Listen! Awake! Depart!

Isaiah 51:1-52:12

According to people who keep track of such things, world population reached 7 billion mark few weeks back. Of course, some moan / groan how we’re abusing the planet, overloading its resources; need to control population, reduce carbon footprint, all that jazz, so we leave something for future generations. I believe people of God should view that number differently: according to God’s Word, all but one of 7 billion came into world needing to hear Gospel. Many have heard and responded in faith. Still one immense mission field left; can point in absolutely any direction, someone within walking or driving distance needs to hear “glad tidings of good things”.

God speaks through text: listen up, wake up, get up. Hear the glad tidings, wake up to action, move in direction God shows to spread light in dark world. We enjoy light of sun, electric lights; it’s light of Gospel that gives life to people dead in sin.

A. Listen to Me 51:1-8

listen (1a) Targeted message, directed to remnant, faithful who were committed to doing right, seeking God for purpose of worshiping, hearing, obeying. Challenged to hear with intent to follow through.

look (1b-3) Consider who you are: just as rock comes from quarry, so you have come from father Abraham, mother Sarah. Remember promises made to Abraham, through him to subsequent generations. Same power that fulfilled promise of Isaac will carry out all other promises; God will bring joy / gladness / thanksgiving / voice of song to people who had known great desolation. There was indeed great joy and gladness when foundation of temple was laid again (Ezra 3:10-12); that singing and shouting just small prelude to praising in the church and heaven when God saves another sinner by his amazing grace.

listen (4-5) Exhortation to listen attentively to message, directed to God’s people, the nation or kingdom of his establishing. God’s law and his revelation show the nations the sinfulness of their sin; shines light on their condition and their need. Thank God for verse 5: God’s righteousness and salvation are near, there is hope for nations.

look up (6) Things always on the move in the heavens: stars, planets, clouds; same is true of our planet, in constant state of change. Flowers bloom & die, rivers and oceans in constant motion, trees grow and are cut down for lumber or firewood. OTOH, God and his salvation a different story: God’s deliverance is forever. Not delivered from sin until next screw-up; deliverance from condemnation is once for all. Not license to sin more, liberty to praise more!!

listen (7-8) God’s people further described: who have his law in their hearts, have eagerly embraced God’s law as their rule of life. Exhorted not to fear what men may say or do, rather rest in God’s forever righteousness, his enduring salvation. Remember the great blessing of God’s gift to the world: baby, God in flesh, Lamb of God, sent to purchase eternal life for his people at cost of his own life.

B. Wake up 51:9-52:10

wake up (9-16) arm of the Lord

Those who go out in own strength doomed to failure; arm of Lord must be active on our behalf first. Prophet calls on Lord, seemingly inactive, to rouse to action on behalf of his people; sets good example for us. Calls on same power and strength that delivered people from Egypt to act again – this time to provide eternal deliverance. Required arm of Lord to bring people out of captivity under Pharaoh; requires far greater strength and power to deliver from captivity under sin.

God exercising power to ransom his people is both source of joy and cause for joy. Not momentary rejoicing, is enduring and everlasting joy that overwhelms recipients and banishes grief and suffering. Have foretaste of that joy in this life, will experience in fullness in the next when “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)

Exhorted again not to be afraid of circumstances, what man may say or do; to be fearful requires taking focus off God, failing to properly trust in him and his providence. In particular, must trust in the Servant (16) equipped by God for his divine task of redeeming a people to populate new heavens and earth.

wake up (17-23) Jerusalem

God now calls on Jerusalem to wake up to truth of their situation: their predicament not result of poor planning or weak defenses or faulty strategy. Was God’s punishment as consequence for their sin. Had experienced great devastation: confusion, no leadership and none coming up through ranks; double disasters of hardship and death, the physical suffering, along with full cup of God’s righteous fury. Situation is so hopeless it appears not even God can provide comfort.

And then he does, providing words of eternal hope and comfort: tells his people, “I have removed the cup from your hand; You will never drink it again.” Cup not removed from everyone; their tormentors would drink cup in its entirety, but not as substitute for Jerusalem. There was another who would be that substitute: said to Peter in Garden, “shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11) Lord Jesus drank that poison cup dry so his people would never be required to, providing hope for a hopeless people, true joy to those who had known only sorrow.

wake up (52:1-10) Zion, the holy city

Holy One of Israel expects his people, his city to be holy; no one with any impurity will be allowed entrance into Zion. Pure condition not something people could acquire on their own; have no money (resources) to get it with. Without outside help, are in hopeless helpless situation; yet God declares they will be redeemed without exchange of money. Their redemption will be a free gift.

Those who need a debt forgiven can’t pay for their forgiveness;that’s kinda the point, isn’t it! If it’s true forgiveness, it must come at no cost to the one forgiven. Need forgiveness? Don’t wait to seek it from the Lord who offers redemption and forgiveness freely to those who come to him. Offer is made explicit in chapter 55, it’s hinted at here and basis for it is Servant’s work on behalf of his people.

It is God who will bring about change for his people; will give ability to know him intimately, recognize his voice. Instead of continuing to punish for their sins he will show mercy. God draws attention to fact he is about to do something big, something that warrants sending a messenger with good news. Good news, news of peace, news of good things, announcement of salvation, declaring that God has won the battle and is ruling victoriously.

Good news met with great rejoicing and celebration, singing and shouting that hopeless have received hope; comfortless have been comforted; slaves have been redeemed. Picture is one of prisoners whose chains have fallen off, doors and gates are wide open, they are still standing in cells rejoicing.

C. Leave! Get out of there

leave (11a) God reminds them “You’re free to leave!” You’re not prisoners of war in Babylon any more, you’re free to go home. Like one set free from sin – free to go home, to Father’s house and enjoy his presence and provision.

don’t touch (11b) Reminder!! You’ve been released from dominion of sin, don’t take it with you. For Jews, don’t take idolatry and all it’s baggage with you. For us, don’t try to take sinful lifestyle and its trappings with us in pursuit of holiness. God’s people called to life of purity, not seeing how close to world’s mud-puddle we can hang out and not get splashed. How close to God’s well of living water can we hang out and get refreshed

go with God (12)

outside comfort zone; people inside already know truth, it’s the rest who need to hear. We don’t go alone, God goes before us and behind us when we’re about his business. First thing shepherds did after coming face-to-face with Savior was talk about it: “made widely known (known abroad) the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” (Luk. 2:17) In middle of the night, no less! Didn’t wait for the next day, next time at church, next good opportunity; let everyone within earshot know immediately.

No need for caffeine to keep shepherds awake! Nothing would keep them quiet; going through streets of Bethlehem ringing doorbells, pounding door knockers, praising God with heart and voice, calling others to celebrate with them the birth of the Savior. May God spur us on like the shepherds to tell others where they may receive forgiveness of sin, be given life that never ends, find hope for future, be adopted by a heavenly Father who takes perfect care of his children.

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