THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Lesson 19: Chapters 50:1-52:12
Part III: Prophecies of Consolation (Chapters 40-66)
Have mercy on our nation for the sake of the faithful remnant of believers who constantly turn to You in prayer. We know that like the Israelites of Isaiah's generation that many professing Christians are so used to certain sins that have become acceptable modern society that they even fail to be ashamed of engaging in those sins. We pray that You will continue to call us to holiness, and give Your servants who are the faithful remnant of Christians the courage and the strength to stand up against sin and injustice despite the opposition they face in their nations, their communities and even in their own families. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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God never sends away anyone who makes
his home with him, and he rejects none of those who walk uprightly. He allows
them to be forever associated and firmly joined to him as a way of obtaining
help. However, everyone who opposes or fights against his divine teaching
falls completely away from the glory of God and shows that he is a lover of
pleasure rather than a lover of God. Therefore ... God says, "What kind of bill
of divorce did your mother have when I sent her away? For no one could prove
that I hated her and despised her. Instead, he would rather have to accuse her
of deserting me..."
Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Isaiah, 126.96.36.199-3
We have seen in this third part of the Book of Isaiah that the prophet is revisiting the themes he first introduced in Part One of Isaiah (chapters 1-35). The only difference is that Isaiah's words are no longer directed to both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel. The Northern Kingdom has been conquered and disbursed into the Gentile world in two Assyrian conquests and mass deportations in 732 BC and 722 BC, and the Southern Kingdom has been decimated by the Assyrian attacks on forty-six fortified cities of Judah and the exile of 200,150 people (according the ancient Assyrian archives). In this third part of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet is directing God's words to the remnant of the Southern Kingdom in Jerusalem and the smaller villages of Judah that survived the Assyrian invasion. In Part III, the Book of Consolation, Isaiah continues to remind the people:
Yahweh will use His divine judgment as a means of atonement and as a purifying force to lead the people to repentance so their relationship with Him can be restored. God will accomplish His restoration of Israel/Judah through three sources:
Chapter 50: Yahweh's Faithfulness and the Third Song of the Servant
In Last week's lesson on chapter 49, we saw the contrast between God's anointed Servant who is the ideal Israel and the covenant people. The people of Judah continually doubt God and fail to trust Him, even though nothing happens without God first revealing the events that will impact His chosen people before those events happen. The same contrast was made in the first Servant Song in chapter 42 between the divinely anointed Servant in 42:1-9 and Israel/Jacob in 42:18-20. Chapter 50 begins with God's rebuke of the covenant people for their refusal to believe in their deliverance, God's promise to never abandon them (a continuation of Isaiah's theme in 49:24-26), and the shameless continuation of their sins.
Isaiah 50:1-3 ~ Yahweh's Testifies to His Faithfulness
1 Thus says Yahweh: Where is your mother's writ of divorce by which I repudiated her? Or to which of my creditors have I sold you? Look, you have been sold for your own misdeeds, your mother was repudiated for your acts of rebellion. 2 Why was there no one there when I came? Why did no one answer when I called? Is my hand too short to redeem? Have I not strength to save? Look, with a threat I can dry the sea, and turn rivers to desert; the fish in them go rotten for want of water and die of thirst. 3 I dress the heavens in black, I cover them in sackcloth.
It is Israel/Judah who is responsible for the coming affliction which Isaiah has foretold, but the people prefer to blame their unavoidable fate on God. Throughout salvation history this has been the case with people who neglect God and willingly sell themselves to the devil. But God always redeems His own, and He will use the credit merited by His anointed Servant, Jesus Christ, as collateral to redeem mankind from sin and death.
In verses 1-3 God continues to answer the accusation the people made in
49:14 when Zion was saying, "Yahweh has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten
me." God demands proof that He has abandoned His covenant people.
Question: Who is "your mother" who claims a writ of divorce has been issued?
Answer: Their "mother" is "Zion," the Church of the Sinai Covenant, the Bride of Yahweh who has become an unfaithful wife.
God continues to rebuke Israel/Judah. Isaiah, acting as God's spokesman, announces that the conquest and exile of the covenant people is entire their own fault (50:1c). According to the Law, an Israelite husband could write a certificate of divorce against a wife on account of the indecency found in her (see Dt 24:1-4). Covenant marriage is one of the reoccurring images of the Old Testament prophets in describing God's relationship or lack of a relationship with His covenant people. When Israel, God's Bride, becomes rebellious she is compared to an adulterous wife, and divine judgment, which is always meant to be redemptive, results in the unfaithful Israel being humiliated and abandoned by her lovers "the false gods with whom Israel has replace Yahweh.
Fulfilled in God's Servant, Jesus Christ
|Covenant Marriage||Israel (Zion) Bride of Yahweh||Unfaithful adulteress/harlot||Humiliated, abused & abandoned by lovers;||The Bride restored to her Bridegroom|
|examples in Scripture||
Ezekiel 16:15-34; 23:1-12;
Jeremiah 3:6-8; 13:22-23, 26; 23:10;
Ezekiel 16:23-61; 23:35-49;
Jeremiah 3:1b-2; 4:30-31;
2 Corinthians 11:2;
Revelation 19:7-9; 21:2; 9; 22:17
The sins of the covenant people and their turning away from God have created a spiritual separation with Yahweh, Israel's Bridegroom. But it was not God who repudiated Israel "it was Israel who abandoned God. It was because of sinful rebellion ("misdeeds" in verse 1c) that Israel will be "sold" into exile to pay the debt of her sins.
2 Why was there no one
there when I came? Why did no one answer when I called? Is my hand too short
to redeem? Have I not strength to save? Look, with a threat I can dry the
sea, and turn rivers to desert; the fish in them go rotten for want of water
and die of thirst. 3 I
dress the heavens in black, I cover them in sackcloth.
God called the people to repentance through His prophets, but no one answered when He called. God asks if they did not believe He had the power to save them. Despite Israel's misdeeds and acts of rebellion that resulted in exile, and despite their failure to answer in repentance when Yahweh called (verse 2), He will forgive and redeem them. God has the power to do this because He is the Creator and all creation answers to Him.
In the Old Testament a desolate landscape and darkened sky often announces God coming in judgment (see Jer 4:23-28; Joel 3:4; Amos 8:9; Rev 6:12). Linking God's declaration of His power to redeem in verse 2 to the darkness and mourning in verse 3, Theodoret Bishop of Cry (c. 393-466) and St. Jerome (c. 347-420) saw a foreshadowing of the crucifixion of the Christ when the heavens were covered in darkness and redemption was accomplished on the Cross.
Isaiah 50:4-9a ~ The Third Servant's Song: Trusting the Lord in the
Midst of Suffering
4 Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple's tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple. 5 Lord Yahweh has opened my ear and I have not resisted; I have not turned away. 6 I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away from insult and spitting. 7 Lord Yahweh comes to my help, this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame. 8 He who grants me saving justice is near! Who will bring a case against me? Let us appear in court together! Who has a case against me? Let him approach me! 9 Look, Lord Yahweh is coming to my help! Who dares to condemn me? Look at them, all falling apart like moth-eaten clothes! 10 Which of you fears Yahweh and listens to his servant's voice? Which of you walks in darkness and sees no light? Let him trust in the name of Yahweh and lean on his God! 11 Look, all you who light a fire and arm yourselves with firebrands, walk by the light of your fire and the firebrands you have kindled! This is what you will get from me: you will lie down in torment!
Once again Isaiah contrasts imperfect Israel with God's ideal Servant. Isaiah presents the Servant's testimony in the first person, allowing the Servant to speak for himself. In this passage, the Servant emphasizes three points in giving testimony about himself:
Question: What is the first point that the Servant makes in verse 5?
Answer: First, the Servant describes his strength in the Lord God. He is strong because he has the ear/hearing of a faithful servant of the Lord. He testifies to his obedience to his master and his mission. It is the Lord who instructs him on what to say and gives Him strength.
Question: What is the second point the Servant makes in verses 6-7?
Answer: Next, the Servant describes his suffering which he willingly endures and does not resist. He submits to suffering and humiliation for God's sake as he is beaten, mocked, and spat upon.
7 Lord Yahweh comes to
my help, this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face
like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame. 8 He who grants me saving justice is
Despite his treatment, God's Servant is not disgraced and has remained steadfast ("set my face like flint") in order to fulfill his mission because he knows the Lord will sustain him and will ultimately vindicate him.
8 He who grants me
saving justice is near! Who will bring a case against me? Let us appear in
court together! Who has a case against me? Let him approach me! 9 Look, Lord Yahweh is coming to my
help! Who dares to condemn me? Look at them, all falling apart like
moth-eaten clothes! 10 Which
of you fears Yahweh and listens to his servant's voice? Which of you walks in
darkness and sees no light? Let him trust in the name of Yahweh and lean on
In verses 8-10 the Servant gives a challenge to his enemies by asking a series of rhetorical questions as he reflects on God's protection and promise of vindication.
Question: What is the Servant's third point in verses 8-10b?
Answer: He has found himself able to stand firm and asks the questions:
The Servant asks who can dispute his right to speak the words of the Lord in his mission, or accuse him of not being faithful to his mission, or bring charges against him, or condemn him? The answer to the question "Who dares condemn me?" is no one who matters because God is on his side!
10 Which of you fears
Yahweh and listens to his servant's voice? Which of you walks in darkness and
sees no light? Let him trust in the name of Yahweh and lean on his God! 11 Look, all you who light a fire and arm
yourselves with firebrands, walk by the light of your fire and the firebrands
you have kindled! This is what you will get from me: you will lie down in
torment! 11 Look, all you
who light a fire and arm yourselves with firebrands, walk by the light of your
fire and the firebrands you have kindled! This is what you will get from me:
you will lie down in torment!
Question: In this passage what two groups of people and what two outcomes are contrasted?
Answer: He contrasts those who fear offending Yahweh and who will listen to the voice of God spoken by His Servant with those who refuse to listen. Those who listen will put their trust in God and will lean on Him in times of trial and affliction, but those who do not listen "walk in darkness and they see no light" to guide them. The Servant gives a warning to those who follow their own "light" by ignoring God's Servant to follow their own understanding and to seek out their own protection "they will only succeed in following the path to their own destruction.
As in the other Servant Songs, the Servant could be Isaiah or Israel.(1) Those interpretations are possible, but what the Servant testifies to concerning his mission and his treatment is not supported by evidence from Isaiah's writings concerning his mission, nor will Old Covenant Israel collectively demonstrate a fulfillment of God's glory in a commitment to carrying the light of God's salvation to the Gentile nations. The Church has always seen the events described in this third Servant's Song fulfilled in Christ's Passion and Resurrection:
As for the Servant's challenge to those who oppose him, those who dispute the Christ will appear together with Him before the throne of God on the Day of Judgment when they will be condemned. He will also appear with those who believe in Him as their Advocate, and they will not be condemned but will enter into God's glory. St. Paul drew upon Isaiah's description of the Servant's challenge as he described the firm standing of men and women who place their faith in Jesus. He referred to God's Servant, Jesus Christ's challenge in Isaiah 50:8-9a as he described the firm standing of all the servants of God who place their faith and trust in Jesus in Romans 8:31-39; especially in verses 33-34: Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us (Rom 8:33-34).
Isaiah Chapters 51-52
Chapter 51:1-52:12 links the theme of Israel's promised salvation with the exhortation to "listen" (repeated three times in 51:1, 4, 7) and to "awake" (repeated seven times: in 51:9 three times, 17 twice; 52:1 twice). Isaiah begins by making an exhortation to trust God in a three-part challenge in 51:1-8 to the covenant people of Judah in "those who remain out of what was once the nation of Israel. He asks them to remember the past, to consider the present, and to look to the future.
Isaiah 51:1-3 ~ God's Blessings in the Past
1 Listen to me, you who pursue saving justice [righteousness], you who seek Yahweh. Consider the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug. 2 Consider "Abraham your father and Sarah who gave you birth. When I called him he was the only one but I blessed him and made him numerous. 3 Yes, Yahweh has pity on Zion, has pity on all her ruins; he will turn her desert into an Eden and her wastelands into the garden of Yahweh. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of music.
Isaiah tells the righteous to "listen" and to remember God's great
deeds in the past.
Question: What is the point of asking them to remember Abraham and Sarah?
Answer: If in the past God could take one elderly and barren couple and from them bring forth a nation from their descendants, can't they trust Him with their future salvation?
3 Yes, Yahweh has pity
on Zion, has pity on all her ruins; he will turn her desert into an Eden and
her wastelands into the garden of Yahweh. Joy and gladness will be found in
her, thanksgiving and the sound of music.
Salvation is promised again in the imagery of a new Garden of Eden where mankind first enjoyed the perfection of covenant union with God. Not only will they be restored to the land but to a joyful spiritual relationship with their God that Adam and Eve enjoyed before their fall from grace expressed in a liturgy of thanksgiving and music.
Isaiah 51:4-6 ~ Look to the Future to God's Reign of Saving Justice
4 Pay attention to me, my people, listen to me, my nation, for a law [torah = instruction] will come from me, and I shall make my saving justice the light of peoples. 5 My justice is suddenly approaching, my salvation appears, my arm is about to judge the peoples. The coasts and islands will put their hope in me and put their trust in my arm. 6 Raise your eyes to the heavens, look down at the earth; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth wear out like clothing and its inhabitants die like vermin, but my salvation will last forever and my saving justice [righteousness] remain inviolable.
Next Isaiah commands the covenant people to "listen" (second repeat) to
the voice of Yahweh.
Verses 4-5 recall the oracle in Isaiah 2:2-4, and the same word, "torah" meaning "instruction," is used in both passages: For the Law [torah] will issue from Zion and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem (Is 2:3).
He will not only bring His salvation and His justice as a "light" to
Israel but to all nations.
In His Kingship over all the earth, He has the authority to judge the sin of all peoples as well as to bring universal justice and salvation. These promises are repeats of those in Isaiah 42:6; 46:13; 49:6-7.
Question: How are these things also promised to be fulfilled by
Jesus? For example see Lk 1:32-33; 2:30-32; Jn 8:12; and Mt 25:31-46.
Answer: It was prophesied from the time Jesus was born that He would bring salvation to Israel, and to the Gentile nations, and that He would exercise an eternal kingship. It is a claim Jesus repeated in His discourse in John 8:12. He also claimed the authority to judge all mankind when He comes in His glory in His Last Judgment Discourse in Matthew 25:31-46.
Question: "The coasts and islands" refers to all Gentile
nations. In the future, what will be the response of the Gentile nations to
Answer: The nations of the earth will turn to Yahweh and put their hope and trust in Him.
Notice the similarities in God's promises for the future to the mission
of God's anointed Servant, especially in the first two Songs of the Servant in Isaiah 42:1-4 (5-9) and 49:1-6.
Question: What similarities can you find between God's promises for the future in Isaiah 51:4-6 and the Servant's mission?
6 Raise your eyes to the
heavens, look down at the earth; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the
earth wear out like clothing and its inhabitants die like vermin, but my
salvation will last forever and my saving justice [righteousness] remain
This eschatological vision can be compared to Jesus' description of the end of time in Matthew 24:35; St. Peter's similar description in 2 Peter 3:7-12, and St. John's vision in the Book of Revelation 20:11:
... but my salvation will last forever and my saving justice
[righteousness] remain inviolable.
In the future heaven and earth will pass away, but God is eternity "for Him there is no beginning and no end, and what He desires for mankind will not be denied. This truth will be repeated in 51:8.
Isaiah 51:7-8 ~ Courage for the Righteous in the Present
7 Listen to me, you who know what saving justice means, a people who take my laws to heart: do not fear people's taunts, do not be alarmed by their insults, 8 for the moth will eat them like clothing, the grub will devour them like wool. But my saving justice will last forever and my salvation for all generations.
As he did in verses 1-3, Isaiah again addresses the righteous covenant people who persist in faith despite persecution. His announcement is for those of his present generation and for the righteous of all generations. The image of moth-eaten clothes for temporal things has been repeated from 50:9 (see the same imagery in Job 13:28; Ps 39:11; 102:26 = worn-out clothes)
Question: What is God's message to the righteous in our "present day"?
Answer: Do not be dismayed by the persecution you may face because of your faith in God and your obedience to His law. These insults and the people who make them will pass away, but God's salvation extended to you because of your faith, trust, and obedience will last forever.
Question: What did St. Peter write about the destiny God has
planned for all people in 2 Peter 3:9 and St. Paul in 1 Timothy 2:3-4?
Answer: God is not willing that any should be lost "the destiny He has planned for mankind is for all men and women to come to His salvation. However, whether or not we accept His eternal gift in the merit Jesus has won for us is entirely up to each one of us.
Isaiah 51:9-52:6 ~ The Call to Awake!
Isaiah 51:9-52:6 is a long poem constructed around the word "Awake." The word is repeated seven times but divided into three sections in 51:9-16 with "awake" commanded three times in verse 9; in 51:17-23 with the word "awake" commanded twice in verse 17; and in 52:1-6, with the command "awake" used twice in 52:1. The first call is for Yahweh to awake and take action "to renew His wonders of the past for the sake of Israel.
Isaiah 51:9-11 ~ The Call for Yahweh to Awake!
9 Awake, awake! Clothe yourself in strength, arm of Yahweh. Awake, as in the golden days, generations long ago! 10 Was it not you who split Rahab in half, who pierced the Dragon through? Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great Abyss; who made the sea-bed into a road for the redeemed to go across? 11 This is why those whom Yahweh has ransomed will return, they will enter Zion shouting for joy, their heads crowned with a joy unending; joy and gladness will escort them and sorrow and sighing will take flight.
In this first section the call to "awake" is addressed to the "arm of Yahweh" "or the strength of God "urging Yahweh to repeat His wondrous deeds of the past like the Creation event and the parting of the Red Sea when the children of Israel crossed the sea on dry ground (Ex 14:15-31; especially verses 21-22). In Canaanite mythology Rahab (verse 2) was a monster. The word Rahab came to personify the watery chaos in the material world before the Creation event as opposed to God's created order (see Job 9:13; 26:12; Ps 89:10 and also as Leviathan or Tannin in Is 27:1; Job 7:12; Ps 74:14; Ez 29:3).
Isaiah says in verses 11-12 that God will redeem His people in mighty acts as in the past, and they will enter the holy city of Jerusalem with joy "joy repeated in three different ways: shouting, crowned, and escorted with joy.
Isaiah 51:12-16 ~ Yahweh, Israel's Consoler
12 I, I am your consoler. Why then should you be afraid of mortal human beings, of a child of man, whose fate is that of the grass? 13 You forget about Yahweh your Creator who spread out the heavens and laid the earth's foundations, and have never stopped trembling all day long before the fury of the oppressor when he was bent on destruction. 14 Where is the oppressor's fury now? The despairing captive is soon to be set free; he will not die in the dungeon, nor will his food run out. 15 I am Yahweh your God who stirs up the sea, making its waves roar "Yahweh Sabaoth is my name. 16 I put my words into your mouth, I hid you in the shadow of my hand, to spread out the heavens and lay the earth's foundations and say to Zion, "You are my people."
Yahweh speaks again in answer to His prophet's call. He is the covenant people's consoler. They need not fear any mortal enemy no matter how powerful because Yahweh of Hosts is sovereign of the forces of nature, and He will protect them and set them free. He sends His prophet to speak His words to them, and He protects His prophet with the same hand with which He spread out the heavens and laid the earth's foundations. It is His prophet's mission to tell His faithful covenant people that they still belong to Him.
Isaiah 51:17-23 ~ The Call for Jerusalem to Awake
17 Awake, awake! To your feet, Jerusalem! You who from Yahweh's hand have drunk the cup of his wrath. The chalice, the stupefying cup, you have drained to the dregs. 18 There is no one to guide her of all the children she has borne, no one to grasp her hand of all the children she has reared. 19 Double disaster has befallen you "who is there to sympathize? Pillage and ruin, famine and sword "who is there to console you? 20 Your children are lying helpless at the end of every street like an antelope trapped in a net; they are filled to the brim with Yahweh's wrath, with the rebuke of your God. 21 So listen to this, afflicted one, drunk, though not with wine. 22 Thus says your Lord Yahweh, your God, defender of your people: Look, I am taking the stupefying cup from your hand, the chalice, the cup of my wrath, you will not have to drink again. 23 I shall hand it to your tormentors who used to say to you, "On the ground! So that we can walk over you!" And you would flatten your back like the ground, like a street for them to walk on.
The citizens of Jerusalem are commanded to "stand up" as opposed to the
citizens of Babylon who have been commanded to "sit in the dust" (47:1). On
account of her sins, Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem have received the
divine punishment of drinking God's "cup of wrath."
Question: But now that the covenant people have fully consumed the cup of God's wrath and has paid the penalty for their sins, what will become of God's cup of wrath?
Answer: Their time of suffering is over, and God's cup of wrath will be handed to their tormentors who oppressed them.
17 Awake, awake! To
your feet, Jerusalem! You who from Yahweh's hand have drunk the cup of his
wrath. The chalice, the stupefying cup, you have drained to the dregs.
The drinking of wine is one of the reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets. Drinking the good wine in the banquet of the just is the symbol of the covenant people in union with God. But disobedience and rebellion against God and His Law is imaged as become drunk on wine that was intended to be a blessing but then becomes a curse (also see what St. Paul wrote about receiving the Eucharistic cup unworthily in 1 Cor 11:27-29). God's response to covenant disobedience is redemptive judgment imaged in the loss of the blessing of the wine of the covenant and consuming instead the cup or chalice or God's wrath. See the chart below.
Fulfilled in God's Servant, Jesus Christ
|Drinking Wine||Joy of drinking good wine||Becoming drunk||
Loss of wine;
drinking the "cup of God's wrath"
|Rejoicing in the best "new wine" at the Master's table|
|examples in Scripture||
Isaiah 25:6-8; 62:8-9; 65:13;
Jeremiah 31:12; 40:12
Isaiah 5:11-12; 28:1;
Jeremiah 8:13; 48:26; 51:7;
Isaiah 51:17-23; 63:2-3;
Jeremiah 13:12-14; 25:15-31; 48:26; 49:12; 51:6-7;
1 Corinthians 11:23-32;
Ezekiel, a priest and prophet of the Babylonian exile, warned the Judahites that just as their "sister" Samaria (the Northern Kingdom) drank the "cup of God's wrath" in judgment so too would they: "This will happen to you because you have played the whore with the nations and have defiled yourself with their foul idols. Since you have copied your sister's behavior, I shall put her cup in your hand." The Lord Yahweh says this: You will drink your sister's cup, a cup both deep and wide, leading to laughter and mockery, so ample the draught it holds. You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. Cup of affliction and devastation, the cup of your sister Samaria, you will drink it, you will drain it; then you will break it in pieces and lacerate your own breasts. For I have spoken "declared the Lord Yahweh (Ez 23:30-34).
21 So listen to this,
afflicted one, drunk, though not with wine. 22 Thus says your Lord Yahweh, your God, defender of your
people: Look, I am taking the stupefying cup from your hand, the chalice, the
cup of my wrath, you will not have to drink again. 23 I shall hand it to your tormentors who
used to say to you, "On the ground! So that we can walk over you!" And you
would flatten your back like the ground, like a street for them to walk on.
Question: But when the people have atoned for their sins, who will drink from the cup of God's wrath in divine judgment?
Answer: The Babylonians will be made to drink the "cup of God's wrath" for their sins against the covenant people. They in turn will be punished as will all nations who cause God's covenant people to suffer.
Isaiah 52:1-6 ~ Awake for the Liberation of Jerusalem
1 Awake, awake! Clothe yourself in strength, Zion. Put on your finest clothes, Jerusalem, Holy City; for the uncircumcised and the unclean will enter you no more. 2 Shake off your dust; get up, captive Jerusalem! The chains have fallen from your neck, captive daughter of Jerusalem! 3 For Yahweh says this, "You were sold for nothing; you will be redeemed without money." 4 For the Lord Yahweh says this, "Long ago my people went to Egypt and settled there as aliens; finally Assyria oppressed them for no reason. 5 So now what is to be done," declares Yahweh, "since my people have been carried off for nothing, their masters howl in triumph," declares Yahweh, "and my name is held in contempt all day, every day? 6 Because of this my people will know my name, because of this they will know when the day comes, that it is I saying, Here I am!"
The first words of this passage repeat Isaiah 51:9, Awake, awake! Clothe yourself in strength, arm of Yahweh ...", but this time it is the prophet Isaiah who is addressing Jerusalem instead of Yahweh directly "he is, however, speaking the words of Yahweh to the people. Isaiah is speaking of events that will transpire in 539 BC, over 161 years in the future (if Isaiah is writing this in c. 700 BC), when Jerusalem's captivity by the Babylonians is coming to an end because God's anointed agent, Cyrus, has captured the capital city of Babylon. When that happens, the people and their oppressors who had thought themselves invincible (like the Egyptians in the first liberation) will recognize that the day of Israel's redemption prophesied by Isaiah and God's other prophets has arrived and Yahweh is with His people! Again the prophet mentions that their redemption will be a free gift of God's grace in verse 3.
Isaiah 52:7-12 ~ The Prediction of Salvation
7 How beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of the messenger announcing peace, of the messenger of good news, who proclaims salvation and says to Zion, "Your God is king!" 8 The voices of your watchmen! Now they raise their voices, shouting for joy together, for with them own eyes they have seen Yahweh returning to Zion. 9 Break into shouts together, shouts of joy, you ruins of Jerusalem; for Yahweh has consoled his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 Yahweh has bared his holy arm for all the nations to see, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. 11 Go away, go away, leave that place, do not touch anything unclean. Get out of her, purify yourselves, you who carry Yahweh's vessels! 12 For you are not to hurry away, you are not to leave like fugitives. No, Yahweh marches at your head and the God of Israel is your rearguard.
This passage expresses the reoccurring them of the "new Exodus" reminiscent of Isaiah chapter 40. Verse 7 either refers to the messengers who will bring the good news to the communities of the Jews in captivity in Babylon that what was prophesized by Isaiah has been fulfilled "Babylon has fallen and Cyrus is victorious, or the news that victorious Cyrus has issued the edict allowing their return!
Question: How will this new Exodus be like the first Exodus in
some ways but different from the Exodus out of Egypt in other ways? See verse 12.
Answer: They are not to hurry away like fugitives as they did in the first Exodus, but like the first Exodus God will guide and protect them on their journey.
God will not visibly lead them as He did in the pillar of cloud and fire in the first Exodus, but He will protect them on their journey which is to be conducted like a religious procession. They are to purify themselves as they leave the profane land of Babylon in the same way the covenant people used to make the pilgrimage journey to Jerusalem for the pilgrim feasts. They are to carry the sacred vessels that the Babylonians looted from Solomon's Temple, and they are to joyously make the return journey so that the nations of the earth will witness their journey as evidence that Yahweh is Israel's king and the one true God.
The day will come when God's Servant, Jesus the Messiah, will take up God's "cup of wrath" on behalf of a fallen humanity. It is the cup that Jesus will ask the Apostles James and John Zebedee if they are willing to drink the cup that I am going to drink in Matthew 20:22, and it is the cup that Jesus lamented taking up in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, "My Father," he said, "if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it... My father, he said, if this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, your will be done" (Mt 26:39, 42; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42).
Question: It is Jesus acceptance of the cup of God's
wrath for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind that makes possible mankind's
reconciliation with God; and that self-sacrificial act will usher in a New
Covenant in His death and Resurrection. How is covenant union with God
celebrated in the liturgy of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus that is a
fulfillment of the Old Covenant imagery of the best wine?
Answer: We fulfill the Old Covenant symbolic imagery in the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the drinking of the "best wine" of the Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic banquet that sustains us on our journey to salvation.
It is our Eucharistic banquet that prefigures the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and His Bride that takes place at the end of time when Christ returns that St. John witnessed in Revelation 19:7-9.
Question for reflection or group discussion:
The faithful remnant of the people of Judah had proof of the truth of Isaiah's prophecies when the Babylonian conquest took place in 598/7 BC, but they had to remain faithful and trusting for over seventy years in captivity during which time they shared Isaiah's prophecies with their children. How important is it for us to share the promised prophecy of Jesus' return in His Second Coming with our children and grandchildren. If they don't know, and if they don't "walk in the light" instead of making their own path, how will they prepare their children? What will you tell them? What passages will you show them from Sacred Scripture?
1. Some Biblical scholars believe that the Servant's Song ends in verse 9a and that it is Isaiah who is speaking in verses 9b-11; however, others believe the Servant is speaking until the end of verse 11.
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