Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 19 2019 - Isaiah 51:17-52:12 – Wake up!

The Lord calls upon his people to wake up from the lethargy of their despair (51:17). He had made them drink the cup of his wrath because of their disobedience. He is now taking that cup away from them. They will not have to drink from it again (51:22). That cup of God's judgment has now been passed on to those who have tormented them; Babylon will now feel the weight of God's judgment.

The city of Jerusalem, or Zion, had shared in the fate of the people of God. When God's people had been taken off into captivity the city had been abandoned and reduced to rubble. Now it is called to wake up from its dusty slumbers and put on garments of splendour. It is to be filled again with a people who know, love and worship the Lord (52:1).

In 52:7 we read of messengers being sent running to Jerusalem to proclaim the good news that God is about to save and restore his people:

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

The city is pictured with watchman standing on its fallen walls, seeking to guard the ruins from further attack and destruction. They will be the first to see the Lord himself leading his people back into their inheritance; they will shout with joy as they see the Lord returning to Zion (52:8; see also the lovely picture in 52:12 of the way the Lord leads and cares for his people – as in the days of the Exodus). What God is about to do will transform the mockery of the world into worship:

The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. (52:10)

But how is this mighty act of salvation to be accomplished? The Lord will raise up a Saviour for his people, one who will not save by military power but by giving himself for the salvation of his people (more of that in our next reading from Isaiah). It is the Suffering Servant of the Lord who will amaze the nations with his saving power.

During the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther wrote a book entitled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. He was aware that the church of his day needed God to visit it again with his salvation, waken it up to its own dire state and lead it out of captivity. We are surely aware of the need for God to visit us again in our day. Many church buildings stand as empty, or all but empty, monuments to the glories of a past age. Others are crumbling to dust or have been converted for other use. The number of those who profess to believe in the Lord Jesus seem to be diminishing – at least in the UK. It is easy to lose heart.

But God has not changed. What he has done in the past he can do again in our day. We need to shake off the dust of discouragement and realise afresh that our God is able to do more than we ask or imagine. We need to clothe ourselves with strength – a strength that comes from him and not from ourselves – and to proclaim what God has done in Christ for the salvation of the world, that "all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God."

Father God, many still mock your name, pointing to the ruins of your church and dismissing every suggestion of your power. Yet we rejoice that you are God and that "Our God reigns!" Awaken us with the joy of your salvation and open the eyes of the world to see your saving power in the Lord Jesus Christ: power made perfect in weakness; life given to the dead; light shining upon those who sit in darkness; hope given to those who languish in despair. Give us beautiful feet to run with the good news of your salvation. Equip us by your Spirit to call upon the world, "Awake, awake!"

Peter Misselbrook