against whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted."
Isaiah 32 opens once more in sudden impact, as if graphically to show the ultimate meaning, and essential foundation (of Christ the founding Rock, as in 28:16), with the Messiah once more depicted as in Isaiah 11, the king who will "rule in righteousness," being the shadow of a mighty rock in a weary land!
So in Isaiah 39, we see the actions of a healed King Hezekiah, who had mourned and lamented when told of near death at hand, and that he must set his house in order (Isaiah 38), to the point that the Lord sent Isaiah the prophet, with a message of miracle. He would not only heal Hezekiah, a King of phenomenal revival focus in the land, but give to him a miraculous, empirical, sun-dial based testimony to this fact; which He did.
The graphic use of stark sequences continues into 40, but first, before this consider the question: But what of this healing of Hezekiah, staggeringly miraculous in sign and performance as it was ? Was Hezekiah too chuffed by this ? Is this why he then made such an error when visitors from another nation arrived en scène as recorded in Isaiah 39 ?
We do not know, when such representatives from a king of alien belief, in an idolatrous nation, sent a kind word to him on his recovery - quite a height for a king of Israel from an imperial power! what did he do but act as if spiritual things could be shared, and show them temple and treasures, of vast symbolic significance concerning things present and to come, and lead them to see it all, like a tour guide! Result from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, to this new stumble back to the generations of actual rebellion as in the case of King Manasseh ? It was this. Hezekiah would have rest in his own day, but then the land would fall to Babylon! That is the record as Isaiah 39 ends.
Suddenly however, as Isaiah 40 opens, it is as if the lights had been turned off, incendiary bombs had been dropped, the sun is clouded and the shattering has happened, now, indeed it is done!
We have just seen something of the gulf between Isaiah 39 and 40, where after some Chapters on the personal dealings of God with Israel in which great heights and depths appeared, there comes as if after a bomb, a sense of the all too apparent desolation. While this impacts the mind, there comes at once no less the quietness of present pardon. Following that forecast of desolation to come in the ensuing generation, and its arrival there is with the emptiness of impact, together with irrevocable consolation, the fulness of mercy, kindness, comfort, divine hope!
Thus as Isaiah 40 opens, the storm is past, it is over, the sun is down on the completed prophecy. Yet with divine mercy prominent, we may reflect on two drastic pointers.
The first is as already shown, the predicted desolation on Israel, following the King Hezekiah's revealing of all the treasures of the temple to Babylonian ambassadors, these in worldly fashion congratulating the so majestic king of Israel on his recovery. Casting pearls before spiritual swine is never wise, to use the proverb, and sharing on such a basis, things utterly contrary to idolatrous eyes, as if they were a familiarly joint matter, as did Hezekiah, appears just that ecumenical intoxication which Paul inveighs against so heavily in II Corinthians 10-11, as in I Corinthians 4-5 and Romans 16:17. Separation from God and knowing Him in His presence, pardon and power is not to be given a common base, a degrading look, as if NOT knowing Him, but living a life aside were not a matter making infinity seem a good comparison, for the difference!
Israel was instructed NOT to resemble, assemble with or have close relations with idolators, but so frequently not only did so, taking up more or less of their idols, that it became a decisive blight. Notable in this were such as King Ahaz who not only sought help from pagan, idolatrous Assyria, but made a replica of one of its idols, to put it in the Temple! and Manasseh, who after godly and triumphant King Hezekiah, made idolatry an art form, a monument to ingratitude (II Kings 16,21).
To come nearer to home, so has Australia, after being with the victors in two world wars, now like a stray dog, shown a liking to try to imitate almost anything else than the ways of its foundation. Is luck to be made Lord, baying at the moon ? So repeatedly Israel in its ancient day, wandered into muddle. Things have not changed so much in this, you find as you look now at Gentiles and indiscriminate ecumenism among many formerly sound churches, and then ponder what Israel became, failing and falling! Being like surrounding cultures, this WILL NOT BE, said the Lord (Ezekiel 20:32). That is the specifically spiritual side.
Of such alliance, God declares to ancient and covenanted Israel in Ezekiel 20:32, that despite their polluted thoughts of worldly alliance, being like other nations is not the way.
A culture-conscious compromise might appeal; God would act to negate it, declaring:
"What you have in mind will never be!"
As to the proclivities, the inclinations, again you discover a similar spirit of decline, as you look at Gentiles and Israel of old in further parallel! In particular look at World War II and the new company in mass murderer Stalin, for friend and ally! Many churches make the same funeral for themselves (cf. News 121, 122), false to God, open to confusion, tackling pollution as if it were a passion fruit in ice cream, not a passion for poison!
GOD is NOT like others, and to serve Him, you FOLLOW Him,
and do not lead. You ARE led as you wait upon Him (Jeremiah 10:23, Romans 8).
In New Testament times, in prolonged
straying, a church is removed
(Revelation 2:5,16, 3:16), losing its spiritual life, status or divine recognition,
and only the appearance remains.
Milling with this world's dark muddle is not the mission from Him who is the
light of life! That is treachery, which normally demands a high price; and its
payment is deep.
THE IRREPRESSIBLE COMFORT
AND PERSONAL COMING OF THE LORD
Thus Isaiah 39 ends with this assurance of utter desolation to come, and Isaiah 40 opens as if over a chasm. A horrible opening in the earth has intervened from the end of Ch. 39 to the opening verse of 40. As in a flash, Israel is now seen gutted, overcome, exiled to Babylon, shattered. It is like a movement in a vast symphony, and how desolate the sudden exposure, how decisively drastic; for behold it is not the funeral but the grave at which we look!
Yet IN this awakening to the
predicted doom, we are not left to languish. At once there is comfort, pity,
hope, assurance especially in Isaiah 41, of restoration, and in Isaiah 40, we
find that vast as is the need in bringing Israel back, yet God offers not only
comfort like peace after a maritime tornado, that leaves a shattered vessel on
the waters, but pardon, and acknowledges a great thing. That ? They have
received, at the Lord's hand, double for their folly.
moved through to the personal coming of the Lord to earth (Isaiah 40:10), as
incisive action that will enfold the earth, all nations being exposed to
it (40:3), and find this marvel, fulfilling Ezekiel 34's promise that the Good
Shepherd will Himself replace the fraudulent impostors they have had so often.
His divine estate on earth is found starkly at the start of Isaiah 42 and 49,
before moving in 50 to detail, and in 52-53, to the cost of the recovery in
spirit. The movement is TO HIM, not only for Israel's coming believers (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6), but for
Gentiles as well; for although it is to one New Covenant all are to come, it is
from different pasts, one as fallen 'wife' ,
Israel, and one, Gentiles, as simply without God or
covenant at all (Ephesians 2:11-12).
DIVERSE DIVINE DEALINGS,
WITH TWO SETS PASSING TO ONE GOSPEL
We look then at the diverse divine dealings with the one Gospel, on two bodies, the Jewish nation and the Gentile peoples. One is like a fallen wife to be restored (cf. Hosea), and the other like a run-away servant, without covenant, without God, without hope. The wife failed (though the comfort is to come), and the other as a son is taken straight home, when He receives the salvation (the contrast thick and lively in Isaiah 65:1, 13-15). Both have one destination, spiritually, but they come from diverse past.
Thus we find that there is a body prepared for desolation, as we
survey Isaiah 39 in particular, as likewise the early chapters of Jeremiah and
Micah 5:1-5, and its doom is given sharp focus as if seeing what had been a
mount, suddenly not only gone, but a chasm, when we move from the end of Isaiah
39 to the ravishingly beautiful review of desolation and comfort, in Isaiah 40.
The chasm has opened, and it is complete; but beyond it at once we find the
Lord's presence, and it is filled with comfort and hope which becomes very
particular in Isaiah 41, for the nation (41:8-15,19). Indeed, the amazing
assurance of the pardon and hope which strikes our eyes in Isaiah 40, leads on
to the Lord's exposure of His great power and capacity to revive (Isaiah 40:11
to the end of the Chapter). Even God coming as man to perform a service of
salvation is inside His omnipotence! showing the incisive grandeur of His grace.
SUPERB SUFFICIENCY OF THE SOVEREIGN GOD
Impossible such multiplying layers of comfort may seem to the unspiritual, but the LORD needs no counsellor (Isaiah 40:12-22), lacks neither wisdom nor power, knowledge nor foreknowledge, and will do it, whether in spirit to those who find Him, or to the nation, to which He has made commitment not to be forgotten. HE HIMSELF will indeed come as announced in 40:1-10, pronounced in Psalm 40, systematised in Isaiah 48:15ff., given soteriology in 52-53, intimacy in 50, free availability as in 55, for His salvation as pre-announced in 12. Thus Isaiah 40 shows the scope of His saving mission, the wonder of deity Himself accomplishing it, the fact that for God this is nothing too hard, but well within His scope*1, and that if you lack power personally, then better than renewed youth is that which soars from above from the Lord, to your strengthened and renewed heart as you yourself wait upon HIM (Isaiah 40:27-31).
In the context of course, as traced above, this has a particular relevance to Israel, shown in its royalty to rags distress before the God who does not forget it (Isaiah 49:14-18). What then ? His personal kindness is indeed even expressly applicable to all who in reality call upon Him (Isaiah 41:17), as is the Gospel itself (42:6, 49:6, 52-55), the access. In this present context, however, it is Israel which has been in point, it is this which had the prediction of doom, which suffered the result, which is comforted and which is to resume its land in due course, we find as we move through Isaiah 41, and on to Isaiah 42. Here, following the end of 41, where we find no man can fill the need for the overcoming of the consequences of sin, there is now announced in strident contrast, the One, the only One adequate, Himself; and it is He who is sent from His eternal home (Isaiah 48:15ff.), the Trinitarian God who is there seen in operation in His unity, sending the Lord! as in Psalm 40.
AVENUES OF APPROACH
TO ONE EVENTUAL DESTINY IN CHRIST, THE MESSIAH
Meanwhile it is Zion which is spoken of as being so drastically reduced, so disciplined as to feel forsaken (Isaiah 49:14); but again in comfort, God tells her that she is to be taken from "the land of your destruction" (Isaiah 49:19), sent in consignment for contempt of the things of the Lord, at length to be restored. In what way restored ? It is (Isaiah 49:19) as a SERVANT of God who is SPECTACULARLY BLIND. "WHO IS BLIND BUT MY SERVANT!"
Fancy, a servant of the Lord set up as not only a profound example of blindness, but the virtual criterion of it! And fancy is all you will do till you realise that THIS servant is unique, having been called, cashiered and assured of restoration by this same Messiah, the very crux of light and sight! So Israel is surrounded with judgment, mercy, kindness, a blighted past, an assured future, and as in Isaiah 42:10ff., a dramatic and divinely assisted return to its land WHEN the Spirit opens its eyes (Isaiah 32:17, parallel to Romans 11:25). Even before that, as in Ezekiel 36-37 and Zechariah 12, the return will begin!
Rather than a Church of the children of light, as some injudiciously imagine, here is a servant who, being unfaithful and fallen, is the very criterion and pinnacle of blindness! Putting such concepts together with the idea simply of converted Gentiles, the Christian Church, this and a heavily defined Israel's restoration, is as near as plus and minus! There are diversities of operation, and in this segment of Isaiah, it is the Israel sector which is in historical view as all the elements of the case unfold. So we see a destroyed Israel, spectacularly blind, yet a servant for all that, of the Lord by virtue of its initial call and final return, which is described systematically from Isaiah 39 and on to the following chapters. It is to return, this blind servant, and this by the might of the Lord, and this Israel, it is one on which the Lord "has poured forth the fury of His anger," as in 42:25, a nation which had been "swallowed up" (Isaiah 49:19). Nothing will or can swallow the Church of God (Matthew 16:18, the trusted Christ their rock as in Psalm 62 with Isaiah 28:16).
Israel however, this is a nation. What then of its career here ? First part of the tree of faith, then cut off, and to be regrafted, it certainly was! Indeed, it was from this, it received such glorious comfort as in Isaiah 40 in its enveloping comfort and irrepressible compassion, with great expectations of hope (Jeremiah 31:15-17,26). This poured forth like a beneficial lava. It is through the Messiah then to come, as in Isaiah 40, that this consummates its mercy, and to Him in its completion, that Israel will go (Zechariah 12:10ff.), grieved at their crucifixion of Him. It is through the divine Lord's own power that the restoration will be completed as begun, and consummated after the dynamic dénouement of Deuteronomy 32:15ff., Micah 7:7ff., Isaiah 59 and its foothills as in Ezekiel 38ff., where God acts to destroy in fury and contempt Israel's baying assailants.
So then, ZION is said not only to have felt forsaken, being in need of restoration to what and to whom It once knew, but to have lost its children.
AS ZION, its children were lost in catastrophe (Isaiah 49:20) which afflicted the nation, one repeatedly referred to, and as ZION it regains these children to the point the limited land comes to seem TOO SMALL for them (49:19). Such is the wording of the text.
As in Isaiah 49:21, the children lost in the desolation, a whole series of them depopulated, ruined, will now surge back into their little but restored land.
When ? when they are brought back, following the Messiah whom they abhorred (Isaiah 49:7). It is back to what they lost in their land, and thence to Him whom they much more blatantly lost; it is to Him, as termed Jerusalem before and after (Zechariah 12:3 and 12:10), that they come, and in Him they find their salvation. Their identity does not change. We are not talking of what is to the point opposite, but apposite to text, context and defined terms in these.
At last, specifically as unbelieving Jerusalemites, they come, being now, as already in their own land, those convicted and converted to the crucified Christ, Himself predicted as such, in Isaiah 52-53, Psalm 16, 22. It is He who is found at last when all other return is manifest (Ezekiel 37, where this final step is in the context of the ruling Messiah, as in 37:22-24). First, dispersed bones come back to the land, the Ezekiel parable depicts, the international return to their land, and then separately, to the now re-assembled bodies the spirit comes. THEN only do they live! Such is the parable in Ezekiel, the account multiply elsewhere, as for example in Ezekiel 36, Deuteronomy 32.
What then ? Zion, she had these children, her people, she was a flourishing city amid a nation with covenant; but she defiled it, and lost her "children", her generation, and more indeed! for the time was to be long, until the Lord changed things (Isaiah 32:13-17, Micah 5:1-3, Leviticus 26, Deut. 32), both by manifest terrestrial power coming to their aid, and in heart (as in Isaiah 59, 65, Micah 7). Now however restored in this prophetic vision, as at Isaiah 49:17-21, her children are to overfill the land, so great is their travelling and coming (as in Isaiah 42:13ff., 49:17-21).
Here is a trek of history, now illustrated most nobly for long before our very eyes in one's own lifetime, especially in the period 1948 - 2014 (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock Chs. 8 -9 ). The first phase of the return, though continually threatened by negatively directed or interfering powers, as predicted (Zechariah 12), is still active.
CLARITY IS NOT ALL
THERE IS THE SAME CHARITY INTERNATIONALLY
This is that Israel; this partakes of the history of Zion, before, during and after its rebuke, and there is none in the world such as this - the wife that fell, and while sadly seeking, restored when it all seemed impossible. AS ZION, it was near, was sent afar, pled with the Lord (cf. Micah 7), was restored to its land, finds it too small (49:20), and still to come - having returned home, finds the Lord whom it crucified, the same crucified LORD, ready still for - indeed stimulating their repentance, as the Spirit (Isaiah 32:17) is poured out (Zechariah 12:10, 13:1) and the fountain operates in its cleansing. This now becomes the fully restored Zion, finally to be converted as in Romans 11, where the branch in the tree of faith, cut out, is Israel the lost, which was once near. Now back, they share in the same tree of faith with the Gentiles who were suddenly added when they were removed, in a way staggering to those who had watched the long trek of Israel (Isaiah 65:1).
"I was sought by those who did not ask for Me, I was
found by those
who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here I am , here I am,' to a nation that was not called
by My name. I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people ..."
Now this branch, to be grafted in again, what is it ? It is, says Paul, as LIFE FROM THE DEAD. Till now blind (Romans 11:25), they then see. Such is their case; such is their illustration of the passion for pity and thrust for compassion in the Lord, before whom the axes of an overseen history move, till Jew and Gentile, hewn differently out of the rock of unbelief, but set the same on the Rock of faith, meet as one.
It is then, an exiled blind group who are to return to what they already had (Isaiah 49:14), though in preliminary bud form before the bloom (cf. Romans 4). In fact, they then find the land so limiting for their accruing numbers! It is not those simply without God who so find Him! Israel has to be RE-GRAFTED while Gentiles coming into the faith in Him, have simply to be added to that tree! (cf. Isaiah 65:1ff.). Rejoice therefore, as the great scroll of God's mighty plan unfolds before your very eyes, and as Peter exhorts (II Peter 1:19), be thankful for the light of prophecy on our paths.
Rejoice the more that the Gentiles have this same God as in 42:6,. 49:6, Jeremiah 16:19-21, Isaiah 66. As in Isaiah 60:1-2, the Gentiles will come to Israel's light, which now is the LORD! as in Isaiah 61:1-3. At this time, "the captive daughter of Jerusalem" will be so no more, as in Isaiah 52:2, and the "blind people who have eyes" (Isaiah 43:8, cf. 42:18-19), the returnees in both of these contexts, will now see! these the unique recipients of the end of such divine dealings, commenced so long before.
Indeed, now that the case is clear, we see that the very walls of Jerusalem may now be discerned, in terms of salvation, and be CALLED this (Isaiah 60:18), for to it comes the Messiah the universal criterion (Isaiah 40:3), to transform at length (Isaiah 61) with both salvation and vengeance on what never yields, but makes resource of sorcery of spirit, its guide. Imagery proceeds as the foundation is sure. In fact, now we find as in Acts 15:15ff., from the mouth of James, as he cites from Amos 9:13, that the Messianic centre of the entire thrust of history is to be seen as rebuilding of the tabernacle, the centre of salvation.
This idea is stated to 'agree' with Amos as indeed it does, the latter proceeding later, in 9:14-15 to make clear specification of Israel's homecoming likewise. So parallel themes throb, salvation for all, two channels to the one salvation, history a testimony of divine faithfulness, the Lord's intervention to fulfil His promises (as in Genesis 17), both a testimony to His character (Ezekiel 36:20ff.), and a token of His love which does not shelter in imagery, but is clearer than physics (e.g. Jeremiah 31:35ff), and more assured in its very detail, than the laws of the stars and the power of the heavens (as specifically in Jeremiah 31:36-37). The universe will collapse, but not the word of our God (cf. Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3, Isaiah 51:6), nor His salvation!
How great is the wisdom of God, and how manifold His mercies! as in Romans 11:26-36, which indeed hd a close resemblance in much, to Isaiah 40! Praise the God of glory that He is not only clear, but dear and near. Though men may be near in lip and far from Him in heart (Isaiah 29:13), He is near in heart; nor is His mind forgetful! By His power and grace, He reaches the repentant in this human race, even calling them, even personally, even coming to our lair with His love and fulfilling all His word (Matthew 5:17-20).
ON ISAIAH 51 AMIDST THE OTHER CHAPTERS
The scope of the Lord's saving actions is so vast, varied, and yet in Gospel consummation, unified, that it is at times like watching an express train move on its rocketing way through counties to a nearby land.
Isaiah 51, not mentioned here, is a good example of this phase.
Thus at first we are faced with this magnificent view of Israel IN ITS PAST, in its INCEPTION, in its FOUNDING patriarch, and the singularity of THAT CALL. That is in 51:1-2. Having been at such pains to establish the referent, Israel the nation, the Lord speaks as in 40:1-3, of comfort for Zion, introduced in that Chapter as we see, in judgment as if across a chasm, into which it fell. There, at once, we found that the warfare (of punishment), was not only furnished but now finished in the Babylon affair, which would lead on to Ezra and Nehemiah in the rebuilding, renewal and activated zeal.
Isaiah 51:4, addresses this same suffering Zion, which asked for what it got, and is somewhat stunned when stricken: we find there is to come a restoration in due time which will incorporate rich agricultural developments; joy and thanksgiving will come with it, like a twin (51:3). It is apparent by 51:4 that we are moving into the midst of a major emphasis on salvation, world-wide, not at all divorced from the earlier covenant in Abraham (which was twofold, the land as in Genesis 17:7-8 and the Lord Himself as in Genesis 12:1-3); for things do not merge as in the ambiguity of mist, but keep their shapes even when at times more light is needed. The land, the Lord, the blessing, the people all have their various parts, the Lord over all, the light for sight, and as we will see, the worker for salvation. God will again provide.
It surely comes. The divine JUSTICE will be as a LIGHT to the nations, to the world; and as Christ declared, He who BORE that due judgment to sinners with such agonising felicity in endurance and outcome (Isaiah 50, 52:13ff.), it involves an eternal gift (John 5:24), making it a guarantee of grace.
But for whom ? It is for those who receive Him and in Him this same gift (Isaiah 53:1, 10, 51:11, 53:5-6), since He carried the payment due justice to the point of justice for all such, having offered to all, and has no more to say in terms of exclusion (cf. I John 1:17), for such as these. Justice is the assurance of pardon, for in just affliction, by divine grace, HE has borne it for all who receive Him in this wonder.
He, the Lord, indeed will become a trust centre available to the nations (in accord with Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6 - the same work, too little to be kept to Israel). Isaiah 51:5 makes manifest the fact that as warranted to Abraham in covenant, in his seed will come blessing to all nations. This is no poetic notion; for the very heavens and earth as such, are involved, and when the finalities of faith, its application and its consummation are complete in their time, these same heavens and earth will themselves be dismissed and the divine righteousness, vehicle of grace as well as exposition of truth for man, will endure without those former landmarks and distant assignments of His power (51:6). There is no question of making metaphors a metamorphosis of direct teaching. They adorn. They do not substitute for clear principles and particulars to closely defined listeners.
God then addresses all "in whose heart is My law," at that time especially Israel as a site, but it speaks to any to be in this field of relationship, having mentioned the 'peoples' (51:5) in this scope. There is no need to fear man, He exhorts, or his reproaches, insults; for time is temporary as well as temporal, the worm and the moth symbolising the decay of the created realm itself in time (as also expressed in 51:6), in 51:8. The divine righteousness PLUS HIS salvation will alike endure, so that "mercy and truth" have met together, and "righteousness and peace have kissed," Psalm 85:10.This, it is no passing phase, but comes into the eternal setting (just as the mountains stand apart from the plain through which one is passing).
What God gives to each and to all, is alike made clear, each in its place; but to all comes the essential ingredient, the Gospel. To those receiving it in Israel (Isaiah 54:7-8), as to those beyond its domain (Isaiah 54:5,17), everlasting is His mercy; and to those of Israel, assured are the promises made. Reliable in little things, the Lord is also faithful in larger matters, and altogether wonderful. So even believing Gentiles with the Gospel at hand and in heart, are swept into the same spiritual tenderness and triumph.
But Israel is still centre stage for historical progression and particular. Repeatedly God calls attention to this. Israel in Isaiah 52:8 is reminded of its past participation in the divinely miraculous at the national level, of Egypt's overthrow for its sake, of the Exodus and the payment the Lord made in power and in its application to their national case at that time. As that actually happened, so will this to come. There is to be a restoration eternal in theme and motif, with "everlasting joy" on their heads. Those ransomed by the Lord will be its participants, but the theme returns vigorously to Israel's prominent part in it, to come when it too receives the Lord as in Zechariah 12 and Hosea 14.
In Isaaiah 51:12-15, the Lord addresses Israel (51:15) in terms of the coming overthrow of "the oppressor", indeed making the point in 51:21-23, that those who asked Israel to lie down so that they might walk over them, will find retribution in the change of position, when the cup of punishment will pass from Israel to themselves, proud aggressors, rolling in self-will and self-importance, despising Israel as if it were come kind of fantasy.
It is no fantasy! Fact is as empirical as in the Exodus, when the Lord so acts. It is not to be imaged away into having the oppressor equivalent to sin here, since the emphasis on the particulars of Israel's history is too vast for such light-fingered stealing of context, with re-assignment! We are dealing at this point with the "captive exile," not the converted Gentile, with a nation "swallowed up," with those who have drunk of the Lord's fury in woeful and famous desolation, with destruction and famine the realm of their persecution as living absentees from their Zion, not mere non-arrivals!
Now we turn to the source of the deliverance, indeed to its eternal preparation, and the grandeur of its place in the entirety of history.
Indeed, in Isaiah 51:16, we come to a startling new depth. As Professor E. J. Young pointed out, in Isaiah 49:3 may be translated, "You are My servant, an Israel in whom I will be glorified." In that Chapter 49, the grandeur of deity is shown in His saving work - as indeed its trinitarian beauty in 48:15ff. - in its despatch; and this being so, that matches the theme there. Here we move once more to the uttermost in the "prince of God", in Israel as a designation. Now to the Lord Himself, in parallel with Isaiah 49:3, as in 50, we look, the elect "servant" who succeeded where the earlier one failed (Isaiah 41:28 - 42:3), and we now focus on the One in whom the Lord delights (42:1). Not just to any ordinary Israel, then, do we now lift our eyes, but to the One in whose mouth we learned earlier there is a sharp sword, and who is "hidden" in the "shadow of His hand." Indeed, His words were put into the mouth of this servant, as in 51:16. That is to say, this was seen done prophetically and in preliminary prelude, SO THAT He, the Lord, might create the heavens and the earth.
Thus, if it had not been for this triumphant servant (Isaiah 42:4) to whom is attached the eternal salvation which produces such everlasting joy in its recipients (for its international salvation is a thematic quintessence), then God would never have produced the creation at all. WITHOUT SALVATION, NO CREATION: that was the nature of it. ALL or NOTHING. ALL was chosen and so we have the creatiton, and with this, the undivorceable work for and offer of salvation.
Such is the message in Isaiah 51:16. The entirety of history, without this coming provision, would never have been divinely invented.
The salvation is as portended to Israel, consummated to the peoples, applied to those who receive it, and the FAIL plan was integral to the START plan. As an army may enter a land to overcome it, but have plans for thereafter, or a parent might prepare children for good things, but have plans if these were diverted, thus Lord not only DID, in His thoroughness. He WOULD NOT have been willing without these words, this salvation, this glorious assignment to come, even to create the heavens and the earth.
But it was with this salvation in store, we learn, that He created, and of this He now in Isaiah abundantly informs us (cf. Ephesians 1:4).
Of course with Him, He even foreknew that it would be NECESSARY! so that it was even more than a provision to cover the case before creation, and with creation dependent on its coming! Foreseen it was planned, planned it was done, glorious in conception it was magnificent in performance, and so in Revelation 5 is vast praise for the Christ, the Messiah.
Thus people ought not to imagine, if they know the Lord, that any pressure of circumstances can squash them to a spiritual pulp (cf. Ephesians 1:11); for the Lord not only created, pardons, brings peace, brings the knowledge of Himself to His people as in John 10, Jeremiah 9:23-24! Having prepared salvation itself as a pre-condition for creation, then how much more then does He not forget His people (Romans 8:29ff.), but remember those who trust in Him. These, they will never be ashamed (Isaiah 45:17,24, Romans 9:33).
To Israel through the prophets the word came, but through the Messiah in His saving work, the effectuality was performed.
Now to Israel most vigorously the Lord speaks (Isaiah 51:17ff.). It is not to lurk in the shadows of desolation because of the rigours of its punishment, and the tortures of the nations in their self-important posturing and terrorising grabbings (as planned by Nasser, executed much earlier by many like Louis XIV, the Inquisition and Russia, merely to commence the listing). To be sure, it is has drunk the cup of the Lord's fury, with its injustice and cavalier mishandling of divine matters over so many years (as itemised in Jeremiah 1-20 and Ezekiel's earlier Chapters for example, or in Amos), and of course in its crucifixion of its King (as foretold in Psalm 22 and 16, Micah 5:1-3), it reached an awesome apogee; but the nations will themselves find the meaning of drinking from that cup, that it is not for Israel only, that all have sinned, and many in prodigious domains.
Participating in due recompense for sins is not limited to the persecution of Israel by officious offenders. They enjoyed lording it over Israel, but will find the other side of special interest when it comes to themselves! (cf. Psalm 2, Micah 7, Ezekiel 36-39). They can drink from the same cup! (cf. Micah 7).
For those who receive the salvation of the Lord, with Israel in its time in special focus, there is to be a comfort internal, external, spiritual, eternal to come (Isaiah 51:19); and 52-53 show the extent of the provision, its grandeur. Indeed, speaking of suffering, this with Isaiah 50 shows the viciousness in practical things which the Lord HIMSELF would endure in carrying out His coming saving mission (as in Psalm 69), as foretold in Ezekiel 34. At great cost would He come as the Good Shepherd (cf. Zechariah 13:7, Matthew 26:31), and such a bounty available to all nations, and to all receivers, we see fulfilled in Christ, as in John 10.
By whom then, in the last spiritual analysis, will the Lord comfort Israel ? It is by Himself, who as in Isaiah 40 had directed them to declare in the cities of Judah, "Behold your God," who would take up the lambs in his bosom.
Isaiah 52 then proceeds near its commencement (52:1-6), with a special message to Israel to be both diligent and alert as the prodigious provision of salvation for mankind comes into being, and its inherent realities are put on display, so that he who runs may read, as it is declared.