Theme:Israel’s origin from past history; Israel’s outlook for the future; outline of Israel’s present conditions
It is impossible to read this chapter without realizing that God has a future purpose for the nation Israel—just as He has a future purpose for the church and for you and me.
Let me remind you that the final verse of chapter 50 concluded with a warning, which might lead you to an amillennialist interpretation. And God doesn’t want us to hold the view that Israel as a nation has been set aside permanently and that when He speaks of Israel, He means the church. My friend, when God says Israel, He means Israel. If He had meant the church instead of Israel, somewhere along the line He would have said, “I hope you understand that when I say Israel I mean the church.” No, He makes it very clear that He means Israel. Just as Israel has had a past rooted in a very small beginning, just so today they are small and set aside. But this does not mean God has forsaken them.
To illustrate this I use the figure of a train. God is running through the world a twofold program: One of them is expressed in the words, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:6)—that train will be coming through later, but now it is on the side-track. On the main track He is “… bringing many sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10), which refers to believers (or the church). When this train has come into the Union Station on time, God will put back on the main track the program of Israel and the gentile nations which are then upon the earth. And He is going to bring that train through on time also.
God’s time piece is not B-U-L-O-V-A or G-R-U-E-N, but I-S-R-A-E-L. In this chapter God turns on the alarm to awaken those who are asleep that they might know that the eternal morning is coming soon. In Romans 13:11–12 we read, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.”
Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged [Isa. 51:1].
Hearken unto me,” is God turning on the alarm. This is a call to every sincere heart in Israel that longs to be righteous and desires to know God. He says, “Wake up! Hear Me! I have a plan.”
Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him [Isa. 51:2].
God is saying, “I called Abraham when he was over in Chaldea in idolatry, and look what I’ve done through him! Now I want to move in your heart and life.”
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 [Isa. 51:4].
“O my nation” is Israel. This is a word of glorious anticipation for them.
My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust [Isa. 51:5].
“My righteousness is near”—righteousness is Christ. He is made unto us “righteousness.”
“The isles” are all the continents which are inhabited by the human family. God says, “I have a salvation which I will send out to them.”
“On mine arm shall they trust—the arm of God, as we shall see in Isaiah 53, is His salvation. The question is asked, “to whom is the [bared] arm of the Lord revealed?” (Isa. 53:1). God wants that bared arm of redemption in Christ to be revealed to the lost world. Therefore He is sending out this message that this bared arm will deliver Israel in the future.
Therefore 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 [Isa. 51:11]
“Zion” is a geographical location (in Jerusalem) on earth. We need to understand that God means what He says here.
The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not 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 [Isa. 51:14–15].
Just as God brought their father Abraham from the ends of the earth, God intends to bring Israel back to the land. This is what the prophet Jeremiah is saying: “But, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land” (Jer. 23:8). The day will come when Israel will no longer remember the deliverance out of Egypt, so great will be their deliverance in the future. My friend, this is tremendous! You can’t just set it aside and ignore it. God is saying, “Wake up! This is what I’m going to do.”
The present conditions of Israel ought to tell us something. God is still telling us to wake up.
Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out [Isa. 51:17].
All you have to do is look at Jerusalem today. It is a city in turmoil. I have no desire right now to stay there permanently, although it was a favorite spot of David, and it is also God’s favorite spot on earth. But God has yet to make it beautiful. He has yet to bring His people there. God is saying, “Wake up, O Jerusalem. I am going to make you a great city.”
Thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and 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 [Isa. 51:22].
God has been pressing the cup of fury to their lips because of their rejection of Christ, but the day is coming when He will remove the cup. The day will come when God will take away judgment and bless them. How can you say that God is through with the nation Israel? Even poetic justice demands that after all these years of judgment upon the land and upon the people, God should bless them. God will get the victory, and that is what He is telling us here.
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 [Isa. 51:23].
The enemies of Israel will not escape the judgment of God. Every nation that has majored in anti-Semitism has fallen: Egypt, Persia, Rome, Spain, Belgium, and Germany. This chapter should alert the believers today that God will yet choose Israel, and that the events in the Near East indicate that we are fast approaching the end times, although no specific prophecy is being fulfilled in this hour.
McGee, J. Vernon: Thru the Bible Commentary. electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1981, S. 3:306-307