Isaiah 51:4-8 Mercy and Justice Are Coming
Posted by adventbiblestudy on July 22, 2014
Isaiah 51:4-8 Mercy and Justice Are Coming
Isaiah 51:4-8 NLTse “Listen to me, my people. Hear me, Israel, for my law will be proclaimed, and my justice will become a light to the nations. (5) My mercy and justice are coming soon. My salvation is on the way. My strong arm will bring justice to the nations. All distant lands will look to me and wait in hope for my powerful arm. (6) Look up to the skies above, and gaze down on the earth below. For the skies will disappear like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing. The people of the earth will die like flies, but my salvation lasts forever. My righteous rule will never end! (7) “Listen to me, you who know right from wrong you who cherish my law in your hearts. Do not be afraid of people’s scorn, nor fear their insults. (8) For the moth will devour them as it devours clothing. The worm will eat at them as it eats wool. But my righteousness will last forever. My salvation will continue from generation to generation.”
The beginning of this prophecy seems to point to Jesus’ ministry. It would be easy to make that assumption based on verses 4 to 5 and separate them from the rest of the chapter. But that goes against the method we’ve been taught by God’s Word. We have to look at more than a few texts to understand the context and the deeper spiritual meaning. Verse 6 appears to point to Jesus’ return when the world will see a severe transformation. A close examination shows one verse lacks details to see the full extent of Jesus’ return. Verse 7 begins with the word LISTEN to me! Then it described those able to listen, “you who know right from wrong you who cherish my law in your hearts.” Following is not the scene of total destruction described in verse 6 but a smaller version of change. Moths and worms eat only a little bit. So we have to look for details describing a series of changes one at a time.
I prayed about this prophecy and didn’t hear a thing. To me it’s unusual not to hear God’s voice and instructions. I went on about my day to day routine as usual and guess what. The last thing I do in the day and first thing I do in the morning is read a few verses in the Bible. Often God sets up perfect timing so the verses I read on that day reveal details I’m supposed to notice. I know that’s true because I suddenly look at them and understand details I hadn’t seen before. Does that happen to you? I know it does. Now all you need to do is learn to pay attention to those details and apply them. This is one of the ways God communicates with you, through His Word. It appears this is the next lesson God wants us to learn. Have you ever read any other book that goes into details about how God times your daily reading to coincide with lessons He wants you to learn at that moment? Here is what happened to me.
I woke up, prayed and opened my Bible to the next chapter in my daily reading. It was Habakkuk. As I read Habakkuk I saw how he filled in details for Isaiah 51:6 Look up to the skies above, and gaze down on the earth below. For the skies will disappear like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing. The people of the earth will die like flies, but my salvation lasts forever. My righteous rule will never end!
Notice how Isaiah moved from one time frame to another from verse to verse.
“Listen to me, my people. Hear me, Israel, for my law will be proclaimed, and my justice will become a light to the nations. (5) My mercy and justice are coming soon. My salvation is on the way.
Verse 4 and 5 appear to point to Jesus’ ministry.
Look up to the skies above, and gaze down on the earth below. For the skies will disappear like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing. The people of the earth will die like flies, but my salvation lasts forever. My righteous rule will never end!
Verse 6 appears to move to Jesus’ second return.
One of the most difficult subjects to understand is God’s timing. Why He shifts from one time frame to a new time frame may be difficult for us to understand but we have to believe He does this for a reason. We understand that reason only when we follow the direction He leads us in our study. In this case God decided the best way to talk was through His Word. One of the lessons we need to learn so we are better able to listen to God’s voice. God didn’t stop there. I wrote the introduction to this study before listening to a friend preach. I got there, sat down behind the pastor and opened up Habakkuk on my phone to see what verses I wanted to use for this study. His wife was up front going through a list of crimes and tragedies in Milwaukee over the past two weeks. A man shot his neighbor and family. A father killed his sons. A policeman was arrested on charges of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, torturing, killing, and dumping two teenage girls and suspected of killing four others. She continued to read a long list of similar events as I read Habakkuk. It seemed Habakkuk’s image was a vision of the past week in Milwaukee. It is an image that repeats over and over again in all parts of this world. I handed my phone to the preacher who read Habakkuk as his wife continued to speak. I could tell by the look in his eyes he could see God’s Spirit at work. God’s Spirit was at work. He is telling us how close the end is as well as giving me a lesson to share…. how God confirms His message.
I am not expecting to see anything new in prophecy or looking for new revelations, but God knows people all over this world need to be educated in the basic concept of listening to His voice and learning how to react to it. Today’s lesson is, God will always confirm His message by two or three witnesses. In this case it was His Word and one of His trusted followers. This is not unusual and you must have experienced the same sequence. Now it’s a matter of knowing both are God’s voice. Next is a matter of learning what the message is and how to share it. As usual, God’s message carries a series of lessons. The second is learning how God’s Word speaks through two or three witnesses, His prophets. In this example Isaiah gave us a hint, pointing to a time line. Habakkuk filled in more details.
Habakkuk 1:1-5 NLTse This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision. (2) How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. (3) Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. (4) The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted. (5) The LORD replied, “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.
This is the part of the chapter that sounded like Habakkuk’s vision was looking at Milwaukee in our time. But this vision is vague and could describe a lot of places in a lot of moments in earth’s history. The amazing thing about this prophecy is the timing. Reading it in the morning then seeing someone describe details in the area fitting the theme, not to mention how Isaiah, the chapter I was studying covered the same theme. I often find the right texts to fit the theme I’m study during my daily Bible reading. Somehow God has a way of setting up His perfect timing. This is one of the ways God continually communicates. I’m sure most people have seen this but don’t really think of it as God talking to them, but it is. There are other lessons we can review when we look at a few more verses in Habakkuk.
Habakkuk 1:6 NLTse I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people. They will march across the world and conquer other lands.
Of course this prophecy was originally given to the people in and around Jerusalem before Babylonian attacked. Although this prophecy was intended for Judah and was physically fulfilled, there is a spiritual side of the prophecy.
Habakkuk 1:12-17 NLTse O LORD my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal– surely you do not plan to wipe us out? O LORD, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins. (13) But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil. Will you wink at their treachery? Should you be silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they? (14) Are we only fish to be caught and killed? Are we only sea creatures that have no leader? (15) Must we be strung up on their hooks and caught in their nets while they rejoice and celebrate? (16) Then they will worship their nets and burn incense in front of them. “These nets are the gods who have made us rich!” they will claim. (17) Will you let them get away with this forever? Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests?
We can see this prophecy is still focused on the time Babylon invaded Jerusalem. Look at the way Habakkuk introduces a few details. Babylon was sent to punish Jerusalem for their sins. One of those punishments was wicked people swallowing up righteous people. Not much of a specific detail. There is an additional hint when we see them worshiping their nets because those nets made them rich. Habakkuk also used fish and related words like hook and net as symbols. Fish can point to a number of things. We see a movement from physical details to symbols mirroring a movement from one time period to another. Those are hints showing what to look for in key words and what time period they apply to. When we follow general rules of Bible Study context and repeated key words, we are led to connecting chapters that explain details we don’t understand on our own.
Habakkuk 2:1-5 NLTse I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint. (2) Then the LORD said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. (3) This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. (4) “Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God. (5) Wealth is treacherous, and the arrogant are never at rest. They open their mouths as wide as the grave, and like death, they are never satisfied. In their greed they have gathered up many nations and swallowed many peoples.
Habakkuk tells us a few guidelines for Bible Study. Write it down. Writing is another way God’s Spirit talks to us. Writing is a way to slow us down giving God’s Spirit the chance to show us key words and how they relate to the context of the chapter as well as lead us to related texts. Notice how Habakkuk tells us why to write down the message. So the correct message is delivered. Habakkuk also adds a few more details telling us why Jerusalem fell. Pride and wealth are two of the major factors. Both drew them away from God. They thought trusting in themselves was more important that trusting in God. The same is true with a lot of people who imagine they are studying the Bible when all they do is read a verse or two then put their own interpretation on God’s Word. They trust in themselves while separating from God. We also see the word swallowed repeated. This time we’re shown this points to pulling people into the grave. In other words those people are catching people in their nets by promising them riches and wealth. Scams are an issue today especially in the Internet age. To understand the concept of that trap we have to look at it from all sides. Who sins, the person ripped off by a scam or the person perpetrating the scam? Obviously the person initiating the scam trying to make money by stealing it from others. God doesn’t punish victims of a scam. Babylon was sent to punish those people in Jerusalem initiating scams. What about swallowing people up? Does that refer to people caught in a scam? Some people may think so, but look at scams we see today. The Internet is filled with people teaching other people to be scam artists for a price. People willing pay for scripts and to watch videos to learn how to scam people. Habakkuk is referring to the brains behind the operation who recruit people to train. Jerusalem may not have had the Internet when Babylon was sent to punish them. They recruited and trained people the old fashion way, face to face.
Habakkuk 2:9-13 NLTse “What sorrow awaits you who build big houses with money gained dishonestly! You believe your wealth will buy security, putting your family’s nest beyond the reach of danger. (10) But by the murders you committed, you have shamed your name and forfeited your lives. (11) The very stones in the walls cry out against you, and the beams in the ceilings echo the complaint. (12) “What sorrow awaits you who build cities with money gained through murder and corruption! (13) Has not the LORD of Heaven’s Armies promised that the wealth of nations will turn to ashes? They work so hard, but all in vain!
Habakkuk added more details later in the prophecy. Jerusalem’s sins center around money gained by illegal means. Their method may have been legal as far as civil law was concerned, or overlooked by judges and law enforcement, that is another branch corruption sends out, bribes, another way they swallow up people. Habakkuk tells how far it will go – murder.
Habakkuk 2:18-20 NLTse “What good is an idol carved by man, or a cast image that deceives you? How foolish to trust in your own creation— a god that can’t even talk! (19) What sorrow awaits you who say to wooden idols, ‘Wake up and save us!’ To speechless stone images you say, ‘Rise up and teach us!’ Can an idol tell you what to do? They may be overlaid with gold and silver, but they are lifeless inside. (20) But the LORD is in his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him.”
Habakkuk closes the prophecy by laying all the facts on the table. Trusting in themselves is nothing short of an idol. They have to be rich to cover those idols in gold and silver. When we look back at previous texts we see idols are self confidence, pride, money, and homes. How do scam artists sell their programs? They develop trust in their system which becomes an idol.
This is a short review showing how to gather details from verses and chapters. Many so called Bible Studies don’t consider the entire chapter, thereby missing obvious details on the surface. Of course other prophets added more details we find by following God’s Spirit and using key words to lead us. There is a close connection between God’s Spirit and His Word. And remember, when the fulfillment of a prophecy is important, it will always be confirmed.
Of course we still need to practice proven study patterns. The New Testament parallel chapter to the prophecy in Isaiah 51 is not an easy one to locate. Which key words do we use to locate that parallel chapter? Listen, hear, and proclaimed are the first series of key words we see. Mercy, justice, and righteousness is another set of key words closely related to another, salvation. This is the best time to put a study away for a while and pray about it. To me the word mercy seemed to be the best choice. Of course the word mercy turned up a number of texts. That’s when it’s time to check the introduction and summation of texts that seem to fit the prophecy with Isaiah chapter 51. One expounds on the same theme much better than other chapters.
Hebrews 11:33-40 NLTse By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, (34) quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. (35) Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. (36) Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. (37) Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. (38) They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. (39) All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. (40) For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
Of course the book of Hebrews covers details of Jesus’ ministry in Heaven as well as providing contrasts to the Tabernacle build by Moses and the role of priests serving in the Tabernacle, in addition to what our reaction and duty is during that phase of Jesus’ Heavenly ministry. One of the most important aspects and duties of Jesus’ followers is faith. Another is justice, one of the words linking Isaiah 51 5o Hebrews 11 which continues the theme showing how difficult it can be to serve God in this world. Those related key words jeered, chained, stoning, cut, sawed, destitute, oppressed, and mistreated are also related to scorn and insults Isaiah used to describe the condition in Jerusalem. When we combine the two we see a detailed description of what Isaiah and the other prophets faced. This type of treatment continued with Jesus’ disciples and to one extent or another exists today. In some countries Christians face brutal treatment at the hands of fanatical leaders from other religions. Even here in the US people face opposition and/or rejection from their own churches when they reach out to other denominations. I know because it happened to me. Church leaders heard about meetings I attended with pastors from other denominations. Some of those leaders insisted they needed to attend those meetings so they could, “straighten them out.” In other words, the leaders from the church I attended believed they had all the truth and it was their job to change the world to be just like them. The word unity was often used in that church for leaders to impose rules, regulations, and traditions they thought were important. A few leaders decided who could speak in church. What hymns could be sung. What was studied. What verses could be discussed. That church allowed a few leaders to micromanage every detail. I couldn’t find anything in the Bible supporting their excuse for what they called unity. Of course the church was fractured over little details. People on both sides of the debates tried to recruit me in their squabbles. Of course I refused. I eventually left that church.
When you think of it, God was trying to reinforce a point when He had all those prophecies about Jesus written during a war. If we look at it the way it was written, it was a world war. Babylon was the first world power in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The same problems God’s prophets saw in their time existed when Jesus walked this world and still exist today. That’s why we view the promise in Isaiah 51 as a future promise. “My mercy and justice are coming soon. My salvation is on the way. My strong arm will bring justice to the nations. All distant lands will look to me and wait in hope for my powerful arm.” Then again, it has always been a promise that can be fulfilled any day. God’s mercy and justice is always with us. If it wasn’t, none of us would be around. Isaiah’s prophecy tells us God’s salvation in on the way. This prophecy was recorded before Jesus sealed salvation for all of us who accept it. With everything Jesus has to offer, do we need anything more? Do we want anything this world has to offer?
Why does the world force all that scorn and suffering on Jesus’ followers? Jesus tried to explain it to His disciples. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the One who sent me. (John 15:18-21 NLTse). There you have it. Much of the world rejected Jesus. Do you think major corporations stealing from people accepted Jesus? Do you think world leaders enslaving people accepted Jesus? Do you think governments taking taxes from poor while lavishing it on the rich and themselves accepted Jesus? No! All of them rejected Jesus. When you follow Jesus your going against the grain. Your stepping out of line. Your not making self proclaimed leaders your god and savior. People are stuck on control and worshiping money as idols. The worlds is supposed to fall in line and pay and pay and pay. Greed never ends. In this world is has no beginning or end. Greed has no knowledge but controls everything. Greed has no victims but enslaves the poor. Greed has no voice but calls the world. Greed has no face but people seek its promises. Greed has no limit and people think they can control it. Just a little bit here and there. Why worry about it? Everyone does it. Greed is everywhere and no where. Greed has no substance or power but makes the world go round. Greed is the devil, his angels, followers, and all those who rejected Jesus. Greed is the grave and death. God allows us to know greed, experience it, feel it, taste it, live with it, worship greed, and He is calling us away from it all the time. The introduction to both theses chapters tells us how God calls us out.
Isaiah 51:1-3 NLTse “Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance– all who seek the LORD! Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined. (2) Yes, think about Abraham, your ancestor, and Sarah, who gave birth to your nation. Abraham was only one man when I called him. But when I blessed him, he became a great nation.” (3) The LORD will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.
Isaiah 51 begins like to many chapters in Isaiah and the other prophets of his time. The first word is listen which is related to the word called. When we concentrate on the introductions to many of the chapters written during the fall of Jerusalem and captivity in Babylon it’s not difficult to see God was talking long and hard trying to reach those people who refused to listen. God used signs and wonders in the elements as well as major trials. This was continued in the New Testament. If nothing else the gospels show us how Jesus’ disciples had to go through the trial of seeing their Master, Leader, and Teacher on the cross before they could see He was also their Savior. Jerusalem was no different in Isaiah’s time. What did God have to do to get people to see the simple truth? What does God have to do today to get people to open their eyes?
The world today is full of problems. In the US a major portion of this country is under water and facing a series of continuing rain storms while a few miles away another portion of the country, the portion that is supposed to be the major food producing region of the country is in the third or forth year of a drought facing wild fires destroying everything in their path. Individuals and families are facing major trials and few people are able to explain why. What happened to God’s prophets when they are most needed? Based on the fact those prophets in Isaiah’s day began their books and many of their chapters with an emphasis on key words such as listen, say, said, declared, words directly related to the course of action they need to take, LISTEN TO GOD, and TALK WITH GOD. It’s not any different today. God needs every person today who will step up and turn people back to HIM! Not to doctrines and traditions that got us into this mess, but back to GOD the source of infinite wisdom. Sooner of later everyone has to give up everything in this world. Whether is it in death or Jesus’ return, we’ll all have to give up everything in this world. For now a major portion of God’s message is to stop relying on those things from this world and return to the way it was in Eden when man walked and talked with God.
During Isaiah’s time he witnessed the horrors of war that seemed to continue throughout the history of this world. Wars would calm down for a while. Then suddenly one event would spark a new conflict. Today we are seeing another escalation in wars all over the world. Many African nations are at war. North Korea is clamping down on human rights while its leader is trying to make a name for himself by threatening the world. The Middle East is well the Middle East. I never could figure out why so many lives are wasted fighting over that dry barren land. The toll in lives continues every year. Are those battles fought over land, principles, or the lust for power and control? Wars have been going on in the Middle East so long many people ask if anyone knows why.
We see an increase in natural disasters. Record hurricanes and typhoons all over the world. Record cold and high temperatures in the same month, week, day and hours on opposite sides of the world. Record rain fall in one area and droughts in another. No one can calculate loss in human life, pain and suffering. Crop losses are at an all time high.
The world is filled with refuges in every continent fleeing wars, violence, and poverty. Human trafficking is running ramped all over the world. The world wide Internet is a breeding ground for online prostitution and sex trade business. Internet pimps are stealing the souls of our youth. I can’t figure it out. I am trying to sell my house. I have an acre of land with a house built in 2000. Behind me is a pond, acres of open fields, a small woods and a neighborhood park in front. Parents are afraid of the area and don’t want their kids exposed to nature. What kind of world do we live in when parents trust the souls of their children to the Internet while keeping them away from God’s classroom? All of this shows how far this world has drifted away from God and why God needs people like Isaiah to tell them the simple truth — Listen to God, get back with God. He is calling you. Learn to put away this world and all its idols and LISTEN to God. Listening is a skill this world has to relearn from the very beginning.
Isaiah continued his introduction with a reminder. God’s prophets also used the word remember a lot. This time Isaiah tried a different approach. “Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined.” Of course this reminds most Christians about Jesus, our Rock and maybe some will think about the Rock that crushed the statue in Daniel’s book. That’s fine. Let God’s Spirit guide your thoughts. That’s what Isaiah was trying to do, get people to think and connect with God’s Spirit. Isaiah’s audience didn’t see the Rock as Christ, so he pointed them to another symbol, Abraham. Isaiah’s main point in this chapter was to remind people about the comfort God offers. The parallel chapter in Hebrews adds more details as well as pointing to the only solution.
Hebrews 11:1-10 NLTse Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (2) Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. (3) By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. (4) It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith. (5) It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying–“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. (6) And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (7) It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith. (8) It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. (9) And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith–for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. (10) Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.
This is a good time to create another chart and follow Habakkuk’s instruction to write it down. What is faith? Let’s see that Hebrews tells us about faith?
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen
it gives us assurance about things we cannot see
people in days of old earned a good reputation
By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command
by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God
by faith Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying
it is impossible to please God without faith
by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood
By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world
he received the righteousness that comes by faith.
by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him
he lived there by faith–
We can see faith has many patterns and means many things to different people. The most important aspects of faith is confidence and assurance. Two of the main aspects of life this world is lacking today. Two of the attributes God needs us to give back to this world. With confidence and assurance comes understanding. We can begin to understand all things come from God and everything belongs to God. It always has and always will. Wealth, honor, and glory people gather to themselves mean nothing to God. There is no toll to get into Heaven. There has never been a quiz or test showing how much you know. It does take the right offering. That offering is obedience to God. We are the only offering God is interested in. In God’s eyes we are more valuable than all the gold and silver in this world. One life means more to God than all the land and houses. It meant so much, God gave His only Son to save this world. If only God could take us all up without dying like He did with Enoch. God would like nothing more than for all of us to have the faith Enoch has. It’s impossible to know or please God without faith. Hebrews also used Noah and Abraham as examples. Noah knew the world was about to end and we should have that same faith. What are we helping to build for God so He can save at least a small portion of this world? Do we have Noah’s faith? Do we have Abraham’s faith to follow and obey God when we can’t clearly see or understand His promise? Do we have faith to study God’s Word and listen to the many forms He uses to communicate with us. This type of study – designed and approved by God is patterned to build faith. It takes time and time is one of the major factors in faith. Time we spend in God’s Word and listening to Him in His vast array of communication methods is an investment not in this world, but in His Kingdom to come.
The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy we are studying is the summation for Hebrews 11, but we still need to compare the summation of Isaiah 51 to make sure they are following the same theme. Based on how we’ve seen patterns in the Bible, we know once the introductions match, the summations will follow the same theme. We still need to look at the summation of Isaiah 51 to see what information it adds.
Isaiah 51:17-23 NLTse Wake up, wake up, O Jerusalem! You have drunk the cup of the LORD’s fury. You have drunk the cup of terror, tipping out its last drops. (18) Not one of your children is left alive to take your hand and guide you. (19) These two calamities have fallen on you: desolation and destruction, famine and war. And who is left to sympathize with you? Who is left to comfort you? (20) For your children have fainted and lie in the streets, helpless as antelopes caught in a net. The LORD has poured out his fury; God has rebuked them. (21) But now listen to this, you afflicted ones who sit in a drunken stupor, though not from drinking wine. (22) This is what the Sovereign LORD, your God and Defender, says: “See, I have taken the terrible cup from your hands. You will drink no more of my fury. (23) Instead, I will hand that cup to your tormentors, those who said, ‘We will trample you into the dust and walk on your backs.'”
So far we’ve seen how Isaiah and Hebrews tell us being a Christian and one of God’s followers has not, and will not be an easy task. We’ve also seen how God wants us to have assurance He is with us and wants to give us comfort only He can provide. When we compare the summations for Isaiah 51 and Hebrews 11, we see contrasts in each. Another detail we notice is Isaiah begins his summation by writing about the negative side of the issue followed by a few words of assurance. Hebrews reversed that process. It’s God’s way of showing no matter what your situation is, He understands and has the right answer. As we’ve seen, God has your book written and all He wants you to do is follow what He has written for you. “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NLTse).
Isaiah puts the choice in simple language. This world has already tried drinking from the cup of fury. This world already tried making its own cup, following their own wisdom, ignoring God while looking out for themselves no matter how it effects other people in this world on a large or small scale. Who is left to sympathize with you? Who is left to comfort you? No one in this world is going to offer relief after companies like GM took advantage of so many people, oil companies worked behind scenes to increase profits at any costs, healthcare companies restrict or deny basic care for those in need while charging outrageous fees, and governments tax beyond what most people are able to bear. The cup this world choose is not what anyone wanted or expected. What did they expect results to be? But now listen to this, you afflicted ones who sit in a drunken stupor, though not from drinking wine. This is what the Sovereign LORD, your God and Defender, says: “See, I have taken the terrible cup from your hands. You will drink no more of my fury. Instead, I will hand that cup to your tormentors, those who said, ‘We will trample you into the dust and walk on your backs.'”
Hebrews begins the summation to chapter 11 with encouragement showing what people with faith were able to accomplish. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. This should evoke thoughts about stories in the Bible like the fall of Jericho and Daniel in the lions den. It also reminds me of people I’ve known who never moved past children’s stories. They never had time or interest in Bible Study. Their relationship with God was there, but had trouble reaching and helping people when the needed it. I’ve seen some slip on some major issues they faced as if their childlike imagination could not grasp the difference between right and wrong. Or were they afraid of what they found when they read their Bibles? Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. Fear can be a difficult attitude to overcome. If nothing else this world is full of excuses. Not enough time. Not enough money. It’s not my job. We pay pastors for that job. We elect church officials for that. I am not qualified. Where is their faith? Why didn’t it grow? How do we tell them how to get into a real relationship with Jesus? How can we show them the gifts and confidence God gave us to make it through trials we faced?