Isaiah 52

Isaiah 52
by Pastor Mark Hudson

                While these expressions in Is. 52 may sound somewhat unusual, even foreign, to us that is because it is foreign to us.  How many Americans have been exiled?  We have imprisoned Japanese, treated Africans horribly, treated the Irish, Italian, etc. beyond poorly, we not many Americans have been forcibly removed from this country.  So, we may fail to appreciate what the fuss is about.

            For those of you who own a home; look around your home, property, and things: cars, furniture, art, etc.  Can you imagine leaving it all behind to live in another country under the military might of a nation that hated you? 

            Imagine how you would long to be back in your home, to eat the foods you crave, the hear your language in the street, and to be able to worship freely?  I find it hard to imagine that.  What would my house look like?  What would this city be like?  How would I feel returning to my hometown?

            This chapter is about that return.  Where once the ungodly forceable removed them, now the unclean will not come in Jerusalem (v. 1).  No more groveling.  Now is the time to be seated (v. 2).  God knows that they were “sold for nothing.”  God knows how hard their time in Egypt was and the oppression of the Assyrians.  But He is about to reverse that.  The people, “my people” will “know that it is I who speak; here I am”  (v. 6).

            In ancient times, since there was no twitter, no texting, no email, all they had were runners to carry the news.  Runners and even multiple runners would carry news to cities.  In v. 7 how happy are the people of Jerusalem to hear good news.  This good news is not merely a return to Jerusalem but that return points to something grander, something more joyful, more promising, and even more long lasting: salvation.  God was exceedingly happy to bring His people back to Jerusalem.  But don’t think for a minute that was the extent of what God is doing.  No.  He promised salvation and eternal life for His own.

            The solo voice of the herald is matched by the numerous watchmen who see not just the return of the exiles but “they see the return of the Lord to Zion” v. 8.   They sign for joy and we see these declarations (that are far more than hints) that as the people return, God’s presence is returning.  A true believing Jew at that time would not just be happy to be home and touch the walls of Jerusalem and their own home but that God was with them!  He was the entire point.  And He still is.

            Then in v. 9 the waste places join the signing.  I feel like I keep repeating this to my discipleship group but ‘don’t take this literally.’  “The ruins of Jerusalem symbolize the condition of the people (Is 49:19).  “They too are a waste; their lives seem to be a landscape of ruins” (Oswalt p. 370).  The city and the people will be rebuilt.  But anyone can rebuild a city.  Much greater value is the restoration of the people to God.   God has comforted and redeemed His people.  These two verbs are at the center of this part of the book. 

            In v. 10, God is ready to fight.  “The Lord has bared his holy arm” means that he is ready to rumble.  I found the discussion of ‘holy’ before arm in this verse intriguing.  On one hand, his arm is holy in the sense of divine perfection and power.  But Calvin notes that his purpose is holy. God is not just a big bully on Israel’s side no matter what Israel does.  “Rather, he exerts himself for those who are trampled down by human greed, those who are broken on rack of sin, those who are imprisoned in the darkness of desire (so also Ps. 98:1-3)” Oswalt p. 371.

            Whatever we wish for, desire, or long for we must ask, “Do I want God more than anything or anyone else?”  We are called to Him, to know, love and obey Him.  God is a powerful God.  Idols, as one wrote, and like slave traders dressed up like abolitionists.  We think we do not have idols yet anything above God is an idol.  I John 5:21, “Little children, keep yourself from idols.”  This warning is for us.  Not that we will build an idol, but some of our sinful beliefs cancel God.  Don’t think about ungodly people who do this.  Consider your own heart.  Reflect on your heart and how wayward it often is.

            Do you want as v. 10 says “all the ends of the earth [to] see the salvation of our God?”  Is that your desire or do you desire a better vacation, a paid off home, a nicer car.  Do you want recognition?  Do you seek approval?  Why are you so restless?  What is it that you are searching for?  Remember, “in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am” v. 6.

            Father, I come to you in Jesus’ name and blood.  I admit to you that I am far from what You want me to be.  I get distracted by the glitter of this world.  Even though I know it is fleeting and unfulfilling, it sure looks good at times.  I realize that grieves You because I do not see the eternal value of knowing You.  Please don’t leave me to myself.  Draw me ever upward so I will keep seeking the things above and the eternal good of others around me.  Help me to be firm in my faith and yet gentle to others.  Fill me today with Your life-giving Spirit so I will praise You with words but more importantly my obedient life. In Christ, Amen.