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Isaiah 54: I Will Take You Back

LISTEN: Isaiah 54 – I Will Take You Back (mp3)

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 54 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.

Key verses:

Isa. 54:7-8 – “I deserted you for a brief moment, but I will take you back with great compassion. In a surge of anger I hid Myself from you for a moment, but I will have compassion on you with everlasting love,” says the Lord your Redeemer.

Quick summary:

Israel is encouraged to burst into song because her punishment is over and the Lord, like a loving husband, is taking back His wayward bride and showering her with blessings. Her exile in Babylon was necessary because of her grievous sin, but it was only a temporary banishment because the Lord is faithful to His promises. Just as God honored His covenant with Noah, He will honor His “covenant of peace” with Israel. These verses await their complete fulfillment in the messianic kingdom.

Take note:

The imagery throughout this chapter is that of Yahweh, the faithful husband, forgiving Israel, the unfaithful wife, restoring her to her home and bestowing her with undeserved blessings. Warren Wiersbe comments: “Isaiah has used the marriage image before (50:1–3) and will use it again (62:4). Jeremiah also used it (Jer. 3:8), and it is an important theme in both Hosea (chap. 2) and Ezekiel (chaps. 16 and 23). The nation was ‘married’ to Jehovah at Mt. Sinai, but she committed adultery by turning to other gods; and the Lord had to abandon her temporarily. However, the prophets promise that Israel will be restored when Messiah comes and establishes His kingdom” (Be Comforted, S. Is 54:1).

Israel’s Numerical Growth (Isa. 54:1-3)

Israel is likened to a barren woman who experiences the shame of childlessness and knows full well the void it brings to her life. But the Lord promises that days of gladness lie ahead and that her tents will be expanded to accommodate the children who will be born to her. The image of expanding the tent reminds the people of God’s covenant with Abraham, who dwelled in tents and was called outside to count the stars as a sign of the Lord’s promise of offspring. In similar fashion, this ragtag band of post-exilic Jews will re-inhabit the Promised Land and fill it. God will do for them what He did for Abraham and Sarah (Isa. 49:18-21; 51:1-3).

“Jerusalem, once desolate and mourning (Lam. 1:1-5), will be revitalized and teeming with people. Also like a nomad who has so many children he has to enlarge his tent to accommodate them all, Israel’s descendants will increase and even settle in the cities of foreign nations because there will not be enough room for them in their homeland” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1109). The complete fulfillment of this prophecy awaits the messianic kingdom.

Paul quotes Isa. 54:1 in Gal. 4:27 and applies the spiritual principle to the church. As God blesses Sarah and the Jewish remnant with children, He will bless His church, even though at present it is only a small company of faithful followers in a wayward world.

Israel’s Regathering (Isa. 54:4-8)

The Lord promises Israel He will take her back the way a gracious husband takes back an unfaithful wife. The people are urged not to fear for they will not be put to shame, and not to be humiliated for they will not suffer disgrace. While deserving of such consequences for their spiritual adultery, the Israelites will be welcomed into the arms of a faithful and forgiving Husband. And who is this Husband? Their “Maker – His name is Yahweh of Hosts … the Holy One of Israel … Redeemer … the God of all the earth” (v. 5).

Yahweh will not destroy the people He has created for His own glory. “He is their Redeemer and cannot sell them into the hands of the enemy. He is their Husband and will not break His covenant promises. As an unfaithful wife, Israel had forsaken her Husband; but He had not permanently abandoned her. He only gave her opportunity to see what it was like to live in a land where people worshiped false gods. God would call her back and woo her to Himself (Hosea 2:14–23), and she would no longer be ‘a wife deserted’ (Isa. 54:6, NIV). She felt forsaken (49:14), but God did not give her up” (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted, S. Is 54:1).

The husband / wife analogy is used frequently in Scripture to describe God’s relationship with Israel. Israel is the unfaithful wife who runs after pagan deities. In anger, God abandons Israel, but only for a time (see Jer. 31:31-34). He is faithful and compassionate. He will remain true to His promises. He will restore His people. In much the same way the New Testament writers refer to Christ as the bridegroom and the church as His bride. Unlike Israel, the church is not yet married to Christ. Rather, she is espoused, or engaged, and is expected to remain chaste and pure until the Bridegroom comes for Her. The apostle Paul, as a friend of the groom, urges his fellow believers to resist false teachings so they will not be enticed to embrace “another Jesus” and thus commit spiritual adultery (2 Cor. 11:4). Ultimately, a great day is in store for Christ and His church when they sit down together at the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).

Israel’s Security (Isa. 54:9-10)

The Lord reminds Israel that His love, mercy and covenant promises remain even though the stinging memory of exile is fresh in the people’s minds. Yahweh has kept His word not to destroy the earth by flood again (Gen. 9:11-17), so His people may count on Him to faithfully carry out His promises of future national blessing. “Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” He assures them (v. 10). This does not mean the Lord will withhold future discipline from Israel, for we see the temple destroyed again in 70 A.D. and the Jews dispersed among the nations as a result of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. But even then, the Lord has preserved a believing remnant, restored the Jews to their homeland (in 1948) and will bring about a spiritual revival in the land when the people He has chosen finally trust in Jesus as His Son and their Savior.

Israel’s Peaceful Future (Isa. 54:11-17)

Throughout the centuries, Jerusalem has experienced many sorrows, prompting the Lord to call her “storm-tossed, and not comforted” (v. 11). However, in coming days the Lord will build up the city with stones made of precious gems as a symbol of her great value. This also may be seen as foreshadowing the New Jerusalem, which comes down from heaven and is beautifully adorned with precious jewels (Rev. 21:9-27).  The children will be taught by the Lord, experience great prosperity and stand securely on a foundation of righteousness. The people no longer will fear oppression from without or corruption from within, for the Lord will protect them.

No doubt this is a preview of the Millennium, during which time no nation will be allowed to defeat Israel. “If anyone attacks you, it is not from Me,” says Yahweh in verse 15, contrasting God’s use of Assyria to punish the northern kingdom (722 B.C.) and Babylon to discipline the southern kingdom (587 B.C.). Further, the Lord assures His people that “whoever attacks you will fall before you.” He continues in verse 17: “No weapon formed against you will succeed, and you will refute any accusation raised against you in court. This is the heritage of the Lord’s servants, and their righteousness is from Me.” It is always the righteousness of God that saves, not man’s own “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). We see this stated plainly and illustrated beautifully in the New Testament. In Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet (Matt. 22:1-14), an invited guest is bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness because he has refused to wear the wedding garment providing by the king. This shows that no one’s own righteousness merits entrance into the kingdom, only the righteousness of Christ. And in Rev. 7:9-17, an innumerable host of people, robed in white, stands before the throne and the Lamb. Their robes are white because “they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

D.A. Carson writes that “the righteousness of v 14 and the impregnability of vs 15–17 are deep rooted in personal discipleship, which is one of the marks of the new covenant. This is the true strength of God’s city, which is promised not immunity from attack but the unanswerable weapon of truth” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 54:11).

Closing Thought

Lawrence O. Richards comments about the covenant of peace in verse 10: “[T]he focus of this covenant is on security. God throws a protective covering over His people so that they will be safe. While this is an eschatological covenant, it has present application to you and me. God’s protective covering has been thrown over us as well. God the Holy Spirit is Himself ‘a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession’ (Eph. 1:14). Because we are God’s own we are safe and secure” (The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., Logos Research Systems, S. 440).