“I, I am he that comforts you;
why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die,
a human being who fades like grass?”
— Isaiah 51:12 (NRSV)
This chapter of Isaiah is a stark Word from God revealing the revelation of His challenging Word to the faithful with the audacity to obey it. Thrice there is the imperative “Listen to me(!)” and, as the words “Look” and “Rouse yourself” and “Awake, awake” punctuate the chapter, there is a concluding Word for all God’s faithful to “See” what He, the Lord, is doing — He is taking the cup of wrath away; a cup that has made the genuine believer stagger through periods of life punch-drunk from persecution.
God wants us to know that to follow Him is to follow His way, to see Him in the midst of life, to experience joy and gladness, to fear no mere mortal, and to fear only Yahweh alone. When that life is lived we find strength (v. 9), comfort (v. 12), and a place, because we’re so God-conscious as to not fail in the seeing.
Prelude of the Eternal God (verses 1 - 6)
Ancestry suggests we were begotten, and of course that suggests that God must have begotten the first human beings. We came from somewhere, and, because humanity will outlast even heaven and earth, the Lord has created us for a purpose beyond heaven and earth.
The eternal God is a salvation God, and God’s salvation is an eternal gift and possession, in a creation where beings are all that matter. The environment is a means, whereas beings are the end.
God’s people will show they are His by listening to Him. Those who listen to Him also look to Him.
Fear Nobody, for Your Salvation is Set (verses 7 – 11)
The theme of joy and gladness mentioned first in verse 3 continues in verse 11. God’s people experience joy and gladness, for they abide to His teachings that are fixed to their hearts (v. 7). The core of God’s teaching to this end is the assurance of God’s Presence that subsumes all inappropriate fear.
The Lord is the Vindicator and Avenger, besides, all wicked deeds amount to is a case for the prosecution; the witness of history as it’s brought to bear at the Great Judgment.
Nobody can do anything inappropriate to us without the Lord seeing it in all its unfettered glory. Nobody gets away with anything, and we who are saved will endure eternally, and nothing can change that fact. So, our fear of enemy means we’ve forgotten God; the moment we remember Him is the moment of inexplicable joy and gladness.
This Good News is GRACE! (verses 12 – 16)
“You are my people!” says the Lord, and He who created and formed us, who is reaching down to scoop us up and redeem us through Christ’s cross, and who is restoring us through the resurrection, is also the God who has made a way to save us.
That salvation is grace. “You are my people,” means God would do anything to protect us and to provide for our way. He who has hidden us from our foes by the shadow of His hand (v. 16) will not fail in protecting us for eternity’s future. Indeed, He who hides us in the shadow of His hand doesn’t hesitate in revealing us as blameless in Christ before the Father.
Is there any fury like the Lord’s fury? And we rest assured that that fury is set against those who set themselves against us in our obedience.
The Purpose of the ‘Cup of Wrath’ (verses 17 – 23)
This a Word that sorts the truly faithful from the fair-weather-only ‘disciple’ who fails to see the love in the cup of God’s wrath. Jesus, Himself God of God, experienced the cup of God’s wrath, so how on earth do we think we’re saved from it?
We all have an obedience problem, and the purpose of disobedience is that, in experiencing the cup of God’s wrath, we might turn, repent, and go and sin no more.
The beauty of repentance is the mercy God bequeaths to us because of our godly sorrow. He pleads our case! (see verse 22) Christ actually did this in the perfect sense; He did it and He continues to do it.
Another beautiful fact: the cup of God’s wrath makes us spiritually thirsty once more. It sharpens our palate for God’s Word in our context, and a genuine fear of the Lord impels us forward in faithfulness and obedience.
Put another way, drinking the wine that is Christ’s blood doesn’t inebriate, but it heals the mind, making us more readily able to see the will of the Lord, and giving to us more of the capacity to do His will.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.