Today: [Isaiah 51] The Apocalyptic Character of Isaiah. In chapter 51 Isaiah speaks to those who follow after righteousness and calls them to look to the rock from whence they are hewn. For the Old Testament saint this would only apply according to verse 2 to Abraham and Sarah. For the New Testament believer however Abraham and Sarah are not the foundation of our faith – but rather Christ Himself. Therefore modern Jews and current day Christians read this passage completely differently. For the Jews they look for a Messiah who has yet to appear, for you and I we have received Jesus as Messiah and look for His second coming which we can see foretold in the words of Isaiah in our chapter that we study today.
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[Isa 51:1-23 KJV] 1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock [whence] ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit [whence] ye are digged. 2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah [that] bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. 3 For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. 4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. 5 My righteousness [is] near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. 7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart [is] my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. 8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation. 9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. [Art] thou not it that hath cut Rahab, [and] wounded the dragon? 10 [Art] thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?
In chapter 51 Isaiah cries out to those who follow after righteousness that they would seek the Lord and look to the rock that bore them. When we read of righteousness in the Old Testament and the New Testament they represent two distinct things. Lack of understanding in this represents the confusion between New Testament grace and Old Testament legalism. In the Old Testament righteousness was only followed after according to the law of Moses. In the New Testament righteousness is only found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and our belief in His death, burial and resurrection to justify us by faith from our sinful condition. Much teaching in the Christian culture puts forward the requirement of faith in Christ to be saved but then follows up with a demand which defines living for God in terms of religious performance or moral excellence. For centuries from the earliest times this has been a great contention in the church. Some have believed that since Christ is our righteousness according to 1 Cor. 1:30,31 that it would then be absolutely unnecessary to adhere to any moral code or religious conduct. Even in Paul’s own time he fought against this thinking:
[Rom 6:1 KJV] 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
[Rom 3:8 KJV] 8 And not [rather], (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.
Still others have functionally dispensed with salvation by grace, putting men back under the law, requiring obedience to Messianic traditions or Christian cultural conditioning as a basis for being in right standing with God.
[Gal 2:21 KJV] 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
[Gal 3:11 KJV] 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
When we read therefore in verse 1 about following after righteousness we are not talking about adhering to a religious code, either one based on Messianic principles of the Old Testament nor a code of conduct required by the imposition of Christian cultural conditioning. Our salvation and relationship with God is based upon who Jesus is to us who dwells in our heart by faith. The center of our faith is not religious culture, or a brick and mortar edifice with a spire on top. The ancient Jew’s worship was centered on the city of Jerusalem and the temple of Solomon. Our worship is not focused or centered upon a city or a building or based on a religious culture. Everything that the temple represented in the Old Testament is who we are in our persons as those whom Christ indwells by His Spirit through faith in His name:
[1Co 3:16 KJV] 16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the basis of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit made possible through the one time offering of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross for our sins is the entire basis of our relationship with God and ongoing walk with God. When we look to the rock that bore us we are not looking as the Jews in Isaiah’s day to Abraham and Sarah – we are looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
11 Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy [shall be] upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; [and] sorrow and mourning shall flee away. 12 I, [even] I, [am] he that comforteth you: who [art] thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man [that] shall die, and of the son of man [which] shall be made [as] grass; 13 And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where [is] the fury of the oppressor? 14 The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail. 15 But I [am] the LORD thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The LORD of hosts [is] his name. 16 And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou [art] my people. 17 Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, [and] wrung [them] out. 18 [There is] none to guide her among all the sons [whom] she hath brought forth; neither [is there any] that taketh her by the hand of all the sons [that] she hath brought up. 19 These two [things] are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee? 20 Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of thy God. 21 Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine: 22 Thus saith thy Lord the LORD, and thy God [that] pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, [even] the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again: 23 But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over.
When verse 11 says that the redeemed of the Lord shall return it is a double reference both speaking of the national restoration of the nation of Israel and the return of men’s hearts into right relationship with God through the shed blood of Calvary. Here again there is confusion because on the whole men and women in the church today are not students of scripture. They listen to sermons and teachings on a weekly basis but do not as a rule daily spend time in God’s word to discern these things for themselves. Many believers completely discount natural Israel and look only to the church. However we must always remember the words of Jesus:
[Mat 24:32-34 KJV] 32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer [is] nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, [even] at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
The fig tree is a metaphor of the nation of Israel. Jesus is saying that before He returns Israel will be restored as a nation. This took place in 1948. If then a generation shall not pass until the coming of Christ then the question is how long is a generation? Some believe it is 20 years, others 50 years and still others 120 years. Does the bible give us any indication from the perspective of Holy Writ how long a generation is? This is an answer we have directly from the mouth of God Himself. When God was speaking to Abraham of the captivity of the people of Israel it was described as a 400 year time frame:
[Gen 15:13, 16 KJV] 13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land [that is] not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; … 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites [is] not yet full.
Notice in verse 16 that God Himself sets the time frame of a generation as 100 years. If then Jesus in fact is referring to the nation of Israel formed by the United Nations resolution in 1948 then it is entirely possible that you and I are living in a very pivotal time. Does this mean that Jesus will come back on or before 2048? Remember that Jesus said that “this generation shall not pass…” That may be a reference to the life span of those born in 1948 and not a specific period of time. How long could this possibly be? According to known statistics the longest lived person in recorded history is Jeanne Louise Calment of Arles, France who lived 122 ½ years. So we see that if we are properly interpreting Mat. 24:32-34 we could see the coming of Christ in this century. We could also point to the fact that this is the third 1000 year day from the resurrection and the seventh 1000 year day from creation, both timeframes spoken of in scripture as the season when Christ would come. If however we discount the Old Testament as many do then we lose sight of these revelatory truths. Therefore we read Isaiah as ancient prophecy that has come to pass in a measure but also portends a further fulfillment not just applying to national Israel but to the believer and apocalyptic times yet to come to pass.
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