Wednesday, March 19, 2014

CCXLVI - Isaiah 54-55

I’m going to cover only chapters 54 and 55 in this post.  I believe this passage to be one of the more vivid examples of Isaiah’s writing style.  Here the prophet used both historical and eschatological language.  Eschatological is the opposite of historical as it denotes not just the future, but the “end of time” or the “conclusion” of time as Isaiah’s readers understood it.  Remember, this man is intelligent, educated, and articulate.  As one reads these two chapters, he/she must exercise care to discern which he is speaking of in each verse, historical or eschatological.  He goes back and forth rather abruptly.

Chapter 54

In this chapter Isaiah is definitely speaking both to and about the exiled Jews in Babylon.  The subject is Jerusalem and God’s plans for His chosen city.  The Babylonians had all but destroyed Judah, and Jerusalem in particular, because of the Temple and the splendor of the rest of the city.  Isaiah speaks not only of rebuilding the city, but the spiritual renewal also.  In verses 1-8 the prophet refers to the exiled Jews as the wife and God as the husband.  He is describing the barren situation that exists, but God will use the returning Jews to create what we would call a population explosion in the land of Judah.  The barren situation is used to accurately describe Jerusalem, which was desolate and almost completely empty of any Jews.  {Nothing looks more pitiful than a city with no people or activity.}

Verses 9-17 – Establishing the New Jerusalem

In verses 9 and 10 Isaiah compares the re-population on Jerusalem with the flood of Noah.  Not so much for its impact on the earth, but rather the promise God made at the conclusion of the flood.  He promises, with a rainbow as a token, that He would never again flood the earth.  Here in Isaiah 54 God is promising He will never again allow Jerusalem to be taken captive after He repopulates it.  In the verses following, Isaiah tries to describe the splendor with which God will rebuild His city.  {This is a good example of him writing eschatologically.  This is the Jerusalem we will see in heaven.}  He goes on not only to describe the physical building of Jerusalem, but also to describe life for the children of God.  There will be total peace and contentment.  Righteousness and justice will exist at all times, in all places.  Tyranny and terror will be such a distant memory that the thought of it will be vague.  There would be no use for weapons, as God Himself will protect the city.  {I believe Jesus when He told us that He is preparing this place for us at this very moment.}

Chapter 55  -  Isaiah Urges Jews to Return from Babylon

In 539 BC Cyrus led his Persian military to utterly defeat the Babylonians, ending their cruel reign as the world’s power to the east.  Cyrus freed the Jewish slaves and offered any and all to return to their home land of Judah, and he would even give them protection in their journey back.  But since the Persians removed the burden of slavery from the Jews, many of them were inclined to stay in Babylon and build lives with their families there.  After all, it was now the only home they knew.  In the very first verse Isaiah is urging all Jews to return to Judah.  Then he seems to skip to the eschatological and it seems to abruptly shift to God’s offer of salvation as offered by the Messiah.  In verse 2 he speaks of buying bread that will not satisfy hunger.  He is offering in verse 1 free wine and milk, which is obviously referring to redemption through Christ, the redeeming Messiah.  In verse 3 he says “come to me that you may live”.  This is not to be confused with him suggesting that they come back to Judah or they will die in Babylon.  He is speaking of the Living Water:  Christ.  As we acknowledge and accept Christ, he is making an everlasting covenant with us.  In verses 4 and 5 Isaiah prophesies that we as Christians will bring the world to a saving knowledge.

Isaiah 55:6-13 – God’s Call to Repent and Be Saved

 Verses 6 and 7 is Isaiah’s voicing of the urgent call that will come from the Messiah, but the Jews must be ready because their chance for salvation will be brief and fleeting.  But these verses also depict the simple plan of salvation.  Accept His gift of taking the punishment for your sins, and then repent and turn toward God and His commandments for a new lifestyle.  {Oversimplified?  Perhaps, but it’s a good start.}  Only God can pardon us and only a person without blemish can be punished in one’s behalf.  The premise never changes.  Verses 8 and 9 need to be written and said.  These people, like modern day people, find this simple salvation too good to be true.  In these two verses he is saying “It’s OK that you cannot understand this.  You cannot be expected to understand the mind of God.  His thoughts are too high for you.”  Verses 10-11 are saying that God’s promise to forgive ungodly sinners when they have met His conditions is not just idle chatter.  His Word to forgive is as certain as the rain falling and returning to the sky, just to fall again.  It is like saying that it is as certain as the sun coming up in the morning.  The last two verses refer to us born-again believers.  Instead of living lives that destroy, we will bear fruit, sweet and bountiful.

In the next post we will look at Isaiah’s extension of his prophesies into the distant future, starting with chapter 56.

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