Who is He?- Messiah's Encouragement
51:9 Awake, awake, put on strength, arm of Yahweh; awake, as in the days of old, the generations of ancient times. Isn't it you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the monster? 51:10 Isn't it you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over? 51:11 The ransomed of Yahweh shall return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy shall be on their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 51:12 "I, even I, am he who comforts you: who are you, that you are afraid of man who shall die, and of the son of man who shall be made as grass; 51:13 and have forgotten Yahweh your Maker, who stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and fear continually all the day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he makes ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor? 51:14 The captive exile shall speedily be freed; and he shall not die and go down into the pit, neither shall his bread fail. 51:15 For I am Yahweh your God, who stirs up the sea, so that its waves roar: Yahweh of Armies is his name. 51:16 I have put my words in your mouth, and have covered you in the shadow of my hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and tell Zion, ‘You are my people.'"
51:17 Awake, awake, stand up, Jerusalem, that have drunk at the hand of Yahweh the cup of his wrath; you have drunken the bowl of the cup of staggering, and drained it. 51:18 There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she has brought forth; neither is there any who takes her by the hand among all the sons who she has brought up. 51:19 These two things have happened to you. Who will bemoan you? Desolation and destruction, and the famine and the sword; how shall I comfort you? 51:20 Your sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as an antelope in a net; they are full of the wrath of Yahweh, the rebuke of your God. 51:21 Therefore hear now this, you afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine: 51:22 Thus says your Lord Yahweh, and your God who pleads the cause of his people, "Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of staggering, even the bowl of the cup of my wrath; you shall no more drink it again: 51:23 and I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you, who have said to your soul, ‘Bow down, that we may walk over you;' and you have laid your back as the ground, and as the street, to those who walk over." 52:1 Awake, awake, put on your strength, Zion; put on your beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. 52:2 Shake yourself from the dust! Arise, sit up, Jerusalem! Release yourself from the bonds of your neck, captive daughter of Zion! 52:3 For thus says Yahweh, "You were sold for nothing; and you shall be redeemed without money." 52:4 For thus says the Lord Yahweh, "My people went down at the first into Egypt to live there: and the Assyrian has oppressed them without cause. 52:5 "Now therefore, what do I do here," says Yahweh, "seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Those who rule over them mock," says Yahweh, "and my name continually all the day is blasphemed. 52:6 Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore they shall know in that day that I am he who speaks; behold, it is I."
52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" 52:8 The voice of your watchmen! they lift up the voice, together do they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when Yahweh returns to Zion. 52:9 Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem; for Yahweh has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 52:10 Yahweh has made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
52:11 Depart, depart, go out from there, touch no unclean thing! Go out of the midst of her! Cleanse yourselves, you who bear the vessels of Yahweh. 52:12 For you shall not go out in haste, neither shall you go by flight: for Yahweh will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Be Encouraged People of God!
In the first few verses of chapter 51 that I didn't read, we see that faith is nurtured by listening and hearing. People are encouraged to look back and see what God has done with just one man, Abraham! How from him came an entire nation! This bodes well for the future when all history is consummated - have faith in your God who will lead you into the next world! But for now, don't be afraid of what other people will do - stay close to God, have faith in Him, trust Him patiently and live obedient and righteous lives. For as verse 6 states "my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished."
Then we come to a mounting anticipation with baited breath. Quickly the phrase "awake awake" is repeated, as if to give a sense of urgency. The exodus from Egypt, an event remembered well by the nation of Israel and alluded to in verses 9 & 10 of chapter 51, will be surpassed by a new age of righteousness at the end of time. All those "ransomed by the Lord", those set free by God will enter the city of God with joyous singing which will be their crown! Sorrow and sadness will no longer exist! Gladness and joy will be triumphant! Alleluia! Despite many obstacles in the way, the Lord God will reign triumphant. His Messiah, His Servant will deliver you. His Servant will be triumphant.
Note that the people themselves are to wake up, not the Lord God or His Servant! All that will be fulfilled is not waiting for God, but waiting for people and their spiritual inertia! It's their unwillingness to be obedient to God that is stopping the fulfillment of history! While Isaiah is clearly eager, it seems the nation of Israel is not - they have forgotten about their awesome and Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth! So Isaiah shouts out "Wake up!!" I am your God and you are my people is to remind Israel of the covenant that exists between themselves and God! It is a covenant that signifies relationship, care and commitment! Israel may have forgotten this, but God had not! God is in the relationship, He is trustworthy and faithful, so therefore there is no need to fear! God's commitment is faultless and worthy of obedience! This commitment deserves active obedience on the part of the people of Israel and not their overwhelming spiritual laziness. While overwhelming fear inhibits and destructs, the love of God frees. Isaiah urges them to live an active and obedient life worthy of their freedom and not a life of spiritual inertia and rebellion.
One last time, Isaiah urges action when crying "Awake! Awake!" in 52:1. Salvation is nearing and coming quickly, are you ready? Be alert, people of Israel and live as if you are the freed people of God and not as if you are rebellious captors. Be ready, just as your ancestors were the night before the Exodus from Egypt commenced. Be expectant and ready. One difference to note. With the exodus, the Israelites took what they could from the Egyptians - gold, silver, jewelry and clothing. This time, everything will be left behind.
All this bears in the mind the Servant. The Servant, who as a King dispenses justice and as a Prophet speaks for God, will usher in this new period. When Isaiah writes in 52:11 "Depart, depart, go out from there", he must be urging people to respond to the Servant. Respond by living a holy and righteous life of obedience to God as one who is on a lifelong pilgrimage. Stop rebelling against Him and love Him who first loved them.
Where is Jesus in this?
Jesus during his earthly ministry always urged people to be active in obedience to God. Jesus comforted the lonely, oppressed, the weak and the poor. He urged people to come back into relationship with God. With a sense of urgency, He told people to be ready and alert for the day when history will end. Jesus urged his listeners to be spiritually awake. Jesus said in Matthew 11:30 "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Jesus who remarkably stated in John 8:34-36 "Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.". When Jesus Christ the Servant King comes back, He will come back like a thief in the night - with surprise! But for those who love and trust in Him, it will be a day of gladness and joy because their King will have returned to gather them. This Jesus who in Mark1:15 issued these words ""The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" Truly we concur with Isaiah when he wrote in Isaiah 52:7 "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"" Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, through whom is salvation alone.