In Chapter 62, verses 1-3 promise how bright and well-seen Jerusalem's righteousness and salvation will be to the nations. 4 & 5 talk about Jerusalem's people metaphorically as being married to God and to the land of that city. 6-9 calls the people to pray to God unceasingly for His provision for Jerusalem. 10-12 gives us a picture of Jerusalem being rebuilt and exalted among the nations, but also those nations proclaiming the coming salvation through "Him" who brings His reward and retribution with Him. The Jews surely interpreted this "Him" who brings to them a redemptive salvation as the Lord, their God. He is the One who makes them holy, redeems them, and it results in the city of Jerusalem being sought out.
Chapter 60 begins with a plea--from the Word of God to Zion/Jacob/the people of God--to let their light shine in the world. Despite the darkness of the world, the glory of God will be seen on them (i.e. not originating from them but from God to them) to the end that nations are drawn to their "rising" light (1-3). This is no different from the promise given to Abraham, that he would be blessed so that all nations of the world could also be blessed by coming to the one true God. Praises of the Lord are the ties that bind this family of faith together and bring prosperity (4-9, 11-14). God is the One who makes this happen, glorifying the ones who come to Him. Not only this, but Israel suffered because they turned from God but foreigners will restore Jerusalem/Zion (as we see in the book of Nehemiah). God both punishes and shows favor (10), allows His people to be overthrown but restores them (14), so that Israel will know the Lord is their Savior and Redeemer (16). Verses 18-22 give us a picture of the everlasting glory and light that comes from God alone, the same imagery that John uses in Revelation.
Isaiah Chapter 58 starts with God the Word calling Isaiah to confront His people with their sins. Verses 2-3 God is actually sarcastic and points out His people's self-righteousness: they claim to seek God and walk righteously, they act like they want the ordinances of God and to be near to God, and are surprised by the fact that God isn't seeming to notice it. God replies, starting in 3, that He doesn't hear because He's not interested in fasts that honor self or result in humbling the self (5) in sackcloth and ashes. He sees His people causing problems in their wickedness--and it seems like the people are currently wanting to be heard by God on high, but not at the expense of stopping their wicked habits (4). God gives them what He considers and honorable fast: ending wickedness, freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry (6), housing and clothing the poor and homeless, caring for your relatives (7), and turning away from our own selfish pursuits (13; I deal with this at length in the personal thoughts section). Not only that, but God--in typical blessing fashion--shares how listening to Him and following His commands is going to result in some pretty amazing blessings, not the least of which is taking delight in Him (8-12, 14).
Chapter 56 kicks off with another "thus says the Lord," which means the Lord is still the One speaking--whether it's God the Word as before or the Lord God (the Father) isn't really important, since there is really no difference (the Word doesn't say what the Lord God wouldn't say, and neither does the Spirit impart what does not come from God). Chapter 55 has ended with a foretelling of coming blessings and continues here, not as a demand to make possible the coming blessings but in response to the blessing that is coming; i.e. we don't preserve justice and do righteousness so that God's salvation and righteousness will come, but because it is coming. The Jewish people (and us) are instructed to "preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed" (1). The one who does this, who keeps the sabbath day of rest for the Lord and keeps from evil, will be blessed (2). Verses 3-8 beautifully answer the "proposed pains" of those who are in some way removed from the blessing of the Lord according to the Law: the foreigner, who is outside the "chosen people of God" (i.e. Israel), needs not fear separation from God's people (3) but will be welcomed--purposefully gathered to His chosen people (8)--to pray and sacrifice to God (7 [Jesus quotes this in Matthew 21:13, likely b/c the extortion being practiced by these Jewish merchants might dissuade God-fearing non-Jews to think wrongly of God on account of God's people]) IF they "join themselves to the Lord" and follow His commands (6); the eunuch, a castrated man restricted from entering the presence of the Lord according to Deuteronomy 23:1 and furthermore lacking heirs to carry on his family name (Genesis 15:2-3), who nevertheless holds to the commandments of God will have honor that sons and daughters can't bring and will not be "cut off" (5).
God the Word is still speaking at the top of 54--vs 1-5 speak of an increase in the descendants of Israel. Israel will not be left without heir because God Himself is the "husband" and "God of all the earth." 6-8 talk about God's relatively short forsaking of Israel in relation to His everlasting lovingkindness, but it's still hard to see. Considering the act of God's forsaking Israel (7) and an "outburst of anger" (8) is hard when we are tempted to only acknowledge the love of God and ignore what real love looks like in different situations; especially when you're talking about the great God of all the earth who is our Redeemer. We don't like to think of God doing something like having His servant die for the sins of others, but that's exactly what God the Word is saying will happen. Verses 9 & 10, like in all texts, cannot be removed from their context here. God's confession of His anger and forsaking of Israel just now is not here contradicted so much as it is related to the flood of Noah's time. The end is not annihilation, God's lovingkindness still continues and His compassion both prompts and tempers His anger toward sin. Israel's city will be established with precious stones and righteousness (11-12, 14), receive instruction from the Lord (13), and be protected from enemies because it's actually God who orders destruction and protection (15-16). No weapon is going to prosper against Israel and God will be the vindicator of His servants (17).
So the speaker from the previous chapter is the disciple, a servant of God who is, at least up to this point, unnamed. Assuming, like I mentioned last time, the continuation of the previous action and discussion about what a disciple is (despite the chapter division), the same speaker is still "speaking" at the beginning of Ch. 51. Vs. 1-3 is addressed to the ones who "pursue righteousness, who seek the Lord" and is an admonition to remember the heritage of faith from which they came. The exile and humiliation of the previous chapters will be turned to "joy and gladness." Vs. 4-8 (and 2 as well) clarify a couple things, then, about the previous post I made, where there was confusion over whether or not the speaker was Isaiah, the Servant who was foretold, or someone else.
Chapter 49 starts with a change in voice clearly indicated in vs. 3--if you recall from the end of Ch. 48 God "the Word" was still speaking and told His people Israel to say, "The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob" (and possibly 21 too), to proclaim His powerful deliverance as they left the exile from Babylon. Then we see, from 49:3, that the "Me" doing the speaking in vs. 1-2 is the personified servant of the Lord, Israel. What Israel is saying in vs. 1-2 is a confirmation of the Lord choosing her as a nation, a name given by the Lord before it came to be, a voice to give words like a sharp sword (the meaning of which comes shortly), being protected and selected for the purpose that begins in vs. 3. The people of Israel are to be, collectively, God's servant "in whom I will show my glory."
In Isaiah 48:1 God scolds the people of Israel, the house of Jacob, for their religious dumb-show. They may call on God and give the appearance of devotion, but "not in truth nor in righteousness." They lean on God, the Lord of Hosts (2), in this manner. But vs. 3-5 say how God was clear in telling the Israelites what was to come, long in advance, so they couldn't turn to themselves and assure themselves that their idols, which they'd been unfaithful with, had done it. What God is here speaking of, specifically, is not clearly articulated. It could be that He's referring to the Persians, Babylonians, Cyrus, etc. specifically, or generally to these kinds of events that were to be the results of the Israelites' unfaithfulness. Either way, they were told in advance by God that this would happen.
Picking up where I am now in my personal study, in vs. 1-2 the Babylonian idols to Bel and Nebo are mocked as the lifeless chunks they are, in need of animals to carry their forms from place to place. This is contrasted with the Israelites (house of Jacob) in vs 3-4 where it is God who has both given them life (i.e. from birth) and carries them. They do not carry God (7), they do not provide for God (6), but God provides for and carries them--He is without equal (5). He will also deliver them. This language supposes there is something from which the Israelites need to be delivered.
I've found that the past several months have involved me asking various people to weigh in on the thoughts they have (or have had) on passages that I've been studying. I like to search out the truth. It's been a long time since I've simply listened to something another believer has said, whether they're a pastor or not, and failed to examine the text for myself. I think that's important; otherwise, why would Luke state that the Berean's were noble to receive the message of Jesus with excitement and examine the things Paul said to see if they were true (Acts 17)?
This post begins a new chapter in my faith walk, where I will endeavor to read through the Bible and "blog" my thoughts and revelations from the Word. I'm hoping this forum is a place for others to not only read along with me but to chime in with what the Spirit has revealed to them. That's the short answer. If you're interested in joining me, I'm thrilled to have you!
This blog is my process of struggling with God, reading to understand the truth and separate the facts of God from the fiction of thoughts and opinions. I invite all to enjoy the journey with me.