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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 54

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 54 A New Dawn For God’s People.

As a result of the work of the Servant there is to be a new dawn for God’s people. He will see His seed and His portion will be given to the many. They are now addressed as a wife forsaken by her husband who is to be restored and will be exceedingly fruitful, having many children. This is not directed to Zion/Jerusalem who are not mentioned again in this section, but to faithful Israel as a whole, for the only identification is through the title ‘the Holy One of Israel’ (Isaiah 54:5). This will result in God’s covenant of peace, and His everlasting covenant love.


Verses 1-10

The Restoration of God’s Erring Wife (Isaiah 54:1-10).

In this chapter we have the gradual unfolding of the work of the Servant. God will prosper His true people in the future so that they will multiply and expand. And they must go forward in confidence with God as their Maker, experiencing His everlasting mercy until that final day when they will enjoy being with Him for ever to experience His everlasting mercy to the full.

She Who Was Barren will Become Fruitful And Enjoy His Everlasting Mercy (Isaiah 54:1-10).

Isaiah 54:1

‘Sing, O barren, you who did not bear.

Break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child,

For more are the children of the desolate

Than the children of the married wife, says Yahweh.’

The work of the Servant will result in singing and rejoicing, for as a result of His work barren Israel will produce many children. The wording ‘sing O barren, you who did not bear’ is reminiscent of Genesis 11:30. So just as it was from the barren Sarah that the old Israel came, now from His barren people will come the new Israel. But there is also a great difference, for the new barren one is not a deserving married wife but one desolate because of her past sins. And yet in God’s grace she who is least deserving will bear more children even than Sarah who produced Abraham’s seed through Isaac and his descendants. The new Israel will far outnumber the old. And she who had not undergone the pain of childbirth (another has borne it for her) will produce children so profusely that they will be more than could be borne by a married wife. These will be the seed of the Servant (Isaiah 53:10). Once again the Servant is linked with Abraham.

For as the Servant’s seed go out from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2-3; Isaiah 52:11-12), and as they depart with God’s instruction (the Law) to the world, together with what they have heard concerning the Servant, they will find that the nations will respond and they will be fruitful, thus producing many ‘children’. And as they go out they themselves go out as the Servant, in the Servant’s name, to produce His seed, fulfilling God’s promises to ‘Abraham His servant’, of seed like the sand of the seashore.

Isaiah 54:2

‘Enlarge the place of your tent,

And let them stretch forth the curtains of your habitations.

Do not spare.

Lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.’

So great will be their seed that they will need a larger tent, and to have a larger tent is an indication of increased status. They must therefore enlarge their tents and spread them wide, sparing no material, lengthening the cords and strengthening the stakes, so that there will be room for all to dwell in. The tent is symbolic of the ideal time in the wilderness (Jeremiah 2:2-3) when they were faithful to Yahweh and did His will. David ideally ruled from His tent (Isaiah 16:5) and the ideal Jerusalem will be an everlasting tent (Isaiah 33:20). Furthermore in Amos 9:11-12, as cited in Acts 15:15-18, it is the tent of David which has fallen down that has to be re-established, so that the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and the Gentiles on whom His name is called. That ideal time is now being reproduced.

Isaiah 54:3

‘For you will spread abroad on the right hand, and on the left.

And your seed will possess the nations,

And make the desolate cities to be inhabited.’

They themselves will produce a multiplicity of children, for they will ‘spread abroad’ on both sides, having an abundance of children, and they will possess the nations (see Deuteronomy 9:1; Deuteronomy 11:23) and rebuild their desolate cities, in order to inhabit them. Because her desolation (Isaiah 54:1) has been removed, her desolate cities can be restored. The picture is one of growth and expansion benefiting both themselves and the world. These cities will not be like Babylon. They will be cities of the redeemed. And they will all be the seed of the Servant as a result of His offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10).

The main idea behind the producing of children in this section is that of establishing the new Israel through the spreading of the message of the Servant. But parallel with it we may also see a profusion of naturally born children, a sign of God’s blessing on His faithful people. It will be a sign that all is now right between them and God.

The possession of the nations was always seen as an ultimate goal of Israel in their roles as a kingdom of priests and it is to be fulfilled through the Davidic king (Psalms 2:8)

Isaiah 54:4-5

Do not be afraid, for you will not be ashamed,

Nor be confounded, for you will not be put to shame,

For you will forget the shame of your youth,

And the reproach of you widowhood you will remember no more.

For your Maker is your husband,

Yahweh of hosts is his name,

And the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer,

The God of the whole earth will he be called.’

Through the work of the Servant the reconciliation to God of His true people will now be completed. Their Maker will once more be their husband. So they will no longer need to feel confounded or be ashamed, or be treated shamefully because of their status. They will be able to forget the shame of their youth, their first sins; and the reproach of their widowhood, their period of separation from Him. Their whole past will be forgotten (Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:21-22). For they will now be fully restored. They will be reunited with Him Who created them, Yahweh of hosts, the Holy One of Israel their Redeemer, Who will now be called the God of the whole earth.

That her ‘Maker is her husband’ removes from the simile of husband any fear of it degrading Yahweh. It is as her Creator that He is her husband, and she is His helpmeet (compare and contrast Hosea 1-2), not through some mystical ceremony.

Note the descriptions. He is the Creator, and especially their Maker, He is Yahweh over the hosts of heaven and earth, He is the unique and holy Holy One of Israel, He is their Redeemer, and He will now be acknowledged as God of the whole earth for the nations are coming under His sway. In a sense history is summarised here. Creator of the world and Maker of man, Lord of heaven and earth, Chooser and unique One of Israel, and now God of the whole earth, so that her children are seen as covering the whole earth. And the restoration is due to the work of the Servant.

Isaiah 54:6-8

‘For Yahweh has called you as a wife forsaken, and grieved in spirit,

Even a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.

For a small moment have I forsaken you,

But with great mercies will I gather you.

In overflowing wrath I hid my face from you for a moment,

But with everlasting kindness (covenant love) will I have mercy on you,

Says Yahweh your redeemer.’

It is now stressed that their period of darkness will be over. They had been like a young wife who had sinned grievously and as a result had been ‘cast off’ and left with her family, who now regrets bitterly what she has done. The picture is vivid for the state of such a wife was unenviable. Her life has been ruined. No one else of worth will want her. She will have no children. She must while away her life in shame and grief.

But then she finds that her Husband, having put aside His anger at her sin, comes for her again and with great compassion and mercy and love, gathers her to Himself and showers kindness on her.

Thus will God do for the repentant of undeserving Israel. After her short period of forsakenness He will gather her with great mercies, revealing His undeserved goodness towards her, and will shower on her everlasting kindness. Her everlasting future will be one of bliss because of His unfailing grace. Once again the everlastingness of His benefits is stressed. This is the eternal kingdom. The word for kindness is chesed, ‘covenant love’. It is the kindness that results from His having set His love on her as confirmed in the covenant.

Note the contrast between the smallness of the moment and the greatness of the mercies, and the hiding of His face ‘for a moment’ compared with His ‘everlasting’ kindness. What has been lost is as nothing compared with what she will receive. But note also that His anger cannot be described as small, for her sins were great. So the overflowing nature of His wrath (it was no small sin of which they were guilty) is also stressed, lest she overlook how guilty she was.

However, that overflowing wrath, which has been borne by the Servant in chapter 53, is now replaced with His everlasting kindness resulting from His mercy. And finally it is stressed that He does this as her Redeemer. He has delivered her from her sad state through the exercise of His power and the willing offering in sacrifice of His Servant. She has been bought with a price, and set free from those who enslaved her.

The word for ‘overflowing’ (shetseph), which is used to produce an assonance with ‘wrath’ (qetseph), appears only here. It is usually connected with sheteph (a flood, overflowing) a term more regularly used by Isaiah, the more unusual word being used to produce the assonance.

Isaiah 54:9-10

‘For this is as the waters of Noah to me.

For as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth,

So have I sworn that I would not be wrath with you or rebuke you.

For the mountains will depart, and the hills be removed,

But my kindness (covenant love) will not depart from you,

Nor will my covenant of peace be removed,

Says Yahweh who has mercy on you.’

His overflowing wrath is now compared with the waters of Noah, which overflowed the world as a result of His anger against sin previously (Genesis 6:6-7). And just as He swore then that He would never again flood the earth, so now He swears that He will not be angry with them nor rebuke them again for ever. For though the mountains depart and the hills be removed, His covenant love will never depart from them and His covenant of peace will never be removed from them. The mountains and hills were always looked on as the surest and firmest thing in the world, but they are not as sure and firm as His future kindness and the certainty of His covenant of peace which will last for ever. And this is all due to God’s mercy.

So just as He previously made an everlasting covenant that such a great flood would never happen again (Genesis 9:16), now He makes a similar covenant that His wrath and rebuke will never again overflow them. This must refer to the everlasting kingdom where all is perfection. It is the result of the actions of the Servant. Those who are His are bound in a covenant which cannot be broken.

Note the recognition that the earth must finally come to an end so that the mountains and hills will be removed. There is no denial in this passage of God’s final judgment. The earth must finally be destroyed. But the point is that His own will survive all that is coming, sailing through it in the ark of His kindness and in His covenant of peace, knowing that for them His wrath has been removed, in so far as it affects them, for ever (compare Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 26:12; Isaiah 32:17-18; Isaiah 52:7; and see 1 Peter 3:20-22).

The implications here are enormous. The only reason that God can guarantee no further anger or wrath must lie in His certainty that once finally redeemed, His people will be faithful to His covenant with them and will serve Him faithfully for ever. They will not only be accounted righteous, they will be made righteous (Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 26:2; Isaiah 27:6; Isaiah 32:3-4). And the second implication, stated as a fact, is that the world will pass away, to be replaced, as we learn later, by a new heaven and a new earth.

‘Nor will my covenant of peace be removed.’ Now we know why the Servant was earlier called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). It is through Him that the covenant of peace has been sealed. He has enabled peace, as the mediator (making atonement and intercession - Isaiah 53:10-12) between God in His antipathy against sin, and man in His sinfulness. And He has done it through the sacrifice of Himself, by bearing their sin on Himself, where God had ‘made it to meet’ on Him (Isaiah 53:6), so that they might become guiltless. So, as is always stressed, their salvation is as a result of the direct activity of God. The covenant is God’s covenant, made by His undeserved grace and favour; and the offering up of His Servant is the means by which it was sealed and accomplished. Here is the blood of the new covenant which was shed for us and for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24) which has resulted in peace from God and peace with God. The chastisement of our peace was on Him (Isaiah 53:5). And it is all at the word of Yahweh.

Some read ‘as the days of Noah’ rather than ‘as the waters of Noah’, making a slight amendment, but the change is not necessary. The repetition of the phrase ‘waters of Noah’ adds to the power of the statement and lays stress on the instrument of judgment. His wrath and reproach were as the waters of Noah, and like the waters of Noah will in future be restrained. And this is possible because His wrath and reproach has been borne by another.


Verses 11-17

The Continuing and Final Establishment of His People (Isaiah 54:11-17).

Isaiah’s prophecies of Israel’s future have a number of facets, for he is preparing them for the whole future. The prophecies found a partial fulfilment in Israel’s being built up again with returning exiles and the establishment of the land. God’s graciousness to them was revealed in different ways. Prophets came among them and taught them. The Scriptures grew. They had periods of independence and plenty. They were a witness to God’s truth among the nations. We must never forget the faithful who were awaiting the coming of God’s chosen One and continued His witness as His Servant.

Then after the coming of Jesus Christ the new Israel grew and expanded around the world. They too preached and prospered. The Scriptures were further built up. There were always enemies, but they knew that with God as their God they need not fear.

And all awaited the final day when God would establish His everlasting kingdom and bring all to conclusion. So in Isaiah’s teaching we must expect to find aspects of all three for he was proclaiming the future of the people of God.

Isaiah 54:11-12

‘O you afflicted one, storm torn, not comforted,

Behold I will set your stones in beautifying colours,

And lay your foundations with sapphires.

And I will make your pinnacles of rubies,

And your gates of fiery stones,

And all your border of pleasurable stones.’

Though they are afflicted and storm torn, and not yet comforted (Isaiah 40:1), His people will be built by Yahweh into a city of glorious beauty. It is a new city, a city of beauty and splendour, a city worthy of God (compare Isaiah 26:1-4), a city of righteousness, a faithful city (Isaiah 1:25-26). A city like no other (compare Revelation 21). It is the new Jerusalem putting on its beautiful garments and excluding all uncleanness and all that is not within His covenant (Isaiah 52:1), and deliberately not identified except as representing God’s people.

The stones are set in eye paint for beauty, the foundations are laid in a vivid blue stone, its pinnacles (literally ‘suns’, possibly the topmost parts which glisten in the sun) are of fiery red stones, its gates are of ‘fiery’ stones, and its border is of ‘stones which bring pleasure’. The whole picture is one of glorious beauty. It has become the most desirable of cities, like that in Revelation 21.

The basic idea here is of a building up of the people of God, at first imperfect and lacking the fullness that would come later, but ever glorious and looking towards the final completion when God would be all in all. For His people are His building (1 Corinthians 3:9-16; Ephesians 2:20-22), God’s temple (2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19), a city set on a hill that could not be hidden (Matthew 5:14; Hebrews 12:22). And one day that city will be revealed in all its glory (Revelation 21).

Isaiah 54:13-14

‘And all your children will be taught of Yahweh,

And the peace of your children will be great.

You will be established in righteousness,

You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear,

And from terror, for it will not come near you.’

The practical side is now emphasised. All who are of this city will be taught by Yahweh, they will have great peace (wellbeing) and be established in righteousness. And all oppression of any kind, so common in earthly society, and all that is fearful and terrifying externally, will be far away so that there is nothing to disturb their hearts or their security.

In the final analysis this can only refer to the everlasting kingdom under the Davidic king (compare Jeremiah 23:5-6; Ezekiel 37:24-28) in the new heaven and earth. In the final analysis all will be well under His rule. But a secondary application may be made to those on the journey, for the principles are set firm. It is not for nothing that they are seen as dwelling in tents (Isaiah 54:2), but are to be established as a city. Those who travel will also discover the truth of these words (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13). All who are His will be taught by Him (Jeremiah 31:33-34;1 Corinthians 2:9-16), just as the Servant was (Isaiah 50:4-5), although not to the same extent; all may enjoy great peace (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:7). They are to be established in righteousness (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and while they are not safe from oppression and terrors they need not fear them. They are preparing for that final day.

Isaiah 54:15

‘Behold they may gather together, but not by me.

Whoever will gather together against you will fall because of you.’

In the growth of God’s true people through time there will be many enemies who will gather against God’s people. But the time of God’s using them as an instrument against His people will have gone. Such enemies will not gather under His command, and indeed He will make them fall. God’s protection for His people will ever be guaranteed.

Isaiah 54:16-17

‘Behold I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals,

And produces a weapon for his work,

And I have created the waster to destroy.

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper,

And every tongue which will arise against you in judgment, you will condemn.’

He now wants His people to recognise that all is finally under His control. Are weapons being made? He created their maker. Are people engaged in wasting and destroying in the world? God created the waster. He is sovereign over all. So His people need not be concerned, for they are under special protection. In the final analysis no weapon can hurt the people of God, although it may not seem so for a time, and no tongue will progress with its accusations, without finally being condemned.

Isaiah 54:17

‘This is the inheritance of the servants of Yahweh,

And their righteousness is of me, says Yahweh.’

For this is His people’s inheritance. Note that Israel as ‘the Servant’ have now become ‘the servants of Yahweh’. Once the ultimate Servant was reached the term no longer applied generally, except by expansion. What they have and are now comes to them through the ultimate Servant. Thus the portion of the Servant becomes the inheritance of the servants of Yahweh, whose inheritance it is to enjoy all He has obtained for them. And when they are accounted righteous, and become righteous, it is of Yahweh. For He and the Servant work as One. All their righteousness essentially comes from Him.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 54:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/isaiah-54.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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