Isaiah 51:1-2. 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. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.
This is for your comfort, dear friends. If God could make out of Abraham and Sarah so great a nation as that of Israel, what is there that he cannot do? Do you say that the cause of God is brought very low in these evil days? It is not so low as when there seemed to be none but Abraham faithful in the whole world; yet God made that one mighty man to be like a foundation upon which he built up the chosen people, to whose keeping he committed the sacred oracles; and if he did that, what can he not do? However low you may individually sink, or however weak you may feel, look back to Abraham, and learn from his experience what God can do with you.
Isaiah 51:3. 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;
Then what will her gardens be in those glorious days? When her very wilderness is like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord, what will her cultivated places be? Oh, what grand times are yet in store for the Church of the living God! Let us hope on, and pray on, and work on, never doubting; for, as John Wesley said, “the best of all is, God is with us;” and if he is with us, all must be well.
Isaiah 51:3. Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
For God’s Church is no prison-house, no den of dragons, or cage of owls: it is a place for joy and gladness, for thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. Come, then, and let us bless the Lord with all our hearts. God is still good to Zion, and he will not desert her. He did much for Abraham; he will do much for us. We may find many precious things in the hole of that pit whence we were digged.
Isaiah 51:4-5. 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. 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.
God will not always be forgotten; man will not always trust to his fellow-man to save him, or put his confidence in the idols he has himself made. The day is coming when the King of Kings shall come to claim his own again, and his loyal people shall see the kingdom spread as it never has done yet. Blessed be his name, this promise shall certainly be fulfilled, “the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.” It is remarkable that there are so many prophecies made concerning the isles; and that it is in islands, at this day, that the gospel seems to have spread so marvellously. In our own British isles, in the isles of the southern seas, and in Madagascar, what wonders of grace have been wrought!
Isaiah 51:6-7. 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.
What a mercy it is to get a hold of something that will never wear out, and that can never be dissolved, — something against which the tooth of time may fret itself in vain! This abiding, indestructible thing is the eternal salvation — the everlasting righteousness — which the Lord Jesus has wrought out and brought in for his people. Happy people who have this treasure for their eternal heritage!
Isaiah 51:7. Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, —
In the first verse of this chapter, there is a message for those who follow after righteousness; here is a word for those who know it: “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness,” —
Isaiah 51:7. the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their reviling.
If you are true to God, they will be sure to revile you. A Christian should not expect to go to heaven in a whole skin; it is a part of the nature of serpents and snakes in the grass to try, if they can, to bite at the heel of the child of God, even as that old serpent, the devil, bit at the heel of him who has broken the dragon’s head. “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their reviling,” for your Master suffered in the same fashion long ago.
Isaiah 51:8. 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.
Let them snarl, and let them bite, if they will; they can do no harm to that righteousness which shall be for ever, or to that salvation which is from generation to generation.
Isaiah 51:9. Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old.
We long for God to come again upon the stage of action, to interpose in the world’s affairs, and to let men see what he can do. Time was when he was to be found by the burning bush, or on the mountain’s brow, or in the cave, or by the well, and earth seemed then like the vestibule of heaven. Come again, O Jehovah, great Lord and King, let thy goings be seen once more in the sanctuary.
Isaiah 51:9-10. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon! 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.
Our prayer is that God may do all this over again; and the answer to our prayer is found in the following verse.
Isaiah 51:11. Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion;-
Just as they came out of Egypt of old, and with singing and with sound of timbrel, marched through the Red Sea, so shall God bring his people “with singing unto Zion; —
Isaiah 51:11. And everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
Just as Pharaoh turned his chariot to flee from Israel, and the depths covered him and all his Egyptians, so sorrow and mourning shall flee away from the redeemed of the Lord.
Isaiah 51:12. I, even I, am he that comforteth you:
Oh, the beauty and blessing of these glorious words! Let me read them again: “I, even I, am he that comforteth you.”
Isaiah 51:12. 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;–
You see the grass, cut down by the mower’s scythe, lying in long rows, and withering in the sun; are you afraid of that grass? “no,” you say; “certainly not.” then, be not afraid of men, for they shall be cut down after the same fashion.
Isaiah 51:13. 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?
Why! in the hand of God, and he can let it out, or hold it in, according to his infinite wisdom and almighty power. Why, then, art thou afraid? Is there any might in all the world except the might of the Omnipotent One? Can anything happen but what he permits? Be thou still, then, and rest in him: “Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and forgettest the Lord thy Maker?” In thy fear there is something of egotism, something of thine own self. Lay that aside; and, as a babe does not feel itself wise enough to judge of danger, but sleeps calmly upon its mother’s bosom, so do thou. All is well that is in God’s hand; and thou also art in God’s hand if thou hast received his atonement in the person of his dear Son. Wherefore, give up thy heart to joy and gladness, and let sorrow and sighing flee from thee. Even now, let this be your happy song, as it is also mine,-
“All that remains for me Is but to love and sing,
And wait until the angels come to bear me to the King.”