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Isaiah 51

Everlasting Salvation for Zion (51:1–16)

7–8 God continues speaking to the faithful among His people, those who have His law in their hearts—which is where the law should be if one is to obey it (see Deuteronomy 30:14; Jeremiah 31:33). God tells His people not to fear the reproach of men, the insults of their enemies (verse 7). Their enemies will be destroyed, but God’s righteousness and salvation will not.

9–11 Here Isaiah calls out to God to fulfill the wonderful promises He has made in verses 1–8. Isaiah recalls the great things God has done in the past—the cutting to pieces of Rahab (Egypt), and the drying up of the sea (the Red Sea)—which enabled the Israelites to escape from Egypt and eventually reach the promised land (verses 9–10). Once before, the people had entered the “land of promise”; now, says Isaiah, they will do so again with everlasting joy192 (verse 11).

12–16 God speaks again, this time in response to Isaiah’s prayer in verses 9–11. The Israelites in Isaiah’s day lived in terror of the oppressor (verse 13)—first Assyria, then Babylon. God tells His people to stop worrying about their merely human enemies and start thinking about Him. He will soon set free the prisoners, the exiled Israelites (verse 14). He is sovereign over all creation (verse 15). He has put His words (the law of Moses) in their mouths; He has protected them with the shadow of [His] hand (verse 16). And He says to Zion, to the Israelites:193 You are my people.” Why should the Israelites live in fear when they have such a God as this?

The Cup of the Lord’s Wrath (51:17–23)

17–20 Isaiah had asked God to awake (verse 9); now he tells Jerusalem and its people to awake (verse 17). They have drunk from the . . . cup of [God’s] wrath; God had put the “cup of wrath” in their hands because of their disobedience. God’s wrath is like a cup of strong wine: it overwhelms the drinker and makes him stagger. Jerusalem’s besieged citizens were like drunken men; there was no one among them who could guide Jerusalem, no one to take her by the hand (verse 18). The double calamities that came upon Jerusalem were famine and sword (verse 19). Jerusalem’s sons lay dead in her streets—filled with the cup of God’s wrath (verse 20). “. . . who can comfort you?” Isaiah asks the people of Jerusalem (verse 19).

21–23 God answers: “I can. I have taken the cup of wrath out of your hand and given it instead to your tormentors” (verse 23). “What you have experienced, now they will experience. You will never drink again from that cup” (verse 22). To Isaiah’s listeners, that was surely comfort indeed!

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