Wednesday, April 03, 2024

2024.04.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 51:1–16

Read Isaiah 51:1–16

Questions from the Scripture text: What is commanded in Isaiah 51:1a? To whom? How else are they identified (verse 1b)? What does this word to which they listen tell them to do (verse 1c)? At which two things are they to look (verse 1c–d)? Who is meant by this rock (Isaiah 51:2a), and who by the hole (verse 2b)? How did a people come from such infertile beginnings (verse 2c–d)? Who will do what, now (Isaiah 51:3a)? In what condition and to what extent (verse 3b–d)? What will make them Eden-like (verse 3e–f)? What command is repeated in Isaiah 51:4a–b? To whom? What will proceed from the Lord (verse 4c)? What will this law do unto whom (verse 4d–e)? What is the Lord bringing near (Isaiah 51:5a–b)? What else will this salvation do (verse 5c)? With what outcome (verse 5d–e)? What command is repeated in Isaiah 51:6a–b? What are they to look at this time? What will happen to this heavens and earth at which they look (verse 6c–d)? And to those who dwell in it (verse 6e)? But what will have an opposite outcome (verse 6f–g)? What command is repeated in Isaiah 51:7a? To which two groups again (verse 7b–c)? What two things are they not to fear (verse 7c–d)? What will happen to the mockers (Isaiah 51:8a–b)? But what (and therefore who) will last forever (verse 8c–d)?? What new command is given twice in Isaiah 51:9? To what (Whom!)? What had He done to Egypt (nicknamed “Rahab” in ancient times, no relation to the woman of Jericho, Isaiah 51:9-10)? What will His arm now do in the same power (Isaiah 51:11)? With what result in/from His people? Who is Zion’s comforter (Isaiah 51:12a)? What response to mere men shows that they forget their place (verse 12b–d)? Whom does fear of man forget (Isaiah 51:13a)? What (whom) did He make? What else did He make (verse 13b–c)? How much have they feared whom (verse 13d–f)? But what will they soon ask (verse 13e)? What are they urgent to do in their fear (Isaiah 51:14)? But Who is the solution that they already have (Isaiah 51:15)? And what is the solution that He has provided (Isaiah 51:16a)? To remind them that He is doing what (verse 16b–e)? 

What must faith do? Isaiah 51:1–16 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that faith must remember and call upon God, so that it does not fear men. 

Faith listens to the Lord in how it looks at everything, Isaiah 51:1-8. The Servant had listened in order that He could speak (Isaiah 50:4).  Now, the Lord turns His attention to the remnant who seek Him (Isaiah 51:1), urging them to listen three times (Isaiah 51:1a, Isaiah 51:4a, Isaiah 51:7a). Indeed, the Servant Himself is the speaker, here, from God—speaking in and from His divine nature. In the first two “listen” speeches, the secondary command is to “look” (Isaiah 51:1c, Isaiah 51:2a; Isaiah 51:6a–b). 

“Looking” has been a perpetual problem throughout the book of Isaiah, because Israel preferred help that they could see, and even gods that they could see (though such gods can never help!). So there is a lesson here that our ears must direct our eyes. What we hear from Christ, the Servant, in the Scriptures must determine how we interpret what we see. 

In Isaiah 51:2-3, what they are to see is the fruit God’s redeeming work among His people. Abraham was one man and as good as dead, and his wife who was a barren pit, this entire nation were born (Isaiah 51:2, cf. Hebrews 11:11–12). So now God would use the same power to bring life out of barrenness—to bring Edenic joy and worship out of the wastelands of Zion (Isaiah 51:3). 

And in Isaiah 51:4-6 what they are to see is a heavens and earth (Isaiah 51:6a–e) that don’t have anything like the lasting power of God’s salvation and righteousness (verse 6f–g) for a remnant from all the nations who will trust in Him (Isaiah 51:4-5). Isaiah 51:7-8, the third “listen” section make this same point, but now especially with those dwellers of the earth who will be destroyed (Isaiah 51:6e). Many of them are reproachers and insulters (Isaiah 51:7c–d), but the Lord’s people must remember that the mockers’ days are numbered (Isaiah 51:8a–b), but the righteousness and salvation of the Lord are forever (verse 8c–d)!

What do your eyes see, dear reader? Is it a world that is the fruit of a long history of God’s almighty, redeeming work? Is it a creation that reminds you that the Creator is infinitely greater and everlasting, and that you shall be everlasting and great, too, by faith in Him? Let us learn to listen like Jesus. And let us learn to listen to Jesus!

Faith cries out for the reawakening of God’s display of strengthIsaiah 51:9-11. Now, the voice addresses the arm of YHWH, the display of His might. This is either the voice of the remnant from Isaiah 51:1-8, or the voice of the Servant, or (most likely) the Servant speaking as the representative of the remnant. He has learned what to see. He remembers the Lord’s great salvation in the past (Isaiah 51:9-10). And He prays that the same Lord would display the same power in the same righteousness for a new salvation (Isaiah 51:11) as He brings the ransomed home with the joy prophesied in Isaiah 51:3.

Faith mustn’t fear men, which is to forget GodIsaiah 51:12-16. Fear of man (Isaiah 51:12b–d, Isaiah 51:13d–e) forgets the identity of our Comforter (Isaiah 51:12a, Isaiah 51:13a–c), which is to forget our own place (Isaiah 51:12b). But the question in Isaiah 51:13f will soon be asked, “where is the fury of the oppressor”? Let God’s people not be desperate like the hastening captive in Isaiah 51:14. YHWH their God is the same as He ever was (Isaiah 51:15, cf. Isaiah 51:9-10). The heavens and earth of the fallen world (Isaiah 51:6c–d) will soon be replaced by newly planted ones (Isaiah 51:16c–d), and His righteous remnant will be forever with Him (verse 16e, cf. 2 Peter 3:10–13)! 

In what part of your life do you “listen” to the Lord? How does it inform what you see in our world today? How does it inform what you see in the creation? How does it inform what you see in the circumstances of Your life? What is God like? How will He ultimately show that? Who will be there with Him?

Sample prayer:  Lord, our help is in Your Name, Who made the heavens and the earth. Forgive us, for in fearing men, we have forgotten Who You are. Grant that we would hear Christ and respond to You as He does, entrusting ourselves to You Who judge justly. And so give us our place in that New Heavens and New Earth in which righteousness dwells, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP102D “My Strength He Weakened” or TPH46A “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” 

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