Major Prophets – Isaiah 52-54

Awake, awake, Zion,
    clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendor,
    Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
    will not enter you again.
Shake off your dust;
    rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
    Daughter Zion, now a captive.
For this is what the Lord says:
“You were sold for nothing,
    and without money you will be redeemed.”
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“At first my people went down to Egypt to live;
    lately, Assyria has oppressed them.
“And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord.
“For my people have been taken away for nothing,
    and those who rule them mock,”
declares the Lord.
“And all day long
    my name is constantly blasphemed.
Therefore my people will know my name;
    therefore in that day they will know
that it is I who foretold it.
    Yes, it is I.”
How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
    together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
    they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
    you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
    in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
    the salvation of our God.
Depart, depart, go out from there!
    Touch no unclean thing!
Come out from it and be pure,
    you who carry the articles of the Lord’s house.
But you will not leave in haste
    or go in flight;
for the Lord will go before you,
    the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
See, my servant will act wisely;
    he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
    his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
    and his form marred beyond human likeness—
so he will sprinkle many nations,
    and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
    and what they have not heard, they will understand.

  • Isaiah 52:1-15

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

  • Isaiah 53:1-12

“Sing, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
    you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband,”
says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide,
    do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
    strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
    your descendants will dispossess nations
    and settle in their desolate cities.
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
    Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
    and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
    as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
    only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
    but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
    I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
    I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
    when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
    never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
    I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
    your foundations with lapis lazuli.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
    your gates of sparkling jewels,
    and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children will be taught by the Lord,
    and great will be their peace.
In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
    you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
    it will not come near you.
If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
    whoever attacks you will surrender to you.
“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
    who fans the coals into flame
    and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
    no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

  • Isaiah 54:1-17

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Isaiah 49:1-57:21 ‘Suffering of the Servant of the Lord’: “This section defines the Messiah/Servant’s prophetic and priestly functions, His equipment for His task, His sufferings and humiliation, and His final exaltation. The word servant occurs about twenty times in this portion, which magnifies Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God who was slain to redeem God’s elect.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 52:2 ‘from lowly state to a king’s throne’: “At the time of their difficulty, these words to the Hebrew people were filled with counsel and bright with hope. But from the connection in which it stands, this verse supplies a pointed practical address of sterling value not to be limited by any private interpretation.  Such a charge was well fitted for Israel of old.  Such counsel would be suitable to any church in a low condition. Such advice is equally adapted to any Christian who has fallen into a low state, who is groveling in the dust or among the ashes of Sodom. He is told to rise from the ground and sit down on a throne, for Christ has made him a king and a priest. He is admonished to unbind all the cords that are on him, that he may be free and happy in the Lord.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 52:6 ‘in that day that I am He’: “After the Day of the Lord, when Israel experiences deliverance from her worldwide dispersion, she will recognize the fulfillment of prophecies through Isaiah and others and enjoy full assurance that the Lord had spoken and fulfilled His promises of deliverance. They will connect these events with the great ‘I AM.’ ”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 52:7 ‘How beautiful … good news’: “Messengers will traverse the mountains around Jerusalem to spread the good news of the return of redeemed Israel to the land (40:9; 61:1; Nah. 1:15). Paul broadened this millennial reference to the preaching of the gospel in the kingdom to include spreading the gospel of God’s grace from the time of Jesus Christ on (Rom. 10:15; cf. Eph. 6:15). Good things … salvation … Your God reigns! The good news pertains to the ideal conditions of Israel’s golden age, during which Christ will reign personally over His kingdom (24:23; Ps. 93:1).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 52:11 ‘Depart! Depart!’: “The prophet commands the Israelites to leave the lands of their exiles to return to Jerusalem (48:20; Jer. 50:8; Zech. 2:6, 7; Rev. 18:4). Under Cyrus, there was only a limited return (50,000), but the final fulfillment in view here is in the future. Touch no unclean thing . . . be clean. Returning exiles were not to defile themselves by taking property home from their exile (cf. Josh. 6:18; 7:1). The NT gave these prophetic words an application in principle by using them as an exhortation forbidding Christians to involve themselves with spiritual ties to forces of paganism (2 Cor. 6:17).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 52:12 ‘not with … haste’: “Delivered captives will not have to hurry in their return to Jerusalem, as their ancestors did when delivered from Egypt (Ex. 12:11, 33, 39; Deut. 16:3). They can move deliberately and safely, with the Messiah in front and God in back. Cf. 58:8.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 52:15 ‘sprinkle many nations’: “In His disfigured state, the Servant will perform a priestly work of cleansing not just Israel, but many people outside the nation (Ex. 29:21; Lev. 4:6; 8:11; 14:7; Num. 8:7; 19:18, 19; Heb. 9:13). shut their mouths. At His exaltation, human leaders in the highest places will be speechless and in awe before the once-despised Servant (cf. Ps. 2). When He takes His throne, they will see the unfolding of power and glory such as they have never imagined. Paul applied the principle in this verse to his apostolic mission of preaching the gospel of Christ where Christ was yet unknown (Rom. 15:21).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 53:1 ‘’: “No one ever believes prophets or preachers except through the work of God’s Spirit and grace. The Lord’s arm must be revealed, or else his truth that is proclaimed by his servants will never be accepted. Every prophet and preacher can speak these words of Isaiah, as if they all stood together and shared this lament about how few respond to their message.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 53:2 ‘a young plant’: “Isaiah described our Lord Jesus as growing up like ‘a young plant’ a weak branch, a suckling, a sapling, a plant that could easily be destroyed. Jesus Christ in his humiliation appeared in great feebleness. He was born a helpless babe. He was, in his infancy, in great danger from the hand of Herod, and though preserved, it was not by a powerful army but by flight into another land. His early days were not spent amid the martial music of camps or in the grandeur of courts but in the retirement of a carpenter’s shop. His life was gentleness; he was harmless as a lamb. At any time it seemed easy to destroy both him and his teaching. Nothing about Jesus would attract the attention of those who look for pomp and splendor. His religion was (and is) all simplicity. It is the plain truth of God. Nothing about it attracts those who look after ritualistic vanities. To most people there was no external beauty in him that they should desire to follow him.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 53:3 ‘His was the heaviest’: “Jesus was not only a suffering man but preeminent among the suffering. All people have a burden to bear, but his was heaviest of all. Our Savior had a peculiar relationship to sin. He was not merely afflicted with the sight of it and saddened by perceiving its effects on others. Sin was actually laid on him. Therefore, he was called to bear the terrible blows of divine justice, and he suffered unknown and immeasurable agonies on the cross for us.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 53:5 ‘The disease of sin’: “God in his mercy treats sin as a disease. Through the sufferings of our Lord, sin is pardoned, and we are delivered from the power of evil. This is regarded as the healing of a deadly malady. Sin is abnormal, a sort of cancerous growth which ought not to be within the soul. Sin is disturbing to humanness; sin dehumanizes a person. Here God declares the remedy for this deadly disease: healing comes through Christ’s wounds. The whole of Christ was made a sacrifice for us; his whole manhood suffered. As to his body, it shared with his mind in a grief that never can be described. In his passion, when he suffered instead of us, he was in agony.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 53:6-7 ‘we and He are sheep’: “It is suggestive of the way our Lord Jesus took the sinner‘s place that we are here, in the context, compared to sheep—’we all went astray like sheep.’ And then he who comes to take our place is also compared to a sheep—’like a sheep silent before her shearers.’ It is wonderful how complete was the interchange of positions between Christ and his people so that what they were he became in order that what he is they may become. This is how closely he became like his brethren. To liken the Son of God to a sheep would have been an unpardonable presumption had not God employed this same figure in the Passover.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 53:6 ‘What is sin?’: “The most perfect definition of sin that I know of is given by Isaiah: ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.’ Turning to our own way is the essence of sin. I turn to my way because i think it is wiser than God’s way….
“This is the crux of our life. This is the difference between revival and a dead church. This is the difference between a Spirit-filled life and a self-filled life. Who’s running it’? Who‘s the boss? Whose wisdom is prevailing—the wisdom of God or the wisdom of man?
“In all the providential dealings of God with me, l must take my stand and decide that God’s way is right. When things seem to go wrong with me, instead of believing they’re going wrong, I believe they’re going right. l take on faith Romans 8:28: ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’ ”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God II

Isaiah 53:10 ‘the Father’s pleasure’: “It may be that the devil thought the death of Christ was the defeat of Christ. If so, how greatly was he mistaken, for when Christ died, he won an eternal victory. He is no longer dead. Jesus left the realm of the dead, never to die again. He died but could not long be held a prisoner in the grave. Losing his grave clothes, he came forth in life and immortality. Centuries have passed since he rose from the dead to his new life, and he still lives. And his days, we know, will be continued while this earth will stand. Yes, and at the end, when he will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, he will still prolong his days. This verse also indicates that Christ’s death was the work of bringing God’s people out of darkness into light, from nature to grace and from grace to glory. It is called the Father’s pleasure because his pleasure is the source of all saving work.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 53:11 ‘We are given to Christ Jesus as a reward’: “God the Father speaks here concerning his Son and declares that since the Son had endured such great anguish on the cross, the Father would guarantee to him a satisfactory reward. The Father chose a people for himself. These people he has given to the Son. To these people he has also given the Son to be their Savior. Through the abounding grace of the Father, salvation comes to the chosen, but it comes only through Jesus Christ, for he is the only Savior. Christ redeemed us through his precious blood.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 53:12 ‘Christ’s ultimate victory’: “The verse is the Father’s promise placed in connection with what the Son has accomplished. We are told that Christ will divide the spoil with the strong, but that promise is set side by side with the declaration that Christ is a sheep to be slaughtered. Just as surely as that part of the prophecy was fulfilled about Christ’s suffering, so surely will that be fulfilled in which he triumphs. There is no doubt whatever about Christ’s death for us, and this same chapter of Isaiah declares his ultimate victory.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Isaiah 54 ‘Restoration of the Wife of the Lord’: “Israel’s restoration as Jehovah’s wife is described in Isaiah 54:1-8. Isaiah declares this restored wife will now begin to bear legitimate children (verses 1-3). Isaiah tells Israel to enlarge her house (verses 2-3) in order to accommodate the many legitimate children about to come. The reason for this new activity and the coming legitimate children is the reunion of the marriage (verses 4-8). Israels former adulteries will be forgotten (verse 4), and Jehovah will once again be her husband (verse 5). God will again court His wife as He courted her when she was a youth (verse 6), and all past forsakings will now be substituted by renewed blessings (verses 7-8).
“Verses 11-17 go on to describe the messianic kingdom. A contrast is made between Israel’s past condition of being afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, with a future condition when Israel will be rebuilt with costly materials (verses 11-12). Israel has been chastised by God for the purpose of bringing her back to righteousness (verses 13-14), and when this occurs, Israel’s enemies will be vanquished and no weapon formed against Israel will prosper (verses 15-17).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Isaiah 54:6-8 ‘forsaken … grieved … refused.’: “Israel in exile and dispersion has been like a wife whose husband has rejected her. But this is only for a brief time compared to the everlasting kindness she will enjoy when the Messiah returns to gather the woeful wife (26:20).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 54:10 ‘He is always there’: “Are you an anxious and fearful person, who just can’t believe that everything is all right between you and God? Listen to what God has to say to you:
“For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wrath with thee, nor rebuke thee’ (Isaiah 54:7-9).
“It was a great day in my life when I believed God about this. I believe that though God may have to correct me and chasten me, He will never be angry with me again, for Jesus Christ’s sake, for His promises’ sake, and for His faithfulness’ sake. He has sworn that He will not be wrath with me, nor rebuke me. ‘For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.’ That is His word to the anxious.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God II

Isaiah 54:10 ‘mountains … hills … My kindness … My covenant.’: “In the Millennium (48:6, 7; 51:6, 16) topography will change (see Ezek. 38:20; Mic. 1:4; Zech. 14:4, 10), but not God’s pledge of well-being for Israel as a result of the New Covenant (55:3; 59:21; 61:8).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Isaiah 54:15-17 ‘Whoever assembles against you shall fall’: “In the millennial kingdom, this will occur as prophesied by John in Revelation 20:7-9. The Lord will burn up all Israel’s enemies. The heritage of the Lord’s servants in the Messiah’s kingdom will include His protection from would-be conquerors. It should be noted that after the Servant Song of Isaiah 53, Israel is always referred to as God’s ‘servants’ (plural) rather than His servant (54:17; 56:6; 63:17; 65:8, 9, 13, l4, 15; 66:14).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)


My Thoughts

For being three very short chapters, there is great power in Isaiah’s words here.

Israel was sold for nothing and without money, they will be redeemed.  For God had been blasphemed.  It was not just the people who were mocked, but the God of the people.  The oppressors of Israel will be destroyed, and blessed is he who shouts “Your God reigns!”

The servant of the Lord will lead them and God will be their rear guard.

Then it talks of how the Servant will be marred beyond recognition as even having a human likeness.  The movies about the passion of the Christ probably come far short of the horrors of that day.  The beatings, the scourging, and then the crucifixion.

Isaiah 53 is the Song of the Servant and is very recognizable, often quoted.  Christ bore our pain.  He suffered.  I cannot understand the fifth century philosopher, Nestorius, who thought that since Jesus was fully God, He could experience no suffering.  The fully human Jesus experienced that suffering, enough to disfigure Him.

There are small nuggets in these verses of being buried with the wicked, having died with two criminals, and then taken to a rich man’s tomb.  As the “sheep” before the shearers, He did not open His mouth.

By his wounds, we are healed, but that is a spiritual healing.  We each will face the first death unless called up in the rapture, and that may have a form of death in itself.

In my argument with a friend who passed away three years ago, Isaiah 53:12 says that Christ’s sacrifice washed the sins of many, not all.  Only those who come to Christ will be saved.  His death was adequate for as many as will come to Him, but the universalist concept of everyone being saved is not correct.  Actually my friend believed that too, but he got caught up in the language of how to express it.

In Isaiah 54, we have a metaphor.  Israel is a barren widow.  No children and no means to have children, having been widowed, but the Maker will be her husband and she better start stretching the tent.  She will be barren no more.

The parallel is drawn here regarding the covenant with Noah and a new, or future, covenant with Israel that God will no longer be angry with them.

And why would we ever fear?  When God created the blacksmith, any weapon that goes against God can never stand.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“Isaiah 51:17-52:12 The Cup of the Lord’s Wrath: 1. The rulers of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon only saw themselves as working to build up their power, yet they were actually accomplishing God’s plan to reach all types of people. Do you think it is legitimate to view political movements and upheavals in our day from a similar perspective? Why or why not? What examples might you use as evidence for your position? What cautions need to be observed?
“2. What does Paul say about the ‘beautiful feet’ of verse 7 (see Ro 10:14-15)? When you share your faith with others, what image fits best: (a) Messenger clicking your heels? (b) Messenger dragging your feet? (c) Operator of travel booth just passing out information? (d) Doomsday prophet?
“3. If your ‘feet’ were judged in a ‘gospel beauty contest’, how would they appear: Full of warts? Well-calloused? Smelly? Shapely?
“4. When have you sensed and conveyed real joy and peace in witnessing? How could you experience more of the ‘good tidings’ of the gospel next week?
“5. When is it helpful for a non-Christian to be confronted with a portrait of how he appears to God? When might it be harmful? What can we learn from this passage about proclaiming the gospel?”
52:13-53:12 1. The New Testament freely applies this song to Jesus (Mt 27:38,57-60; Jn 1:29; Ac 8:32-34; 1Pe 2:22-23). From this song, how would you explain to someone else the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection? How does it bring reassurance to you of God’s forgiveness and love?
“2. Paul applies 53:1 to the ministry of the Christian (see Ro 10:16). How have you experienced rejection from others because of your faith? Has obedience to God ever left you feeling ‘cut off from the land of the living’?
“3. Does knowing of Gods approval give you courage to serve, even when others turn against you? How so?
54 1. Although Jerusalem was rebuilt, it has not regained the influence and status pictured in verses 11-15. In light of that, what does the prophet really mean? How does this relate to John’s description of ‘the new Jerusalem’ seen in Revelation 21:11-21? What promises are associated with it?
“2. What point is Isaiah making in verses 10,16,17? Have you felt the ‘ground’ under your spiritual life quake? Can you trace God‘s control of events in your own life which seemed ‘out of control’?
“3. What circumstances have caused you to feel abandoned by God? At those times, how might you be helped by the picture of God as your husband renewing his vows to you?
“4. Of the promises in verses 11-17, which one means the most to you now? Why? How does that hope make a difference in the way you live now?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

Part of Isaiah 52 and some of Isaiah 51 were included last week, and those questions are given again the week.  The small portion of Isaiah 52 that remained was added to the questions for Isaiah 53.  Isaiah 54 has one set of questions.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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