#46 for December 11, 2018
Isaiah 51 is written to “those who pursue righteousness” (v.1). We can imagine what joy and hope these verses brought to the exiles who believed Isaiah and trusted God. This gave me hope, also. If we go under God’s umbrella of protection, the evil stuff can’t rain on us.
God wants to help us. But he is holy and pure. If we don’t “pursue righteousness” and “seek the Lord,” how can we expect any help from him? We can’t hold onto our sin and have a relationship with him at the same time.
I imagine the exiles did literally sing for joy on their way back to Jerusalem, when Cyrus let them go home again. We, too, shall “obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow shall flee away” when the time comes for us to go to Heaven.
God continues to speak tenderly. He does not forget his people then or now.. As a Christian writer, I pray that Isaiah 51:16 is true for me, also: “I have put my words in your mouth, and hid you in the shadow of my hand.”
Chapter 52 brings to mind several songs like the ancient hymn: “Wake, awake” by J.S.Bach. God wants his people to wake up and hear his message. Another is “How Beautiful Upon the Mountains,” (see v.7). The good news Isaiah brought is that God is King and is making a way for his people to be set free. His prophecies came true; they were set free and allowed to return to Jerusalem the first year Cyrus was King of Persia (see Ezra 1, & II Chron. 36:23).
The rest of humanity also needed to be set free from captivity. We were all enslaved by Satan.
Isaiah 52–53 describes the Suffering Servant, Jesus Messiah. No one in Nazareth except Mary and Joseph expected him, as a growing boy, to become anything special. Yet he did accomplish his predicted work. Hundreds of years after Isaiah’s prophecy, God’s Suffering Servant was lifted up and exalted, first on the cross, then in resurrection and ascension.
Isaiah gives a vivid description of Messiah during his suffering. In the movie, The Passion, these descriptions are vividly portrayed. This helps us understand the seriousness of sin and the extent of evil from which we need to be rescued. It also moves us to the core of our being to realize what great love the Triune God has for us, that he would go to such a great extent to rescue us. This is the culmination of God’s mercy. God himself died for us so we don’t have to suffer spiritual death we deserved.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV).
My favorite scene in the movie, The Passion, is when Jesus is at the last supper with his disciples. He is telling them, with obvious love on his face and in his voice, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord.” Then later, it depicts this graphically as Jesus climbs onto the cross that is laying on the ground after struggling to carry it up the Golgotha hill. He did this willingly because there was no other way we could be reconciled with God.
Willam R. Newell’s beautiful hymn praises God for the wonderful plan of salvation:
“Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
—Willam R. Newell, 1895