The context of Isaiah 54 is one of the restoration of Israel to her place as the wife of the LORD. I have blogged before that Israel is truly the bride of Christ as believing Gentiles are grafted in to this position. The future marriage of Israel to the LORD is currently being supplemented by a group of non-Israelites to be included in this promise. The current mingling of believing Israelites and believing Gentiles is the church. Since both will be included in the promise made in Isaiah 54, both are on equal standing in the body of the Messiah. For those who enjoy the book of Isaiah, particularly the eschatology portions, I hope this post will bring out Isaiah’s view of the future more clearly for you. I’d like to focus on three sections that are quoted in the NT, and specifically why they are quoted by John and Paul; Isaiah 54:1, 54:13, and 55:3.
Scriptures. Isaiah’s Perspective. New Testament Perspective. Old Testament quoted in the New Testament.
1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD. 2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; 3 For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
Here the married wife would be Israel, Isaiah knew no other. The rejoicing is commanded to the barren who, up to this point, had no children. From the prophet Isaiah’s point of view, the nation of Israel had all the spiritual children and Gentile nations were practically barren of spiritual fruit. Immediately after the Suffering Servant brings salvation through His own death in Isaiah 53, we have this prophecy that the barren will have more children than the married wife. Verse 2 from Isaiah’s point of view is difficult. But if we envision how Isaiah saw Israel as being the wife of the LORD (perhaps the metaphor of a husband providing a tent for his wife to dwell in would assist us here) we could envision the extension of this simple "tent for two" (Israel and the LORD) to be enlarged to the point where there would be room enough for all nations. The breaking forth on the right and the left would mean that Israel is breaking forth through this expansion as she inherits the seed of the Gentiles through this process of enlarging the place of her habitation.
From our NT perspective, we can see the salvation of the Gentiles in our current circumstances. The true Israel is being expanded as the gospel is being preached throughout all nations. Truly there are currently more Gentiles who trust in the God of Israel than Israelites who trust in their own God. Yet this is God’s plan for Israel to one day inherit this legacy amongst the Gentile nations. To put it in terms that we can all relate to, Israel will one day rule Christ-ianity. That’s not the best terminology, but consider that Christ = Messiah. Our religion of Christianity is really Messiah-anity. This Israelite Messiah will rule over Israel which will in turn rule over the nations (Gentiles).
The fulfillment of Isaiah 54:1 is quoted in Galatians 4:27. Here is a difficulty. If there are two different women having children here, how can Paul say that Jerusalem which is above is the mother of us all? Paul must have been familiar with the surrounding text which he quotes. The analogy breaks down when you carry it too far. The text in Isaiah 54 speaks to the effect that Gentiles are to be included in the tent of Israel. These children that spring forth from a barren womb are invited to be the inheritance of the nation of Israel. So as Paul is writing concerning our liberty as children of the freewoman, we understand that as Gentiles who believe, we have been adopted into the family of freedom from the family of bondage. The revelation of it being by adoption was not given until the NT, but the imagery of belonging in the tent with the LORD’s wife is certainly there in the passage in Isaiah. So Jerusalem which is above is the mother of all. There is only one family of God. Believing Gentiles are brought right into this marriage covenant between Israel and the LORD. This is why the church is currently the bride of Christ, because Israel awaits the consummation of this marriage covenant with the LORD upon His return.
Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. 5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. 6 For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.
We know that Isaiah is seeing into the far distant future, because he saw beyond the relationship of Israel to God in Isaiah’s day to a time when it would seem as if Israel were completely forsaken. The shame of her youth would be due to the sins of her youth. The reproach that came upon Israel due to the shame of her youth would be put away at some future point in time. Here is the reason why: Your Maker is your husband. Although God would have to put away this woman temporarily, He would not ultimately abolish her position altogether. The LORD was the one who formed Israel with an everlasting purpose in mind. At the end of verse 6, we see that Israel would be in her youth when she was refused. So in these verses there is a forsaking of Israel, a displacing of Israel, but hope in a future time when that shame would be forgotten altogether.
From our NT perspective, we understand that Israel is currently set aside while the fullness of the Gentiles is being brought in. For her own sins she must suffer the shame and reproach while she is forsaken by God. Israel was a young country when God "put her away". That is looking back. We can also look forward in this passage to the time when this shame will be forgotten by God. The next section clarifies that time.
For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. 8 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. 9 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 wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. 10 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.
Isaiah gets a glimpse of God’s perspective on the forsaking of Israel. God sees it as a small moment in time. In contrast to that small moment, the time of great mercy is everlasting. This forsaking is also termed as a little wrath or God hiding His face from Israel. The comparison of this time of wrath to the waters of Noah is significant. It was not in God’s plan to simply destroy the world as He flooded the earth, but actually to save it. There was no other way to preserve a godly remnant here on the earth than to start over with Noah and his family. After the flood, God swore that He would never flood the earth again. So also during the time that we can safely term the forsaking of Israel, God does not intend to completely forsake Israel, but actually to save her. This time is for Israel’s good to preserve a godly remnant of Israelites. God isn’t out to destroy Israel during this time, but to bestow everlasting kindness upon her. After the time of forsaking, God will take another oath that He will never be wroth with Israel or rebuke her again. Just as it would be difficult to picture a mountain getting up and walking away, God wants Isaiah to picture how utterly impossible it would be for His kindness to depart from Israel after this time of forsaking is over. At the time of God’s oath to Israel, His covenant of peace will be established as well.
From our NT perspective we understand that God has indeed forsaken Israel, but only for a time. This time will be brought to a close as God will reinstate Israel as His wife. Gentiles will be allowed to be a part of this prophecy and participate on equal terms with Israelites. The church is living in the anticipation of God fulfilling His promises to Israel. If there is no fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, there is no current bride of the Messiah. The consummation of this relationship will result in an eternal fellowship with the LORD Himself. Israel will be restored to her place never to be cast aside again.
O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. 12 And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. 13 And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children. 14 In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.
As Israel enters into that everlasting fellowship with the LORD, Isaiah also sees that God comforts the formerly afflicted nation by laying her foundation with precious gems. But not just the foundation, as the vision continues we see windows, gates, and even the borders all to be fashioned with precious jewels. Perhaps more importantly than the physical beauty of the nation is the spiritual beauty which will emanate from her. All the children of Israel will be taught by the LORD, which will result in peace for them. The picture is beautiful. God is in the midst of the nation personally teaching every single child. The nation will be established in righteousness. "And in His name all oppression will cease" so there will be no cause for fear. Terrors will stay far away from Israel and will not dare come near her. These verses characterize the nation after entering into that marriage covenant with the LORD.
From our NT perspective, we live in anticipation of abiding in this place which will physically be decorated with precious jewels. We understand that the LORD was showing Isaiah a picture of the New Jerusalem. This is the city whose builder and maker is the LORD. But God is not just the physical architect of this place, he also structures the social, economical, political, and especially the spiritual aspects of this place. Every person within these gates will have a personal relationship with the LORD. All the children who live here will personally be taught by the LORD Himself. They will live in a kingdom where righteousness has been established, no oppression exists, and there is literally nothing to be afraid of.
The fulfillment of Isaiah 54:13 is quoted in John 6:45. Jesus is talking about those who truly belong to Him. In John 6:44 he says that, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." Here Jesus promises to resurrect from the dead all who come to Him. Then Jesus quotes the passage in Isaiah 54:13 that states, "they shall all be taught of God". The relationship to the resurrection here is undeniable. Jesus states that those who come to Him will be resurrected then states according to the writings of the prophets that they will be personally taught by God at that time. Jesus is describing the relationship of those who are resurrected to be with God as they live together in the New Jerusalem. The surrounding text in John speaks of the way in which God is now drawing those who belong to Him unto Himself, "Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me". The idea is that if God will personally teach those who belong to Him in the future, it is no great thing for Him to presently teach them about Himself in the here and now as He draws men unto Himself. And since we have entered the Kingdom of God by the new birth, we are currently being taught by the LORD according to this promise which has parallels in the NT, I John 2:27.
15 Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. 16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. 17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
From Isaiah’s perspective, we see a gathering together against Israel, not according to God’s directive will. God promises that they will fail in their attempts against Israel. Since God has created all things, there is nothing in His creation that can create something that will stand against an entity that God has promised will be established forever. In context we must understand that this is speaking of Israel AFTER God has restored Israel as His wife. Isaiah saw a time of forsaking during which these blessings should not be expected. But after that time, God will protect them. Anyone who raises any type of accusation against Israel will be condemned by Israel. The righteousness that the nation of Israel will possess at that time will be from the LORD and not of themselves.
From our NT perspective, we understand that the nations will gather together against the LORD, against His Messiah, and against Israel. This gathering was prophesied by other OT prophets such as David (Psalm 2), Joel (chapter 3), Zechariah (14:2), Zephaniah (3:8). In Revelation we see that the dirty work will be done by three unclean spirits who gather the kings of the whole earth together to a place in northern Israel called Armageddon, Revelation 16:12-16. This will be the gathering of the nations against the LORD, against His Messiah, and against Israel. It is sometimes termed "The Battle of Armageddon" but it’s not really much of a battle, it’s more of a slaughter. This "battle" is described in Joel 3:9-17 (note that Jerusalem will be holy after this time), in Ezekiel 39 (note that God will not hide His face from Israel anymore after this time), Zechariah 14:12-15 (note that the LORD will be king over all the earth and all nations will be subservient to Jerusalem after this time), and in Revelation 19:11-21 (note that the New Jerusalem will descend at this time). Some object to this believing that the New Jerusalem will descend Post-Millennially, but observe that there are nations which are not saved, Revelation 21:24, there still exists that which defiles but it is not allowed inside the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:27, the nations still need healing, Revelation 22:2, sinfulness still exists on the earth, Revelation 22:14-15.
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. 4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. 5 Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.
Now Isaiah is prophesying repentance. Here is an invitation for everyone to come to the waters to eat delicacies even if they have no money to spend. Isaiah chides those who live their lives in fruitless pursuits. Israelites in Isaiah’s day were not much different from our society today. They lived their lives busying themselves with things that could never satisfy. Verse 3 gives the heart of this invitation. Listen, and come unto Me, hear and your soul will live. God promises to make an everlasting covenant with the one to whom the invitation is given. This everlasting covenant is equated with the sure mercies of David. From Isaiah’s perspective, it could seem that the invitation was only to those of the nation of Israel, but from what Isaiah previously prophesied in 54:1, it is no surprise that other nations that did not know the LORD will run unto Him due to this very invitation. The prophecy that David himself is given as a witness, leader, and commander could be interpreted in a couple of ways. First, the Messiah that would come through David’s loins could be in view here. NT revelation makes this view hard to refute. Or we could say that God would raise up David from the dead at the time when God will make this everlasting covenant equating it with the sure mercies of David. Given the fact that the invitation results in the soul being brought to life in an everlasting way, I believe we can safely interpret this passage to have both applications. Isn’t that what Isaiah saw? Come unto me and your soul will live as I make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. David is included in this everlasting covenant as a witness, leader, and commander of the people. David will have everlasting life never to see corruption again. Further, the Messiah that would come through David’s loins would be raised to life never to see corruption again.
From our NT perspective, Messiah came and established the New Covenant. Not all Israel listened and came, but a remnant did. That remnant participated in the New Covenant even though Israel as a nation did not participate. The souls that responded will live as they participate in that everlasting covenant. That everlasting covenant is also known as the sure mercies of David. This remnant looks forward to the time when the forsaking of Israel will be in the past and David will once again live among them. In fact, all the righteous dead of Israel’s past will live among them. It will be a day when Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets will be gathered inside the kingdom, while the hypocrites are thrown out, Luke 13:28. All these will be raised to life never to die again. We are currently witnessing people from other responding to this gracious invitation to be a part of the everlasting covenant and receive the sure mercies of David. God is calling out from among the Gentiles a people to be called by His own name.
At the time in the future when Israel as a nation participates in this everlasting covenant, Gentile nations as a whole will be able to respond to this invitation as well. Since only individuals from Israel responded at Messiah’s advent, only individuals from Gentile nations can respond to the invitation. When Israel as a nation repents, other nations will be able to respond in the same way. Paul writes concerning Israel in Romans 11:11-15, "I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" You see how Paul eschatologically wraps the restoration of Israel with the resurrection and further blessing for Gentiles. This is the time when the prophecy "nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee" will be fulfilled in all its fullness.
The fulfillment of Isaiah 55:3 is quoted in Acts 13:34. Paul’s address at Antioch in Pisidia is chocked full of OT references. As Paul is describing how Jesus the Messiah was raised from the dead according to the prophets, he quotes Isaiah 55:3. "And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David." If we simply looked at this quote and did not understand the context from whence it was quoted, we might be quite confused here. What are the sure mercies of David? It is nothing more than what we have studied just above. It is the everlasting covenant by which the dead will be raised to life never to see corruption again. Messiah was raised from the dead as the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to Messiah will be raised at His coming.
Paul’s address continues in Acts 13.
Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: 37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning the resurrection already. This is the down payment, the proof that we also will fulfill these prophecies and rise from the dead as He has promised. He has given unto us the sure mercies of David.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman