Exhortations to trust the Messiah. (1-3) The power of God, and the weakness of man. (4-8) Christ defends his people. (9-16) Their afflictions and deliverances. (17-23)
Verses 1-3 It is good for those privileged by the new birth, to consider that they were shapen in sin. This should cause low thoughts of ourselves, and high thoughts of Divine grace. It is the greatest comfort to be made serviceable to the glory of God. The more holiness men have, and the more good they do, the more gladness they have. Let us seriously reflect upon our guilt. To do so will tend to keep the heart humble, and the conscience awake and tender. They make Christ more precious to the soul, and give strength to our attempts and prayers for others.
Verses 4-8 The gospel of Christ shall be preached and published. How shall we escape if we neglect it? There is no salvation without righteousness. The soul shall, as to this world, vanish like smoke, and the body be thrown by like a worn-out garment. But those whose happiness is in Christ's righteousness and salvation, will have the comfort of it when time and days shall be no more. Clouds darken the sun, but do not stop its course. The believer will enjoy his portion, while revilers of Christ are in darkness
Verses 9-16 The people whom Christ has redeemed with his blood, as well as by his power, will obtain joyful deliverance from every enemy. He that designs such joy for us at last, will he not work such deliverance in the mean time, as our cases require? In this world of changes, it is a short step from joy to sorrow, but in that world, sorrow shall never come in view. They prayed for the display of God's power; he answers them with consolations of his grace. Did we dread to sin against God, we should not fear the frowns of men. Happy is the man that fears God always. And Christ's church shall enjoy security by the power and providence of the Almighty.
Verses 17-23 God calls upon his people to mind the things that belong to their everlasting peace. Jerusalem had provoked God, and was made to taste the bitter fruits. Those who should have been her comforters, were their own tormentors. They have no patience by which to keep possesion of their own souls, nor any confidence in God's promise, by which to keep possession of its comfort. Thou art drunken, not as formerly, with the intoxicating cup of Babylon's idolatries, but with the cup of affliction. Know, then, the cause of God's people may for a time seem as lost, but God will protect it, by convincing the conscience, or confounding the projects, of those that strive against it. The oppressors required souls to be subjected to them, that every man should believe and worship as they would have them. But all they could gain by violence was, that people were brought to outward hypocritical conformity, for consciences cannot be forced.
This chapter gives the church and people of God reason to expect comfortable times and certain salvation, though they had many enemies. They are directed to look to Abraham and Sarah, signified by the rock and hole of the pit, and observe how he was called alone, blessed and increased; which should be improved as an argument to strengthen their faith, that God could and would bless and increase his church, though in a low estate, and bring it into a flourishing one, Isa 51:1-3. They are assured of the publication of the Gospel, expressed by the law, doctrine, and judgment of the Lord; by which means the righteousness and salvation of Christ should be brought nigh to them, as the object of their trust and confidence, Isa 51:4,5, and also of the perpetuity of his righteousness and salvation, when the heavens, and the earth, and the inhabitants of it, should decay, even their revilers and persecutors, and therefore they need not fear their reproaches and revilings, Isa 51:6-8, upon which follows a prayer of faith, that the Lord would exert his power as in former times, when he destroyed the Egyptians, and dried up the Red sea for Israel to pass through, the ransomed of the Lord; from whence it might be concluded, that the redeemed of the Lord would be brought into a very comfortable condition again, Isa 51:9-11 wherefore they had no reason to be afraid of men, since the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, would deliver, comfort, and establish them, of which he assured them by his prophet, Isa 51:12-16, and though Jerusalem and her sons were, or would be, in a very distressed condition, through the sword and famine, which is described, Isa 51:17-20, yet they should be delivered out of it, and their persecutors should be brought into the same, Isa 51:21-23.