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Bible Commentaries

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
Isaiah 51

 

 

Verses 1-23

Tonight we have a marvelous study as we look at Isaiah, chapters51-55 , in which the prophet sees so clearly the suffering and the rejection of God"s provision for man in sending His Son to die for our sins. In fact, these prophecies of Isaiah so clearly describe what did happen to Jesus Christ in His rejection, in His suffering, in His death, it is as though they were written after it happened rather than600 years before it happened.

The Lord is calling unto the nation of Israel, unto His people, and God calls unto them to hearken to Him.

Ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD ( Isaiah 51:1 ):

Two important things: following after righteousness, seeking the Lord. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness" ( Matthew 5:6 ).

look to the rock from whence ye are hewn ( Isaiah 51:1 ),

Actually, they are encouraged to look back to their roots. To look back to Abraham. To the heritage that they had. To the covenant that God had made with their fathers.

and to the hole of the pit whence ye were digged. Look unto Abraham your father, to Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all of her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody ( Isaiah 51:1-3 ).

So God speaks of what is yet a future day of restoration. As God will restore again the nation of Israel in full glory, in full beauty, in full blessing. And their wilderness areas will become like the Garden of Eden, and the desert like the garden of the Lord.

It is interesting how that it would seem that already we can see the beginnings of the fulfillment of this prophecy. As you see the areas that were once so barren and deserty down around Beersheba and you see now the beautiful crops that are grown in that area. However, there are troublous times yet ahead for the nation of Israel. These people that have endured such tragedy through their history have yet another seven years in which they are to be tested to the limits. Jeremiah called these seven years, "the time of Jacob"s trouble." They will be forced to flee the land once more. But not this time for a millennium or two, but they will be out of the land for about three-and-a-half years, as once more a world leader turns his wrath against these people. But at the end of that period is when God is going to restore the glory unto the nation, for the Messiah shall come and He will establish God"s kingdom and God"s throne upon the earth. And He will rule from Zion, and at this time this prophecy of Isaiah shall be fulfilled as God just brings a whole new condition to the earth as He restores the earth to its glory, to its beauty, before the fall of man in Genesis.

There are some very interesting things that Isaiah has prophesied concerning the future and concerning the earth from a purely physical standpoint. As he talks about the earth staggering to and fro and like a drunken man and being removed out of her place.

Now back prior to the time of the flood that came as the result of God"s judgment upon the earth, before the flood the earth had a canopy around it, a water canopy that actually reflected much of the cosmic radiation that is really... has a detrimental effect upon life and upon life forms. Prior to the flood, this heavy moisture shield in the atmosphere shielded the earth from much of this cosmic radiation. As the result, man lived an average of around nine hundred years. Thus, man was able to develop during that period of time his mental capacities to a great extent. Think of being able to continue to learn for nine hundred years. They say that man only uses about twenty percent of his brain and his brain capacities. Well, that"s because we"re only here such a short time. What can you learn in a hundred years? But if you could go on learning, absorbing for nine hundred years, you"d be using much more of your capacity, brain capacity, and you"d be able to do many more interesting things. Now as we study some of the architecture and some of the buildings that these people created, we find out that they had all kinds of sciences that are astounding as you look at ancient man. He wasn"t some grunting half-beast with a club dragging his wife by the hair into the cave. He was a highly intelligent being. And he had marvelous capacities intellectually. In fact, Adam was able to name all of the animals according to their characteristics. Took tremendous genius for that.

Now in that kind of earth you would never really have a dark night because all of this moisture would give you the diffused light of the sun all night long. And thus, you would have much longer growing periods and everything would grow larger in that because of the fact that you wouldn"t be bombarded by these cosmic rays which would begin the mutation of cells which would create the breaking down. And so they have discovered how large many of the animals were before the flood as they look at some of these animals that were caught in the flood and through the sediment were kept in place, they found cockroaches that were a foot long. Man, you wouldn"t go after them with your shoe. You"d go after them with a shotgun, you know. Asparagus ferns sixty feet tall. All kinds of tropical vegetation up in the North Pole area. And the whole earth was no doubt just a lush, beautiful, glorious place.

God"s going to restore it to such a state, and He speaks about it here. As the waste places will be restored, the wilderness like Eden, and the deserts like the garden of the Lord, joy and gladness will be found therein, thanksgiving, the voice of melody.

Again, God, as He began in verse Isaiah 51:1 , cries to the people to hearken.

Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people ( Isaiah 51:4 ).

The Lord is going to come. He will sit in judgment and the law will proceed from Him as Jesus Christ comes to reign in righteousness.

My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the coasts shall wait upon me, and upon mine arm shall they trust ( Isaiah 51:5 ).

So the universal trusting in the Lord.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished ( Isaiah 51:6 ).

So the heavens shall vanish away. Peter describes the vanishing away of the heavens in Second Peter chapter2. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall never pass away" ( Matthew 24:35 ). It is interesting that the earth is growing old. "The earth shall wax old like a garment." The universe, according to the great scientist Sir Herschel Gene, like a giant clock that was wound up and is gradually slowing or winding down, the sun loses one million, two hundred thousand tons of mass every second. Fortunately, it"s large enough to continue to support life in the next ten billion years. So you don"t have to stay awake at night worrying about the fact that the sun is gradually burning out. But that isn"t so gradual. One million... or one billion two hundred. Or one million, two hundred thousand tons of mass per second. And so the earth growing old like a garment. The heavens will one day vanish away, but the Word of God shall endure forever.

And at that time God is going to create a "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" ( 2 Peter 3:13 ). The old will not be remembered or brought into mind. The whole new order that God is going to create for us. An order that knows no chaos. An order that knows no decay. An order that knows no sin or rebellion. Just the glorious kingdom of God and everything in the universe subject unto that kingdom.

Hearken unto me ( Isaiah 51:7 ),

The third cry of God for them to hearken.

ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation ( Isaiah 51:7-8 ).

And so for the righteous enduring forever. For the evil that would reproach the righteous or revile them, they will be destroyed. "The moth will eat them up like a garment, the worm shall eat them like wool." Jesus in describing the conditions of Gehenna said, "Where their worm dieth not, neither is the fire quenched" ( Mark 9:44 ). The wicked shall be cast into hell and all those that forsake God. But the righteous they shall endure, they shall be forever and ever.

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD ( Isaiah 51:9 );

Now here is the response of the people to God. God thrice called them to hearken to Him. And so they said, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord." There are times when it would appear to us that God is asleep. How can God be so patient with the blasphemies of man? How can God put up with evil as He does? Why does He allow evil people to go on for a period of prosperity? Why doesn"t He smite them down immediately? This is a problem. It troubles me. If I were God, I"d just wipe them out so fast their heads would be swimming. "Just take that, you little rat! You want to go that way? All right," you know. Smack! But God is so patient. He lets people get by with so much. They blaspheme Him. They mock Him. They ridicule Him. And it"s like He doesn"t even... it"s like He"s sleeping. He doesn"t even know. And so the people cry, "Wake up, God, wake up. Put on strength, O arm of the Lord."

awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? ( Isaiah 51:9 )

Now Rahab is a poetic reference to Egypt. He uses it also in the thirtieth chapter in the seventh verse. It"s just the poetic reference to Egypt. And so he is. "Wake up, God, wake up. You are the God that was showing Yourself so powerful in our history and especially in the deliverance out of Egypt."

Art thou not the one which hath dried the sea, and the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over? ( Isaiah 51:10 )

And so the reference to the drying of the Red Sea to make a path for the people of God to pass through.

I have very little patience for those men that classify themselves "higher critics" who try to talk about a Sea of Reeds that is usually only a foot or so deep, that the children of Israel passed through. And that quite often when a strong wind blows for a period of time it sort of forces back the tide of that sea from this one area where they presume the children of Israel went across. But in reality, they tell us that the sea is only about a foot deep at that area. And thus, it really wasn"t much of a miracle that they did cross. Well, as far as the nation of Israel was concerned it was a marvelous miracle. They looked upon it as a marvelous miracle, and here the reference is to the depths of the sea. And even to the waters of the great deep. Now Isaiah was much closer to the time and he understood the language much better than these modern critics of the Bible who pass themselves off as biblical scholars. And I will go along with Isaiah much quicker than I will these men today. For if indeed they"ve made the sea only a foot deep, they surely have not removed the miraculous from the story, because it"s a miracle how God could drown the whole Egyptian army in one foot of water. You see, you might try to figure out one way, but you"re only creating another problem.

"You dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; You"ve made the depths of the sea a path for the ransomed to pass over." The ransomed, of course, were those who through the Lamb that was slain in Egypt were ransomed.

Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return ( Isaiah 51:11 ),

The future day when God is going to gather again the people when Christ returns in power and great glory. Then shall He gather together the elect from the four corners of the earth. As the Jews will be gathered back into the land, "the redeemed of the Lord shall return."

and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away ( Isaiah 51:11 ).

What a glorious day that is going to be, the glorious day of the Lord when He comes to establish the kingdom of God upon the earth and He again takes Israel as His people, as His bride. And they recognize Him, and there is this glorious receiving and accepting, each of the other.

I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass ( Isaiah 51:12 );

Jesus said, "Don"t be afraid of those that kill your body, and after that have no power. But rather fear Him, that after the body is killed has power to cast your soul into Gehenna; yea, I say unto you, "Fear ye Him"" ( Luke 12:4-5 ). The Bible says, "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoso will put his trust in the Lord shall be saved" ( Proverbs 29:25 ). And again, why should you fear man who is going to die himself? Son of man whose life is as the grass of the field which today is and tomorrow is dried and cast into the oven?

And forget the LORD your Maker, that stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? where is the fury of the oppressor? The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail. But I am the LORD thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The LORD of hosts is his name ( Isaiah 51:13-15 ).

Now you see, for a moment they cried unto God, "Wake up, wake up, put on strength, O arm of the Lord. Awake. And aren"t You the God that brought our fathers through the sea and all?" And in verse Isaiah 51:11 , God begins to speak again of the glorious future as the redeemed of the Lord returns and God declares, "I am He that comforteth you. Why should you be afraid of man? I"m the One that is with you. I"m the One that brought your fathers through the sea, divided the sea whose waves roared. The Lord of hosts is His name."

And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people ( Isaiah 51:16 ).

God declares, "Hey, thou art My people." Oh, what a tragic thing it is that people misread the Bible and say that God is through with the nation of Israel. He cut her off forever. God forbid!

Now as if to say, "Hey, I"m not the One that"s sleeping. You"re the ones that are sleeping," God says to them,

Awake, awake ( Isaiah 51:17 ),

The same thing they said. So many times we say to God, "Awake, God, awake." And He says, "I"m not sleeping." And He calls; we"re the ones that are sleeping. We"re the ones that don"t see what"s really going on.

Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; you have drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out. There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up ( Isaiah 51:17-18 ).

They are lacking in real leadership.

These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation, and destruction, and famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee? ( Isaiah 51:19 )

So he speaks of the terrible time of tribulation that they will go through as they experience desolation, destruction, famine, the sword. And really no one seems to be concerned. It is interesting today how that the whole world seems to be willing to just dump these people. And yet God declares that they are His people and He will receive them again.

Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of thy God. Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith the Lord the LORD, thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again ( Isaiah 51:20-22 ):

The day will be over. No more tribulation for these people. There will be this glorious reuniting of them with their God and God with them.

But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee: which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over ( Isaiah 51:23 ).

And so God is going to put His hand against those that have afflicted them. When Jesus comes back, His first duty is going to be that of judging the earth. And the judgment will be of the nations will be relative to their treatment of the Jews, as He says, "Come, ye blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom. I was hungry, and you fed Me: thirsty, and you gave me to drink." "Lord, when did we see You?" "Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these My brethren [speaking of the Jews], you did it unto Me. Those that are on the left, depart from Me, you workers of iniquity. I was hungry, you did not feed Me: thirsty, you did not give Me to drink," and so forth. "Lord, when did we see You this way?" "Inasmuch as you did it not to the least of these My brethren" ( Matthew 25:34-45 ). So the Lord here affirms much of what Jesus declared there as God will take up their cause once more.

But you say, "Why was God so severe with them? It seems that they have suffered more than any other race of people." Well, that is not completely true. There are other races of people that have been totally obliterated. They no longer exist. Many races of people that have been completely wiped out. However, the reason for the severity is this: the Lord said, "Unto whom much is given, much is required" ( Luke 12:48 ). And that should be a warning to us who have received so much from God; so much of the understanding of God"s purposes and God"s plans. We who have come to an understanding of His truth and of His Word. There comes with that understanding an incumbent responsibility to walk according to the understanding. To live in harmony with that which we know. This they failed to do. God had given them much. What advantage then doth hath the Jew? Paul said, "Much and in every way." Unto them were committed the oracles of God. And the covenants and the promises and the fathers and the law and the statutes. God gave them so much. And the more God gives you, the greater is your responsibility unto God for those things that you have received. They failed in their responsibility, and that is why God has dealt so severely is because they turned against all of that background and knowledge and all that God had given to them. "Unto whom much is given, much is required."

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Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.

Bibliography Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 51:4". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/isaiah-51.html. 2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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