Christ persuadeth the church to believe his free redemption, to receive the ministers thereof, to join in the power thereof, and to free themselves from bondage. Christ's kingdom shall be exalted.
Before Christ 719.
Isaiah 52:1-2. Awake, &c.— This second apostrophe is again directed to the church, about the time of the manifestation of the kingdom of God. The prophet, by the Spirit, beholds this church, heretofore brought out of Egypt, and delivered from the Assyrians, again, to its great grief, mixed with the profane and impure multitude, by whose means the name of God was daily blasphemed, Isaiah 52:5. He commands her, therefore, to lay aside her old dress, which was suitable to the ancient dispensation, and to assume a new and spiritual one, as being now about to enter upon that state and oeconomy, which should exclude the hypocrite and profane. The metaphor is taken from a virgin, or any woman in distress, to whom, sitting as a captive, amidst grief and defilement, her bridegroom or husband being absent, news of immediate deliverance are brought, and of the change of her present condition for the better; wherein, united to her husband, she should enjoy all the prosperity that she desired; and who for that purpose is ordered to dress and adorn herself agreeably to this state. By the uncircumcised and the unclean, are to be understood, in a mystical sense, the impure in heart and work. See 2 Corinthians 7:1. Revelation 21:27.
Isaiah 52:3-6. For thus saith the Lord— In the third verse, which sets forth the true redemption of the church of Christ, we have the foundation of the preceding exhortation; of which this redemption was the true and proper cause. When the time of redemption was at hand, it became the church to assume the dress proper for that season, and to assert its liberty. The meaning of the expression, Ye have sold yourselves for nought, is, "Ye have been delivered into the power of those who have heretofore held you in slavery, without any price paid to me;" and, Ye shall be redeemed without money, means, "Ye shall be redeemed without any price paid by you. This whole redemption shall be my work, and the effect of my mere grace and favour." The prophet proceeds to a fuller explication of the command, and of the necessity of the redemption, from the condition of the people with respect to the preceding time, Isaiah 52:4 and the present time, Isaiah 52:5. The fourth verse is elliptical, and should be thus supplied; "At the beginning my people went down into Egypt, not to possess that country, but to sojourn in it; and there they were unjustly oppressed, and delivered from thence by me with a stretched-out arm." Again, "The Assyrian oppressed them for nothing, that is, without any just cause; only incited thereto by the desire of rule: nor was I then wanting to my people, but procured them deliverance. Therefore, when now I see them again oppressed, and that by their own rulers, and brought into spiritual servitude with the blasphemy of my name, Isaiah 52:5 shall I desert them? They shall know my name, Isaiah 52:6. They shall have the clearest revelation of my power, they shall know that I am God their Redeemer." See John 8:24.
Isaiah 52:7-8. How beautiful, &c.— While the Son of God manifested himself in the flesh to his people, the prophet, immediately rapt into ecstacy, beholds first the evangelists, chosen by the Lord throughout Judaea; then the apostles, and their contemporaries, departing by the Lord's command from Jerusalem; announcing throughout the whole world, by the preaching of the Gospel, the good tidings of salvation prepared for all people without distinction, and inviting them to a participation of this salvation. It is impossible to apply these words to any other than the first preachers of the Gospel, without wresting them in the strongest manner possible: Ευαγγελιον, the Gospel, is, literally, good tidings. See Luke 2:10. Vitringa renders the eighth verse, The voice of the watchmen; they lift up the voice; together do they sing; or they sing in concert. For men shall see with both eyes, when the Lord shall have restored Zion. Vitringa supposes that the watchmen here mean the prophets, who answer to, or sing in concert with the evangelists; for between these there is the utmost harmony; so that what the prophets have foretold as to be fulfilled, the evangelists relate as fulfilled. Believers therefore, in the voice of the evangelists, acknowledge the words of the prophet.
Isaiah 52:9-10. Break forth into joy— See chap. Isaiah 44:23, Isaiah 49:13. The figure here used is single, designed to set forth the greatness and excellence of the benefit of redemption. This address first animates the restored church to celebrate the divine praises with its utmost power; and secondly sets forth the reason of this exhortation, drawn from the greatness of the benefit, which is proposed in the middle of the ninth verse, and more largely set forth in the 10th. By the arm of the Lord, we are to understand the divine power, particularly as discernible in the establishment and wonderful progress of the Gospel. By the waste places of Jerusalem, the prophet means the church as in its state of desolation, just before the time, here alluded to, of its restoration and deliverance.
Isaiah 52:11-12. Depart ye, &c.— They who compose the true church are set forth in this apostrophe, as in the communion of a certain polluted people and state. They are commanded to separate themselves from this people and its communion, and, being properly purified, to depart thence upon a certain expedition, to be undertaken with mature and deliberate counsel, under the care and protection of the divine providence. This office is especially imposed upon the sacred persons, who are here called those that bear the vessels of the Lord. The highest hope of success in their expedition is given them from their leader, Jehovah. The apostles and evangelists are here addressed, who were to depart from spiritual servitude, from every defilement of the world and the flesh, and to go forth and preach the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. The expressions seem to allude to the departure from Egypt. The meaning of the passage in the 12th verse, For ye shall not go out with haste, &c. is, that they should not undertake this expedition in an inconsiderate, tumultuous, and fearful manner. See Deuteronomy 16:3 and Vitringa.
Isaiah 52:13-15. Behold, my servant shall deal prudently— The prophet having proceeded thus far in setting forth the redemption designed for true believers, and the manner and means of manifesting this great work, as well as the success of it, in the conversion of the Gentiles; he now introduces God the Father declaring the foundation and cause of what had been already foretold; namely, the obedience paid by the Messiah to the Father in extreme humiliation, and in its subsequent glorious exaltation:—to the end of this chapter. This argument being of the greatest importance, and containing a doctrine absolutely necessary to faith in Christ Jesus as the Messiah, Isaiah treats of this mystery more as an evangelist than as a prophet, and explains it in the fullest and clearest manner in the following sections; which are so connected with the present period as to contain the elucidation, confirmation, and more complete detail of it. Many commentators join these three verses with the following chapter, the whole of which the ancient Jews have applied to the Messiah, though they would not acknowledge in our Jesus those characters which we discern so manifestly in him from this prophesy. The Chaldee, instead of servant, Isaiah 52:13 reads, the Messiah. The word ישׂכיל iaskiil, translated shall deal prudently, is rendered both by Vitringa and Bishop Chandler, shall prosper, or go on prosperously. See Jeremiah 23:5. The bishop paraphrases the three verses thus: "Behold the Messiah, my servant, who comes to do my will, and therefore appears in the form of my servant, he shall at the last go on prosperously; he shall be exalted in his kingdom, and appear in majesty, honour, and power, far above the greatest earthly potentate, Isaiah 52:14. This exaltation is a just reward of his abasement, which was lower than that of the lowest man. As many shall be struck with wonder and despondency at his mean, inglorious appearance, whom they expected to find in the form of the kings of the earth; Isaiah 52:15 so he, in his turn, shall sprinkle many nations with astonishment at his advancement, and the surprising instances he shall give of his authority and power, and thereupon they shall become his disciples by baptism. Out of respect or fear of him, Gentile kings shall keep silence; and they to whom no prophets were sent, nor promises made of a Saviour, shall consider and receive his doctrine when it shall be preached to them, and confirmed by miracles and other extraordinary demonstrations of divine power." The Hebrew word יזה iazzeh, rendered sprinkle, has properly that signification. See Leviticus 16:34. Numbers 8:7, and so the Messiah is promised to sprinkle with clean water, &c. Ezekiel 36:25. From hence it is used for to surprise and astonish, as people are who have much water thrown upon them; and this sense is followed by the LXX. The Jews, who asked John, (ch. Isaiah 1:25.) why he baptized, if he were not the Christ? plainly shew that they understood this text as indicating one of the offices of the Messiah; which was, to sprinkle with water, or baptize. See 1 Peter 1:2. Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 12:24 and Bishop Chandler's Defence, p. 147.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, By an elegant figure Jerusalem is here described as a mourner in the most abject distress, sitting in the dust, stripped of every ornament, wasted with sorrow, and ready to sleep the sleep of death. And herein she is the figure of the church, under the prevalence of antichrist, when the power of true religion is reduced to the lowest ebb. In this afflicted state,
1. God awakens her with his calls; bids her arise, and shake herself from the dust; put on her beautiful garments, recover her decayed strength, and loose the captive bands from her neck; and what he commands, he will enable his faithful followers to perform. Note; When the calls of Gospel grace reach the sinner, he is the deplorable captive of sin, stripped of all righteousness and strength, and doomed to the dust of death and hell; but, awakened by the voice of God, the beautiful garments of salvation are provided for him, strength ministered to break the bands of sin; and, rising from the dust of spiritual death, he sits down among the living saints of God.
2. He promises to preserve her from the future power of her enemies. For, henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised, and the unclean; which can only agree with Jerusalem mystical, the church of God in the latter day, see Revelation 21:27 since Jerusalem, after the return from the captivity, was profaned by Antiochus and the Romans, and is possessed by the Turks at this day.
3. God will redeem his faithful Israel freely. Ye have sold yourselves for nought; for, whatever pleasure and enjoyment sin promises, misery and vanity are found the only fruits of it: and ye shall be redeemed without money; corruptible things, such as silver and gold, were of no avail to redeem the soul, but the precious blood of Christ alone; and, though the purchase was dearly made by him, yet the salvation obtained by his blood-shedding, comes to us entirely free, without money and without price.
4. The Lord will magnify his own glory in the deliverance of his people from the antichristian bondage, as he did of old from the prison of Egypt, when the Jews, who went to sojourn there, were oppressed; and as he rescued them from the yoke of the Assyrians, who unreasonably and cruelly afflicted them. God's glory suffered while they were enslaved: tyrannically treated, they howled for anguish, and their proud masters, far from acknowledging God in their conquests, blasphemed his name, as if unable to deliver his people. Therefore he will make his glory appear, and his people shall know his salvation, and acknowledge, in the day of their deliverance, the faithfulness of God in his promises. Thus when Babylon mystical is fallen, then Jesus will be especially adored by his saints, as the faithful and true witness.
2nd, Great was the joy which Cyrus's proclamation occasioned, and happy were the Jews to spread the report; but the apostle, Romans 10:15 plainly intimates, that a greater cause of joy is here signified, even the coming of Christ, and the preaching of his Gospel, to which these words are to be referred.
1. A blessed messenger is sent publishing the happiest tidings that ever greeted mortal ear. Some refer this to John the Baptist, but it should rather be applied to the Redeemer himself and his apostles. The tidings they bring are tidings of peace, tidings of good things, tidings of salvation; pardon of sin obtained, God's favour restored, victory over our spiritual foes, deliverance from the bondage of corruption; and, above all, our God reigneth; Jesus is risen, is ascended up on high, hath led captivity captive, sits on the throne of glory to bless, preserve, protect his believing people, and to bring those who faithfully cleave to him to be with him, where he is, that they may behold his glory. These are the tidings published in the mountains publicly, and beautiful are the feet of those who bring them, worthy to be had in honour for their works' sake.
2. With greatest joy the message is received. Thy watch-men, the ministers of the Gospel, shall lift up the voice, and publish aloud the glad news which is arrived of pardon, peace, and salvation through Jesus. With the voice together shall they sing; with delight and joy shall they execute their ministry: for they shall see eye to eye, clearly and distinctly, the great truths which they are authorised to proclaim, so as to have the fullest conviction of them in their own souls, when the Lord shall bring again Zion, revive his work, enlarge his church, and, by an abundant out-pouring of his Spirit in the latter day, call in Jews as well as Gentiles to the communion of his saints.
3. The waste places of Jerusalem are called upon to rejoice and sing for this great and general redemption. Long had desolations been spread around, but now God will build up her breaches. For the Lord hath comforted his people, with the discoveries of his rich grace in the Gospel of his Son: he hath redeemed Jerusalem, his church, his faithful people, by the offering of the body of Jesus once for all. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, displayed his power and holiness in the work of the Redeemer; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God, manifest in the flesh, whose redemption is general, not confined to one nation or people, but free for all; whosoever will, may come and partake of it. Note; The subject of redeeming love will afford matter for praise that never will be exhausted.
4. An instant and urgent command is given to depart, and the Lord himself promises to be their rereward, that their march may be safe and uninterrupted. This may in some sense refer to the return from Babylon, but is applied by the apostle, 2 Corinthians 6:17 to the separation from sin and idolatry, which, by the preaching of the Gospel, would be effected in the Gentile world. Depart ye, depart ye; make no delay: go ye out from thence, from the kingdom of darkness: touch no unclean thing; keep back no allowed sin, nor have fellowship with the workers of iniquity: go ye out of the midst of her, of Babylon, or rather the house of Satan's bondage; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord; not merely be ceremonially clean, ye Jewish priests, who bear the vessels of the sanctuary which Cyrus restored. It belongs rather to Gospel ministers, whose purity of life must adorn the doctrines they preach; or to every Christian who is consecrated a priest unto God, and keeps himself pure in his ordinances and worship. For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight, but openly, and boldly casting off the yoke of sin, and asserting their glorious liberty wherewith Christ had made them free; for the Lord will go before you, as in the pillar of fire of old, to guide and lead you safe from every danger; and the God of Israel will be your rereward, to guard them every way against Satan's power and wiles. May we trust in him, and cheerfully and steadily hold on, and hold out!
3rdly, The three last verses of this chapter, together with the following chapter, set forth the person, offices, humiliation, and exaltation of the Lord Christ, and may justly be reckoned among the clearest prophesies of the sufferings of the Son of God, and of the glory which should follow.
1. God points him out to our notice and regard. Behold! my servant, appointed and commissioned for the work of redemption, and fully qualified for it; he shall deal prudently, with unerring wisdom ordering all his ways: or, he shall prosper in all his undertakings, and accomplish thoroughly the salvation of all the faithful.
2. His humiliation and exaltation are described. [1.] His humiliation. As many were astonished at thee, to see him who was so high abased so low, to the form of a servant, to the death of a malefactor. His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men; though fairer than the children of men, yet worn down with sorrows, like unto which were no sorrows; his temples pierced with thorns; his face buffeted and spit upon; the form of his countenance was changed, and he appeared a spectacle of woe. [2.] His exaltation. He shall be exalted, by his resurrection from the dead, ascension into heaven, and session on the throne of glory; and extolled; men and angels shall adore him: and be very high; all things in heaven and earth being made subject unto him. So shall he sprinkle many nations, by the word of his Gospel, see Deuteronomy 32:2 and the effusion of his Spirit which he sent down from on high, by the application of his Blood to men's consciences, and by the ordinance of baptism, which he instituted as the sign and seal of admission into his kingdom. The kings shall shut their mouths at him, with reverence silent before him, and submissive to his will: for that which had not been told them, shall they see; and that which they had not heard, shall they consider; glorious truths hid from ages and generations, which the light of nature could not teach, nor any of their wise men and philosophers discover, concerning the Trinity in Unity, the incarnation of Jesus, the justification of the sinner through his atonement and infinite merit, the resurrection of the body, and the like; these, by the preaching of the Gospel, were brought to light; and they now became acquainted with the unknown God, and saw his glorious salvation in the Redeemer.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 52". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany