The Book of Isaiah Bible Study Chapter 51 Part 2


We begin this week looking at Isaiah 51:7-16

v7: Listen: Another command. Here it is written in the plural.

  • You who know righteousness…in whose heart is My law: Those who know righteousness are those who have the law of G-d in their hearts (Jer 31:33). 
  • Do not fear the reproach (contempt) of men: As has already been stated: this is a last day’s prophecy. In the last days, people are going to hear G-d and are going to respond to Him. They are going to have a Messianic expectation and are going to understand that Messiah is coming to judge this world, and, in so doing, He is going to bring comfort. Most of humanity will have contempt for the people who place their faith in Messiah. They will say our faith is disgraceful and they will be strongly against it. We do not need to fear or be worried or concerned about this. We should not give up in the face of opposition. We have been warned that we are going to experience it, but, like Abraham, we need to have a faith that will endure or persevere through tribulation. 

v8: Moth: Given enough time a moth will eat through one’s garments. 

  • But: A word of contrast. 

Note: In this chapter we are encouraged to have a Messianic expectation. Those who are ready for Messiah’s return will be those who are Torah minded – having the Word and laws of G-d in our hearts. We are going to be people who understand that G-d needs to bring a righteous change to this world, and He will do so through His righteous judgment. We are going to be those who live according to the instructions, the counsel, and the demands of G-d because we understand that they are the right things to live by. We are going to be led by the truth of G-d – in spite of the shame, disgrace and contempt that the world has for us. 

Generally, the more we do something the better we become at it. This is also true for the study of prophecy. The more we study prophecy the better we are going to become in discerning G-d’s message (His prophetic truth) to His people. Most prophecy in the Scripture is poetic. Therefore, to understand it we must apply the laws of Hebrew poetry so that we can rightly understand what is being said (eg parallelism). Another important aspect of Biblical prophecy is repetition. Repetition is for emphasis. 

We have already established that ‘The Servant of the L-rd’ is a term that can be applied to both Messiah and to Israel – the people of G-d (see the introduction at the beginning of Isaiah 42). Sometimes it is used to refer to Messiah. Sometimes it refers to Israel. However, sometimes it can be referring to both at the same time. 

In a similar way, we see that ‘The arm of the L-rd’ (written in the masculine) can refer to the suffering and sacrificial Messiah (we have discussed this in previous chapters), but, as we are going to see, it is a term that has a dual application and can also be applied to the Jewish people (the offspring of the L-rd). When the text is referring to the arm of the L-rd as meaning the Jewish people it is a phrase which is written in the feminine. 

v9: Awake: This term implies or foreshadows a change – a change from a state of unawareness to being in a state of awareness/understanding. G-d is going to move to bring about a change in Israel’s spiritual condition. 

  • Strength: Power.
  • Arm of the L-rd: In all the previous verses when this phrase has been used it has been written in the masculine. Here it is written in the feminine. Could this be referring to Israel…because G-d and all the words associated with Him are always written in the masculine? 
  • Awake as in the ancient days: Israel had fallen into faithlessness, into idolatry. For this, they had gone into exile (a place of ‘sleep’ – unawareness). Their exile is not eternal. G-d is going to (awaken) renew and restore His purposes, plan and will with His covenant people. 
  • You: Also written in the feminine 
  • Rahab: This is not speaking about the woman called Rahab in the book of Joshua (Joshua 2). Most scholars, Christian and Jewish, see this as a term referring to Egypt. What this speaks about is how Israel was hewed out (brought out, taken out) of Egypt (figuratively: the world).  
  • Serpent: A reference to satan. 

v10: You: Again, this is written in the feminine. 

Just a thought to help us to try to think this through: Whenever women are highlighted in a passage the context is usually a context of redemption. These two verses (9 and 10) are very much linked to redemption. Could that be why Isaiah used the feminine words?

  • Dried up the sea: Israel did not dry up the sea. G-d did it for the sake of Israel. This passage shows us G-d moving for the purpose of Israel, bringing about the fulfilment of His covenantal promises to His people. 

(Here ends the dilemma and the unusual grammatical constructions)

v11: Ransomed: Redeemed. This is a word that has to do with a payment that has been made for their redemption. They have been purchased for G-d (and by G-d) and therefore they rightfully belong to Him.  

  • Shall return: This foreshadows the ultimate repentance that G-d is going to bring about among the remnant of Israel.
  • Flee: Retreat

v12: I: There has been a change, and this is again written in the masculine. This is clearly speaking about G-d. 

  • Who are you: This phrase is written in the feminine, therefore speaking of Israel. 
  • (literally) Who are you that you should be afraid of the death of man: We do not need to be afraid of death. When we are part of the Kingdom, we know that resurrection comes after death. Death is not an obstacle for the people of G-d. Although it brings an end to our natural existence, it gives birth to our eternal. 
  • The son of man who will be made like grass: We also do not need to be afraid of other human beings who are ‘here today and gone tomorrow’. 
  • Made like grass: Grass does not last for a long time. In the same way, neither do our physical bodies. We should never look to the temporal, but our lives should emphasize the eternal.

v13: You forgot the L-rd your Maker: This was Israel’s problem. They did not make their decisions with G-d in mind, but they forgot about Him. 

  • Heavens… earth: Again, alluding to creation. G-d is the only One who is able to create a functional world. If G-d was able to create the natural world, we can be assured that He will be able to create a new (second) creation – His Kingdom.  
  • You have feared continually: Instead of fearing G-d, the children of Israel had their priorities wrong. They feared the one who could oppress them in this world. They did not take into consideration that this oppression (discomfort, sadness, tribulation, etc) was only temporary. There is nothing eternal about the work of satan. He is limited. His work is going to be cast into eternal punishment.
  • Destroy: satan’s work leads to destruction. 
  • Where is the fury of the oppressor: satan’s anger, his threats and activity are not going to be connected to us eternally. He is going to have no connection to the Kingdom things, so we ought not give any priority to him and to what he is up to. We need to be committed to the things of G-d. 

v14: Hastens: Quickly: Fast. Once G-d moves to bring about change things are going to happen quickly (note: this prophecy also has end-time implications). 

  • Loosed: Opened upReleased. The people have been in bondage, they have been oppressed, but this is going to change. 
  • Should not die in the pit…his bread shall not fail: When this change happens, death will not visit them and nor will there be any shortage. They are going to have life and they are going to experience abundance. 

Verse 15 (literally) : “I the L-rd your G-d relax the sea and cause the waves to roar – the L-rd of hosts is His name.”

  • Relax the sea: G-d is able to calm and quiet the storms (Matt 8:23-27).
  • Cause the waves to roar: But He can also stir up the sea and cause the waves to make a very loud noise. 
  • The L-rd of hosts is His name: In this passage G-d is manifesting Himself. He is the one who is able to do all things – He can quiet the sea, but He can also make it roar. Redeeming people and bringing them out of exile is not difficult for the L-rd (who has all the armies at His beck and call) to do. 

v16: I have put My words in your mouth: This is an idiom that means they have received His words and are willing to speak them (Speaking G-d’s Word is an act of faith). It is important to note that it is G-d’s words that we are called to speak. It is not what we declare or what we want, but we speak according to what G-d has revealed to us. We need to speak truth. 

  • I have covered you with the shadow of My hand: This is a promise. G-d promises to protect His people. 
  • Plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth: An image of creation. G-d is going to establish His Kingdom – that second creation. Be careful of people who only seek to emphasise G-d and His activity (protection, blessing etc) in this world. Prophetically G-d does promise us wonderful things, but the fulfilment and the experience of them is ultimately in His Kingdom.
  • Zion: A Kingdom word.

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