Cheer for Prostrate Zion
God is telling them to awake and put on their strength. This is a repeat message from the last chapter. “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces, Who pierced the dragon?” (Isaiah 51:9) The second awake is to remember the Lord’s promises and judgments. And the third Awake is for Zion to put on strength in the light of the first awakenings.
Now the time of judgment is over and Jerusalem can put on their beautiful clothes. The full meaning of this passage is the ultimate fulfillment in the last days. In the past, they have sold themselves for nothing but they will be redeemed without money. This is God’s answer to their sinful ways. Their redemption is not by the cost of money but it is not free. At the end of this chapter, Isaiah begins to describe the cost of their redemption. A cost that is paid by another.
God has looked down to see how the nations have oppressed His people. The Babylonians came and took them away for nothing and ruled over them cruelly. Worse than that is that they had no respect for the Lord Himself. The Babylonians blasphemed the name of the Lord every day. God will glorify Himself among His people. God will be known amongst His people. It is bad when the world does not know or honor God but it is even worse when His own people do not know or honor Him.
In the day of Isaiah, the people did not know that God spoke through His Word. This is expected among the nations of the world but it should never be amongst the people of God. Here God promises that the day will come that the people will know that it is the “I Am” that speaks to His people.
Isaiah speaks of the day when beautiful feet will bring the good news, the gospel. Those who bring the good news of God’s salvation surely have beautiful feet. For they are partners of God for the salvation of men. The feet speak of activity, motion, and progress and those who are active and in motion to preach the salvation of the Lord will have beautiful feet. It is the gospel that brings glad tidings of the good things. The good news proclaims salvation and says that their God reigns in Zion. Where God reigns there is peace, there is salvation, which is news of glad tidings. “The watchmen who see this happy return are probably those in Jerusalem who had long awaited the messengers. According to Ezekiel, the prophets were the leading ‘watchmen’ for the nation.” (Wolf)
When the Lord God shows His arm of strength it is a strength that the people can put on with joy and singing. “The expression made bare his holy arm is a Hebrew idiom derived from rolling up long, loose sleeves before starting to work. Then the arm was bared – the symbol of any mighty undertaking or initiative.” (Bultema)
The Lord God does not just make His strength of salvation known only to those who are immediately rescued. Their salvation is a witness to others that they may see the salvation of the Lord.
We can view this verse in the then and the soon to be. In the time of Isaiah, it was intended for the Babylonian exiles who would return to Jerusalem and for those Jews that will gather in the end times. For God’s people to separate from Babylon is both literal and spiritual. It is a call for purity to those who are vessels of the Lord. The Apostle Paul gives a wonderful promise to those who are vessels of the Lord. “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21)
The Lord God is ever-present. He goes before us and directs our path and He is our rear guard, our protector.
The Second Exodus
Exodus stands a prominent theme in Isaiah. Israel’s return from the exile world, like the exodus from Egypt, restores the people of Israel to the land. Just as they had left Egypt many years before, the people of Israel would leave Babylon. This time they would have to be cleansed and would not rush their departure.
The second exodus would be new, not merely a duplication of the first Exodus. Both the experience and the journey are likened to a desert from which the Lord would bring rescue. He prepares a road through the desert, transforms the desert into a watering hole with vegetation and animals, removes obstacles along the way, guides His people through the desert, feeds them, protects them from the desert heat, and strengthens them. He changes the experience of the exiles from sorrow to great joy and pours out His Spirit on them.
An “exodus” continues today, an exodus from sin and death through Christ’s death and the power of His resurrection. The Holy Spirit enables us to live in newness of life and to serve God with joy as we await the coming of His Kingdom in all its fullness.
The Exalted Servant
Throughout the rest of this chapter, the focus is on the Servant of the Lord. This is the servant spoken of in Isaiah 42:1; 49:3; and 49:6. It was Ethiopian in Acts that asked a question about Isaiah 52:13) “The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” (Acts 8:34) This question is still asked today and the answer is important. In Isaiah, there are several servants of the Lord but in this instance, the Servant of the Lord is the Messiah. In the Gospel of Matthew, the writer states that Isaiah 52:13 –Isaiah 53:12 are speaking of the Messiah. (Matthew 12:16-21; Matthew 8:16-17)
The first words of the Lord to His prophet about His Servant is to declare His victory. He shall be exalted and extolled means that the Messiah will be triumphant. Even before His suffering is mentioned His triumph is assured.
Yet we see the cruel and vicious beating that Jesus endured at the hands of His enemies. The Beating that Jesus received left Him so harmed that He hardly looked like a man. “Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him and beating Him, and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, “Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?” (Luke 22:63-64)
Sprinkling in the Old Testament is associated with the cleansing of sin. (Exodus 24:8; Leviticus 3:6; Numbers 19:21; Ezra 36:25) The promise is that the cleansing will be for many nations. None of the Kings will have anything to say against the Messiah. The great work that He has done will stop every word. Before they were blind to His truth but now what they have heard they shall see.