GETTING THE MESSAGE/Isaiah 51:1-8
In these verses Isaiah is looking ahead to the time when God’s people would be under Babylonian captivity. Here is a word from the Lord that speaks comfort to his people in that oppressed condition. These words extend to the church, to Christians in times of tribulation and affliction.
The Lord exhorts his people to give him their ear: “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord (verse 1).” People usually listen carefully to a doctor when their life is in peril and he outlines the necessary treatment. The Lord is giving assurance to his people.
The Lord is kind to his people. The world may look upon them as forsaken by God when they are in affliction. But it is always false. When he says, “listen to me,” he is reminding them that he delights in them, and he has taken them to be his own.
He directs them to the past, his dealing with another of his people whom they are directly connected to, not only through physical ancestry, but in faith: “Look to Abraham your father…for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him (verse 2).”
Abraham was alone in a strange land when the Lord pointed him to the abundance of stars in the sky, and said so shall your offspring be. And so it was and is. Abraham believed God. When God lights the candle of faith, none can blow it out. God reminds his people in tribulation that he is faithful to his promise. The Christian may justly say, “I can trust him in my present condition, and I can trust him for the time to come.”
Because the Lord is God, and my God, I can rejoice in tribulation. In verse 3, the Lord speaks of his people in the difficult times: “Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.”
One who is joyful can never be miserable, for joy enlarges the soul. When is one most joyful, but in a state of thankfulness? And what makes us so thankful as to consider the wonderful salvation God has given in Christ, and the blessedness reserved in another world, the glory that God is leading us to by steps. Even if we stumble, he lifts, prods, and pulls us along until we reach eternal glory.
The single hope of men is in the salvation of the Lord, and in verse 5 the promise is it will be extended to the world. Here is much more than deliverance from Babylon. This is not a political deliverance from unjust rulers, but the salvation that Christ gives to sinners estranged from God. It is the greatest need for souls in whatever political climate or condition they are in.
It is greater in value than the world: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath: for the heavens vanish like smoke; the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner (verse 6).” These words are given as encouragement to God’s people in tribulation. They are strangers in this world. Their inheritance is not here. Certain is it that the Lord would have his people follow a separate path and be distinct from the world.
The present world is a short term place. There are only three places; heaven, hell, and this intermediate world. When this intermediate world ends, The Lord will provide a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells for his people.
Those who revile the Lord and his people will be cut off (verses 7-8). They cause trouble for the Lord’s people in the present, but it is of limited duration. Their foot will slip in due time. The just wrath of God is upon those opposed to Christ and his people.
The Lord doesn’t hate a person because he is in a low or poor condition; nor that he might be in a high position. He hates sin; and it is in us all. Christ can make us clean, heal the corruption; so God tells us to pay careful attention to him, to listen and respond today. Salvation means forgiveness of sins, eternal life, adoption by God, peace, infinite blessedness, joy, love, and more.
The incorruptible inheritance promised in Christ is reason for Christians to rejoice even while suffering grievous trials (1st Peter 1). It seems a strange command to rejoice in times of hardship; but it is because of how glorious Christ is, and how great the salvation he has given is.