Isaiah 51: 1 – 23
Crawl Out From Under Your Rock
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.” 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. 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.’ ” 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. 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.”
I am very hesitant to recommend Pastors or teachers to others. There is one man who I would not hesitate to speak highly and who I admire is Charles Stanley. He has a unique manner of teaching delivery which is quite noticeable. He constantly says, ‘listen’. Dr. Stanley imparts these words over and over because he wants his listeners to fully pay attention and take to heart the major point he is attempting to drive home.
We will see from today’s Scriptures that Mr. Stanley is in great company for wanting the people to hear important information from the Lord. For our Great God Jehovah Elyon – The Lord Most High – also wants His people to know and understand some great facts and will use the words ‘listen’.
We now have here in chapter 51 three remarkable calls to faithful Israel, ‘listen’ (verse 1) - ‘attend’ (verse 4) - ‘listen’ (verse 7). They have heard the voice of the Servant (50.10), now it is open to them to respond. And how are they to appreciate the truth about the Servant? They are to look back to Abraham, and to recognize how when he was but one, God blessed him and made him many, and then they are to recognize in this new Servant Someone who is similar to Abraham, for in His purposes Yahweh Is planning to make His people fruitful and bring His blessing on them too, and all this will be through the One who will become many.
Indeed His instruction will go out to the nations, along with His saving purposes, and the isles/coastlands will wait for Him and trust in His arm. The heaven will disappear like a waft of smoke, and the earth will grow old and become worn out, but His salvation will be forever, and His righteous deliverance will not be done away with.
So those who know His word must stand firm and not be afraid. They must be ready to face the reproach of men without fear or dismay, for while the rebellious against God will be eaten up as by moths, those who experience His righteousness and salvation will endure forever.
Here in this chapter Isaiah makes clear that he recognizes that earth and heaven will pass away, but that God’s people will go on forever within His righteous, saving activity. Thus in each case those who do hear and listen can look forward to the everlasting kingdom.
In the passage a clear distinction is made between faithful Israel and the Servant. It is in the Servant that Yahweh’s saving work goes on, and the people receive it at His hands. They are to trust and not be afraid as they behold His powerful activity.
“Listen to me you who follow after righteousness, you who seek Yahweh. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who bore you, for when he was but one I called him, and I blessed him and made him many.”
Have you ever heard someone say to another, ‘Why don’t you crawl back to under the rock from where you came?’ It is an insult in case you were wondering. In actuality you are calling the person a snake. In this portion we see a verse which seems like this statement but in reality is not the same. It says, ‘Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.’ Our great ancestor is Adam. From the bible we know that our Holy Creator made him from the ground. Could we see here somewhat the act of his creation by our Majestic Holy Maker. Our God Is not saying anything insulting. He Is just telling it like it is. We are all also just expanded dirt. It’s just that some are better looking dirt than others.
Isaiah now speaks to the believers in Israel, the faithful, those who follow after righteousness and seek Yahweh – Father God.
[Now listen] To ‘seek’ does not mean try to find Him, but to seek to enter into all His fullness. The believers know Him and they want to enjoy Him more fully. He tells them to look to Abraham, their father, and to Sarah who bore them. They are now all seen as descendants of Abraham by faith, and within the line of promise through Sarah. He is the rock from which they were hewn, and if they look back they can see the hole in the quarry from which they were dug. They were dug out of him. Thus their position and privilege stems from Abraham.
This ‘descent’ was of course a descent through faith. The majority of them were not literally descended from Abraham. But they had all become linked in one way or another with the family tribe of Abraham and the covenant with Yahweh. All who truly believe in Yahweh are thus sons of Abraham.
These are the many coming from the one, and associated with him as God’s Servant. They had entered the land in him. It was in him that they were called. It was in him that they were to be blessed. It was because Abraham, with Sarah their ‘mother’, was the called one who came and triumphed and defeated and trod down the enemy and divided the spoil (like a bird of prey) that he was so important. The land has become his through his descendants. The mention of Sarah is important because it limits the application of the illustration. It was only given to the spiritual ‘descendants’ of Abraham/Sarah, the children of promise.
The stress on Abraham’s ‘oneness’ gives special significance to the previous reference to ‘the one’, the unique One. Just as Abraham was called as one and became many, so the Servant is to be called as One and will be made many. God’s pattern is repeating itself. Many will come from the One.
Abraham was of course never literally ‘but one’. He came with his wife and his servants, and his herds and flocks. But he was ‘but one’ with regard to his position with God. Then all the others were irrelevant. It was one man and his God. It was from that relationship that the many were blessed. And thus is it to be with the Servant. From One Man and His God will come the promised blessing and the manifold seed and the division of the spoil, as with Abraham. So let them look back to Abraham to whom they trace their antecedents, and see that all that was promised in Abraham is now to be fulfilled in Yahweh’s greater Servant who is coming, the great Seed of Abraham – The Lord Jesus Christ.
“For Yahweh has comforted Zion. He has comforted all her waste places, and has made her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the Garden of Yahweh. Joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of song.”
The blessing of Abraham is here described in the blessing of his seed, as though it were already accomplished. His being blessed was not just the blessing of having many seed, but of what that seed would enjoy.
If you are familiar with biblical history then you know that this hasn’t happened yet. When God has completed His work all her wilderness and waste places will become like Eden, a new Paradise. The effects of the curse will have been removed. It will be made like the Garden of Yahweh. It will be filled with singing. And it is offered to ‘Zion’, God’s wayward people as symbolized by Jerusalem. If only they will they can respond and enjoy His blessing. The devastations of the past will be forgotten. The wilderness will become Paradise, and her people full of gladness and praise and song.
“Attend to me, O my people, and give ear to me, O my nation. For instruction (a law) shall go forth from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light to the peoples. My righteousness is near, my salvation is gone forth, and My arms will judge the peoples. The isles will wait for Me, and on My arm they will trust.”
All are to learn from Him. For His righteous activity is about to happen (is ‘near’ in God’s timing) and His deliverance has, as far as He is concerned, already gone forth. It is on offer if men will but receive it. Then His arms will judge the peoples, bringing about justice and righteousness (they will be ruled under His mighty arm). He will Himself rule over them with power. The distant isles and coastlands will wait for Him in ready obedience and they will rely on His power.
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, and the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in the same way. But my deliverance will be forever, and my righteousness will not be abolished.”
The description above can only apply to an eternal kingdom, for here we read that earth and heaven are to pass away. In a dying world, death is to be the lot of all men, but we read and understand that God’s people are to enjoy everlasting deliverance and permanent righteous rule. So Isaiah is making clear that all His promises have been pointing towards that which is above.
To help us understand his point an example is given. The call is to consider both heavens and earth. Smoke in the heavens was regularly seen when armies invaded, when stubble was burned or when there were fires in forests. But always the smoke eventually faded and disappeared. So, also will the heavens disappear in days to come, rapidly like thinning, wispy smoke. Similarly the earth will age like old clothing ages, to be thrown away. The thought, in parallel to what happens to the heavens, is that it too will come to an end. What is more all earth dwellers will die ‘in the same way’, that is, like old, tossed aside clothing.
“Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my instruction (law). Do not fear the reproach of men, nor be dismayed at their reviling (virulent insults). For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool. But my righteous deliverance (righteousness) will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.”
The fact that there are three calls, emphasize the threefold completeness of the message. All are concerned with righteousness. In the first they are people who follow after righteousness and seek Yahweh (verse 1). In the second His righteousness is near to come (verse 5). Here in the third the hearers ‘know’ righteousness. Thus His faithful people are in mind.
In the second His instruction went out to the nations to enlighten them, here He speaks to those in whose heart is His instruction. It may be that we are to see a progression from the people who look back to Abraham their father, to the nations who receive His instruction and light and come under His righteous jurisdiction, moving forward to a combination of these two as one people, conveying the idea of the reproach that they will face, and the triumph that will be theirs.
If that be so He addresses all His own as a people who know righteousness, they have heard it spoken of, they have come to an understanding of it, and they live it out in their experience.
Look at the statement again. People come to church and hear about the ‘righteousness of our Great God’. They fully understand this point. And here is the kicker, ‘they live it out in their lives’. Now a question to ask all is this, ‘Is this happening in the lives of Christians today?’ Our Lord Jesus said that when He returns to earth, will He find anyone with believing faith?’
The command to them is then not to regard the reproaches of men (’enosh - weak and frail man), or their insults and vile words, for they are to recognize that the destiny of such people is to wear away, for like old clothing they will be eaten by moths and devoured by worms. In contrast the faithful will enjoy God’s everlasting righteous deliverance, and a salvation that goes on and on and on. They will enjoy the everlasting kingdom.
The work of the Servant has resulted in Israel turning to God and the nations receiving His light. His task is seen as fulfilled.
God having given to His faithful people the commands to ‘listen -- attend -- listen’ the prophet now calls on Yahweh also to awaken on behalf of His people, for Him too there is a plea that He listen to the call of His people. It is then followed by a call to all His people to awake. Thus there is a threefold call to ‘awake, awake’, in 51.9; 51.17 and 52.1, firstly to Yahweh and then to His people. The tension is now mounting. Note the constant use of repetition. ‘Awake, awake’ (three times). ‘Depart, depart’ (52.11). There is a sense of urgency. This will then be followed by the depiction of the cost of the salvation that is being offered to them in 52.13-53.12, as the Servant’s destiny is described in full. The culmination of their deliverance is near.
‘Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of Yahweh. Awake as in the days of old, the generations of ancient times. Are you not it that cut Rahab in pieces, that pierced the monster? Are you not it that dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, Who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over? And the ransomed of Yahweh will return and come with singing to Zion, and everlasting joy will be on their heads, they will obtain gladness and joy, sorrow and sighing will flee away.’
Isaiah replies to Yahweh’s wakening call and in turn calls on the arm of Yahweh to awake and put on His strength. It is a cry for God to reveal His power as He has done in the past. To once more act as He did of old. For it was then that His mighty arm cut Rahab in pieces and pierced the monster. Here Egypt is vividly described in terms of a mythical monster as defeated by Yahweh, but contained within it is the thought that no gods can stand before El Shaddai – Almighty God.
He dried up the sea, the mighty deep, and made a way for His redeemed people to pass through. Now the cry is that He might do it again. He redeemed them then, so let Him now enable His redeemed people to return to Him and come with singing to Zion. This includes all His people who are redeemed, not just those in exile. All are to unite in returning to Him and coming to Zion. The whole idea is of coming into His presence and becoming one with Him.
They will obtain gladness and joy. Sorrow and sighing will flee away.’ These words are cited almost exactly from chapter 35 verse 10. The same words are here repeated emphasizing the fulfillment of his prophecy soon to come. This is more than the earthly Zion, for here they will find everlasting joy. All will be gladness and joy. There will be no more sorrow and sighing, it will simply take to its heels and flee. It is the Paradise of verse 3, the place of everlasting deliverance spoken of in verse 6.
Yahweh then responds to the plea, speaking to His faithful ones in their weakness and fear.
“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?
Please note the strength behind the reply. ‘I, I’ parallels the repetition in ‘awake, awake’. God wants them to recognize, that His reply is right on target with their concern.
The basic question is for all to take inventory is ‘why they are terrified of frail mortal man, the son of man who will wither and perish like the grass?’
So Yahweh’s reply is that He is indeed there as the One Who will comfort them all, that is Who will act on their behalf with His strength, and will protect them. Why then is each one so afraid? They are not such as should fear man who keeps on dying and has been appointed to wither like grass. But they do fear because they have forgotten Yahweh Who made them, the same One Who by His mighty power stretched out the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth.
Have any of you been afraid of someone else. Someone who is a bully, someone who has intimidated you? I know I have. This is a reminder that we all need to write down and keep it handy for future reference.
So how foolish they are to fear the oppressor continually all the day because of his fury and intention to destroy. For where is his fury? From now on it will be as nothing, because Yahweh is at work.
“The one who cowers will speedily be set free, and he will not die and go down into the pit, nor will his bread fail.”
So those who fear should not fear, for as they cower in their fear they will be set free (and should not therefore be cowering). They are awaiting God’s great deliverance. Indeed even their bread will not fail. For God is with them. This indicates His people’s position as being like prisoners cowering in their cells, afraid and under the authority of outsiders, fearful of death or of not receiving sufficient food. The assurance is not that no one will suffer in the near future, but that all may recognize that in the final outcome they will prosper. We must keep in mind here.
“For I am Yahweh your God, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar. Yahweh of hosts Is His Name. And I have put my words in your mouth, and have covered you in the shadow of my hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are my people’.”
And the reason why they need not fear is because Yahweh is their God, and it is He Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar. It was He Who stirred up the sea when they were redeemed from Egypt, and made the waves roar against their enemy. And He still has the same power, so that it is clear that they need fear no one. He is Master of the waves.
Have you ever been on or near the ocean during a storm? Have you ever seen a Tsunami? Now, here are some reasons to be afraid?
He is the Master of the deep as revealed by His victory over Rahab/Egypt, but here the thought is not so much of His redeemed walking through the sea, but of Him as making the waves roar to defeat their enemies. For He is Yahweh of hosts, the God of battle. He Is the One Who Is Commander of heavens angels.
‘And I have put my words in your mouth, and have covered you in the shadow of my hand.’ As His true and redeemed people they too will assist in the fulfilling of the Servant’s task. For God will put His words in their mouth (the tense indicating that it is already seen as certain and complete) and has brought them under His protection so that they might carry His words everywhere.
The shadow of His hand parallels the Servant’s protection in 49.2. There it was connected with His sword. So here ‘my words in your mouth’ are probably to be seen as the equivalent of their receiving their sword with the protecting hand of Yahweh over them. It will be like the shadow of a tree protecting from the sun, although much more effective and substantial, protecting from all that can harm. They share the Servant’s weapons.
By the way, what is the sword in the bible? It is the bible. This is our offensive weapons to overcome anything and anyone.
‘That I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are my people’.’ Thereby He will plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and be able to claim Zion finally as His true people. The new heavens, earth and Jerusalem are already envisaged and we will read about it in chapter 64 verse 17-18, brought in by the activity of His Servant. ‘Plant’ and ‘lay the foundations’ are both indications of beginning a new thing. Note how Zion is no longer Jerusalem but represents His people.
We saw in verse 6 that the heavens were to disappear in a similar way in which smoke disperses, and that the earth would grow old and worn, and that all in it would die. But here we have the consequence for the true people of God. New heavens will be planted; a new earth will be founded. And then His people will have full recognition for what they are. All this is the literal truth. I can’t wait!
These words are spoken in view of Yahweh’s previous ‘awaking’ (verse 9) and are to stir up Israel to respond, having drunk sufficiently of God’s anger against their sins. Again it is followed by a word of assurance and promise from Yahweh. He will remove that which is causing her distress and her dreadful condition, and will pass it over to her enemies.
‘Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, who has drunk at the hand of Yahweh the cup of his fury. You have drunk the bowl of the cup of staggering, and have drained it.’
Their position is first stated. They (represented as Jerusalem) had been under His wrath and made to drink of the cup of His fury, the cup that had rendered them helpless and unable to cope, so that they have staggered and collapsed. But now they have drunk it and drunk it to the full, so that His anger against their sin is over. The cup represents all the historical events that have come on them leaving them destitute and helpless, the consequence of God’s anger over the continual sin and rebellion that had finally become too much. ‘The cup of staggering’ does not just refer to being drunk, but to having come to such a drunken state that is impossible to recover. They have reached the final stages of delirium.
So now they are to ‘stand up’. Note that while Yahweh’s arm was to ‘put on strength’ on awakening (verse 9), all that is required of Jerusalem is that they ‘stand up’, that they stagger to their feet. All that is required is that they stand and see the salvation of Yahweh. Our Holy Yahweh, Father God, will do the rest.
The picture is vivid, Jerusalem slumped like a disheveled woman by the wayside, drunk, prone and helpless, and now being exhorted to pull themselves together and stand up because God is about to act. For without God her situation is hopeless as we will now see.
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.
But what hope is there for her if she stands up? There is no one to take her by the hand and lead her. She has had many sons, the people of Jerusalem and Judah, those who had claimed that they were the people of God, but they cannot help her. For they themselves have fainted away, having become hopeless drunkards, and having collapsed at the road heads, unable to get home. They are like an antelope caught in a net, thrashing about and not free to do anything, a permanent victim with no hope of recovery. For they too are under the heavy hand of Yahweh because of their sins, they are still surfeited with Yahweh’s fury, God’s rebuke.
And she has faced two things, desolation and destruction in terms of dire famine and sword. This is what has actually caused her state, continual bouts of famine and invasion. But there is none to bemoan her for they are all taken up with their own deep problems. With her sons in the condition that they are, how is God to comfort her?
The aim is to demonstrate how totally helpless she is, so that from an earthly point of view God can find her no comfort. Her position is totally hopeless. What on earth can she do? The answer is - nothing.
However, there is an answer, and God will provide it. But before that answer is produced the truth must be out.
“Therefore hear now this, you afflicted and drunken, but not with wine.”
Here is the truth of the matter. Her drunkenness is not due to wine, it is due to that which has brought on them God’s wrath and rebuke, His fierce anger (verse 20). It is due to sin. It is due to a never ending life of wickedness and rebellion against God. And it results in their not being aware of Yahweh’s words which was pointed out in chapter 29 verse 9-10. This is why no one can help her, for her sins are too deep-dyed.
“Thus says the Lord Yahweh, and your God, who pleads the cause of his people. See, I have taken out of your hand the cup of staggering, even the bowl of the cup of my fury. You will no more drink it again. And I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you, Who have said to your inner heart, ‘Bow down that we may go over’. And you have laid your back as the ground, and as the street to those who go over.”
Indeed her full humiliation is now described. As a drunken woman in the street those who had afflicted her had taunted her and told her to lie there while they walked all over her, and she had done as she was bidden. She had become the lowest of the low, the drunken plaything of drunkards. Everyone walked over her.
But now Yahweh steps in, the One Who makes the plea for the cause of His people, their judge. He will take the cup from her hand, the cup that is causing her all the trouble, and give it to those who afflict her. She will be released from her problem, and it will be laid on others. She has Yahweh’s promise that she will be made free. It remains for the next verses to reveal how this will come about.
‘You will no more drink it again.’ Isaiah thus has the final everlasting kingdom in mind. The cup will then be given to those who take part in the final judgment.
Who then is Jerusalem in this sad picture? As with all illustrations we must not press too closely. In one sense it is all Israel, for all will be welcomed if they come. Certainly they are all drunk and have drunk of the cup of His fury. But in the finality it is those who will respond and will come to Yahweh, and listen to the voice of His Servant. It is only they who can be sure that the cup of Yahweh’s fury has been taken from them. It is only they who can stand rightly and recover to walk again. And certainly it is they who are spoken of in the next verses. It is the holy seed who come from the remnant who are left.
Are you part of those who have responded to Adoni Yahweh. He has said for us to look to His Son, Adoni Yeshua for Salvation. He Is the Great Servant spoken about in ages past. Look to Him and be saved!