The Lord calls out to His people, the ones who have placed their faith in Him, the ones who seek His righteousness, and He tells them to listen. The Lord God’s people must have trouble listening to Him, as three times in this chapter God exhorts His people to listen to Him.
The Lord God gives counsel that the people should look at the work that He has done for them in the past. This is the glory of God’s Word that we can remember what great things He has done. This gives His people to have faith in His guidance if they would but listen to Him. Isaiah is speaking to the people at a time that they were discouraged. It was a time that they felt defeated. Isaiah tells them to look at the work of the Lord for His people in the days that have past. “Once a Christian gets eaten up with discouragement and unbelief it takes a great deal to shake him out of it. Those two emotions are the masterstrokes of Satan. So long as the child of God maintains an attitude of praise and trust in the Lord, then he is invincible. Once the devil gets him discouraged, that poor man is really going to take a knocking!” (Redpath)
The Lord God tells them to look to Abraham whom the Lord called from a simple family. From Abraham’s humble beginnings the Lord increased him. This is a reminder to the people of the day that the Lord does not need great numbers to do His great work. The people of God returning from exile need not worry about their small numbers but know that God can do great things with them as He did with Abraham and Sarah.
By remembering that people should find hope in the promise that the Lord God will comfort them. We also can benefit from the work that God has done for others. When we see that work the Lord has done it can increase our faith that He will do great work with us.
He will also shine forth His righteousness and justice to all the nations of the world.
When the heavens vanish as smoke and the earth grows old as a garment is a reference to the time of the Second Coming of Jesus. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) (2 Peter 3:7-10; Revelation 6:12-17) Those who are tied to the earth shall pass away with the earth, but those who seek the righteousness of the Lord God and His salvation shall remain. The saved are more permanent than the heavens and the earth. God will not change His righteousness or His mind about salvation.
Having faith in the permanent righteousness and salvation of the Lord and knowing the passive nature of the earth, we should listen to God and not be afraid of men. Those who deny Christ as Peter are not ones to be laughed at but ones to be wept over. A fear of giving our testimony of the Lord is as Charles Spurgeon says, “Oh sir, this is indeed a cowardly fear!” “Yet you are a coward. Yes, put it down in English: you are a coward. If anybody called you so you would turn red in the face; and perhaps you are not a coward in reference to any other subject. What a shameful thing it is that while you are bold about everything else you are cowardly about Jesus Christ. Brave for the world and cowardly towards Christ!” (Charles Spurgeon) The opposition and persecution of the wicked are but temporary but God’s salvation and His righteousness are eternal.
The faithful call out to the Lord God and look to Him for their salvation. The faithful know of the past and the great works that the Lord has done and they look to the future for Him to act on their behalf. This is more of a wakeup call for the people that a call from the Lord to wake up. “Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4) But it is good for the believer to call upon the Lord as it awakens their faith.
In the great works that the Lord has done Rahab is remembered. The word Rahab means pride and the serpent is Satan. (Genesis 3:1-6) The remembrance here is the victory of God in Psalm, we read a poetic victory of God over Satan. “You Yourself crushed Rahab like one who is slain; You scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm.” (Psalm 89:10)
When every enemy has been defeated and every obstacle is removed the ransomed of the Lord will return to Zion. Clinging to the promise of an Almighty God there is no reason to fear man. Man can never undo the plans that God has for His people. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
If man forsakes his trust in the Lord, then he lives every day in fear. When a man forsakes the Lord he forsakes His love and care. The Lord protects us when we seek His counsel. “Ask the question again, ‘Where is the fury of the oppressor?’ And the answer comes, it is under the control of God. Even Satan, your fiercest foe, – God created him, God governs him, God can do with him just as he pleases. Then as to that poverty of which you are afraid, it will not come unless God permits it; and if it does come, the Lord can alleviate it.” (Spurgeon)
A wake-up call is directed at Jerusalem. There are times when the people of God fall asleep spiritually. “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:11-12)
The cup of God’s wrath is a common picture in the Old Testament. It is the idea that gives a full cup of His fury to those who are under His judgment. The Lord God now reminds His people that they have drunk the cup of His fury under the judgment of the Babylonians. The people of Jerusalem not only drank of the cup but they drained it out to the last drop. Now the people of Jerusalem knew the experience of desolation and destruction, famine, and sword, the cup they were given to drink.
This was the image that Jesus had on the eve of His crucifixion when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Jesus drank the cup to the dregs of the cross.
The Lord God knew when to give them the cup to drink and when to take it away. Now it was the time of their redemption from the shame of their enemies. The Lord took the cup from them and put into the hands of those who had afflicted them. “When faith is weak men are in a dreadful hurry, but strong faith does not judge the Lord to be slack concerning his promise. As God achieves his purpose with infinite leisure, he loves a faith that is patient and looks not for its reward this day or the next. ‘He that believeth shall not make haste’: that is to say, he shall not be ashamed or confounded by present trials so as to rush upon unbelieving actions. Faith leaves times and seasons with God to whom they belong.” (Spurgeon)
“Lie down, that we may walk over you.” This “barbaric practice . . . is well documented in the ancient Near East, featured especially, but not exclusively, in Assyrian inscriptions.” (Grogan) God will give humiliation to those who humiliate His people.