Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 22 2019 - Isaiah 54 – The glory of Zion

In looking at Isaiah 53 yesterday we said that the atoning work of the Suffering Servant will result in people from all nations being brought to know the living God and we quoted the Septuagint translation of part of Isaiah 53:11, "He will see the fruit of his suffering and will be satisfied". That theme is continued in today's reading.

Zion /Jerusalem is pictured as mother to the people of God. Jerusalem had been left desolate and all but uninhabited. She was like a childless woman. But that is now being brought to an end. The city will now rejoice in the abundance of her children as God brings his people back from captivity (54:1). This is the fruit of the labours of the Suffering Servant. Indeed, so abundant will her people now be that the city will no longer be able to contain them. They will spill out to occupy many desolate cities of other nations (v. 3). Zion must get ready to accommodate a great crowd:

Enlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back;
lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. (v. 2)

William Carey, the pioneer of the modern missionary movement, preached a famous sermon from Isaiah 54:2-3 in 1792 at a gathering of local ministers. He was urging them to enlarge their vision of God's saving purposes in the Lord Jesus Christ – urging them to realise that God's purpose was to save for himself a people from every nation on earth. The title of his sermon was, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." William Carey went on to devote the rest of his life to missionary work in India and to translating the Scriptures into several of the languages of that great continent. He had grasped something of the immensity of Christ's saving work and understood that it called for a response from his people; they/we must work for the extension of Christ's kingdom. Do we share that vision?

Isaiah 54 continues with God's promises to his people, again picture in terms of Zion, their mother. She may have felt abandoned, even widowed, but she is now to know her Maker is her husband (v. 5). The Lord abandoned her to judgment for a short while but now, with compassion is restoring her (v. 7); "'With everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer" (v. 8). The Lord has determined never again to turn his back on his people:

'My unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,’
    says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (v. 10)

This is the fruit of the Servant's suffering. He has purchased a people for God; a people who will never be forsaken or abandoned. These will be a people who will, "be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace" (v. 13). The risen Saviour has poured out his Spirit upon his people to ensure that this promise is fulfilled; he has given us peace with God and continues to instruct us by his Spirit. The Servant has made us also "servants of the Lord" and no weapon forged against us will prevail (v. 17).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us… [Nothing] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37, 39)

Father God, we thank you that in your great goodness, we are part of the fruit of the suffering of Christ, your Servant and beloved Son. Thank you for the promises we have in him and the assurance that nothing will now separate us from your love. Help us to learn of him and ourselves become your obedient servants through whom your kingdom is extended until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your glory as the waters cover the sea. Help us to attempt great things for you.

Peter Misselbrook