Text: Isaiah 51
If I were going to give today’s teaching a title, it would be, “Pursue Righteousness and Seek the LORD.” That is the fruit of repentance! And if you press on to know Him fully, you will experience His righteousness intimately, when He fills you with His Spirit, and He will write His law in your heart!
In this chapter, you will see His promises for those who pursue righteousness and seek Him. And you will see His warnings to those who continue to rebel.
His promises to the repentant in Isaiah 51 are echoed by what He spoke through Jeremiah and Ezekiel —
Jeremiah 31:33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Ezekiel 36:25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (NKJV)
Verses 1-2 —
The LORD says to His repentant ones, “Listen to me, you who pursue (chase after) righteousness, who seek (strive after) the LORD. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain. When he was but one I called him, then I blessed him and multiplied him.”
Abraham was the rock, the natural father of all Israel. And Abraham’s barren wife, Sarah, miraculously bore Isaac as their son. The LORD was faithful to fulfill all of His promises to Abraham.
So, the LORD says, “Look at My faithfulness to righteous Abraham! Surely, I will keep My promises to my repentant ones!”
Even though Abraham was just one man when the LORD called him, the LORD blessed him and not only multiplied his descendants into the nation of Israel, but also added to his descendants all non-Jews who come to faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 9:7-8, 30), just as He declared in Isaiah 51:18! He promises to do the same for repentant Israel. They will be multiplied greatly. And many non-Jews will gather and come to them — just as He promised in Isaiah 51:18!
And His promise is also for sinning believers who repent and chase after righteousness and strive after the Lord! When they are filled with His Holy Spirit, they will be multiplied, bearing many spiritual children!
Verse 3 —
Indeed, says Isaiah, the LORD will comfort (give ease to) repentant Zion, and He will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody.
Judah was made a wilderness and a desert because of the drought and famine the LORD brought as judgment against them for their sin. Then Babylon’s army destroyed everything that remained, as they marched through the land and overthrew Judah and Jerusalem. But even worse, His people were in spiritual exile, in a spiritual wilderness, a spiritual desert, because of their sin.
But He promises that when He restores His repentant ones to Israel they will again become fruitful and fertile, like the garden of Eden, and will enjoy bountiful harvests over which they will rejoice greatly!
Bountiful harvests cause rejoicing, beloved! So when His repentant ones return to the land, they will be joyful and glad, thankful and singing His praises!
But I am also reminded of the joy of the Jews who waited in the upper room to be filled with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus Christ commanded them (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5). They rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory (Acts 2:13, 1Peter 1:8), for they were filled with His Spirit, and His righteousness, and His law was written on their hearts by His very finger! They reaped a bountiful harvest of souls, and bore the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)!
And today, all who believe into Jesus Christ and then obey His commands to stay and wait to be filled with His Holy Spirit will do the same! Jesus Christ will send them out into His fields that are white for harvest (John 4:35). And with shouts of joy, they will bring in a harvest of souls!
Verses 4-5 —
Again, the LORD says, “Pay attention to me, O My people, and give ear to Me, O My nation. A law (command) will go forth from Me; and I will set My justice for a light of the peoples (non-Jews).”
He will restore His repentant people and His nation. But that is not all He will do! From Him, a command will go forth that will cause non-Jews to exclaim, “He is a God of justice!”
God the Father will command Jesus Christ, God the Son, to go forth from Him, to be a light of the peoples (non-Jews). It will be just as He promised in Isaiah 9:1-2 and in Isaiah 49:6!
He continues, “My righteousness is near (is My kin), My salvation has gone forth, and My arms (My power) will judge (rule, lead) the peoples (non-Jews). The coastlands (non-Jews) will wait for Me (entwine themselves with Me), and for My arm they will wait (hope) expectantly.”
His Son is the expression of His righteousness. His Son is the promised Savior. His Son is the expression of His power. His Son will lead those who are non-Jews. They will entwine themselves with Him, and they will expectantly wait (hope) for Him!
Verse 6 —
The LORD says to those who pursue righteousness and seek the LORD, “Lift up your eyes to the sky, then look to the earth beneath, for the sky will vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die in like manner. But My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not wane.”
This is a reference to the rapture, when Jesus Christ will return in the same way He ascended — in the clouds (Acts 1:11). So, look up to the sky, O repentant believer, to watch Him coming!
Then, as He snatches you up in the rapture, look to the earth beneath, to see its destruction and the death of its inhabitants who rejected and rebelled against the LORD! Paul describes the rapture —
1Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
1Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up (Latin rapturo) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
Peter describes the destruction of the earth —
2Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief (it will be unexpected), in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
And Jesus Christ says the names of all who have worshiped the world system that defies God, and thereby worshiped its king, Satan, are not written in the book of life. Therefore, they will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
His righteousness is unchanging and will never fail. He will rightly judge both those who repent, and those who do not repent. And for those who pursue righteousness and seek the LORD, His salvation will never fail, for they will press on to ask the LORD to fill them with His Spirit!
Verses 7-8 —
Again, the LORD says to the repentant ones, “Listen to Me, you who know (intimately experience) righteousness, a people in whose heart is My law; do not fear the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings, for the moth will eat them like a garment and the grub will eat them like wool. But My righteousness will be forever, and My salvation to all generations.”
He speaks of the future, addressing those who are filled with His Holy Spirit. They will know righteousness, having intimately experienced His righteousness that has filled them, and His law will be written on their hearts!
Because they will know righteousness and His law is written on their hearts, they will be reproached (shamed, disgraced) by man, and they will be reviled (abusively insulted). But they need not fear nor be dismayed.
Those who have done such things to His repentant ones will come to nothing — they will be devoured. His repentant ones can count on this — His righteousness and His salvation are promises from Him to them forever. Why? They have intimately experienced His righteousness within them, His law is written on their hearts, and they intimately know Him and are entwined with Him!
Verses 9-10 —
The unrepentant ones now ask Him to rescue them. “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? Was it not You who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made the depths of the sea a pathway for the redeemed to cross over?”
They know that He redeemed their ancestors long ago. So now, they want Him to redeem them again. He will do it, but only if they repent!
But if they do repent — if they pursue righteousness and seek the LORD, and if His people obey His future commands to be filled with His Spirit so they know righteousness and so His law is written in their hearts, He will do all that He promises in Verse 10!
In the natural, when King Cyrus freed the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem, they came with joyful shouting to Zion. But everlasting joy was not yet on their heads.
In the future, when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they will obtain (take hold of) gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing (from persecution) will flee away.” Again, I see the 120 filled with the Holy Spirit, rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Yet their ultimate joy will come at the end of things, when there will be no more sorrow and sighing. They will longer be persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ —
Revelation 21:4 and He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Verses 12-13 —
Again, the LORD speaks to His people who have not yet repented. He says, “I, even I, am He who comforts (returns) you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and of the son of man who is made like grass, that you have forgotten the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, as he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor?”
The LORD will return them to the land, if they repent and return to Him. They have feared their oppressor, Babylon. But they have feared because they have forgotten Him! They have not yet repented. Instead, they have stubbornly chosen to continue to follow after false gods.
They have feared continually, because of the extreme fury (rage) of their oppressor, who was preparing to destroy them. But the fury of the oppressor is as nothing before the LORD. It vanishes like a wisp of smoke. I tell you the truth, beloved, if you pursue righteousness and seek the LORD, and then are filled with His Holy Spirit so you know righteousness and have His law written in your heart, you will also know that Satan has been defeated by the LORD. His extreme rage and his threats are like a wisp of smoke, for you have fully submitted to the LORD (James 4:7).
Verses 14-15 —
The LORD promises, “The exile will soon be set free, and will not die in the dungeon, nor will his bread be lacking, for I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is His name).”
He makes this promise to His people who are in exile in Babylon. If they repent and return to Him, they will be soon be freed! Therefore, they will not die in chains, nor will they be starved to death by their captors. He will free them and provide food for them! Who makes this promise? The LORD of hosts — Jesus Christ, before God the Father sent Him to the earth.
And Jesus Christ makes a promise to all believers who have been exiled from His presence, but have repented and returned to Him and asked Him to fill them with His Holy Spirit, as He commands. They will be free, indeed, from slavery to sin (see John 8:31-36), and they will forever be spiritually fed by Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life!
Verse 16 —
The LORD speaks of God the Son, saying, “I have put My words in your mouth, and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people!’”
God the Father placed His words in the mouth of His Son Jesus Christ, when Jesus walked the earth. He was protected by His Father, until the hour had come for Him to carry upon Himself the punishment you and I deserved (Isaiah 53:5).
It was His Son who created everything, at His Father’s command (Hebrews 1:3). And it will be His Son who says to the repentant ones in Zion, “You are My people!” Through belief into Jesus Christ, a remnant of Israel will be restored, as
Paul writes to the believers in Rome —
Romans 11:25 . . . a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, The Deliverer will come from Zion , He will remove ungodliness from Jacob (Israel). 26 “This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”
Verses 17-18 —
In Verse 9, the LORD’s unrepentant people had cried to Him, “Awake! Awake!” But now the LORD turns the tables on them!
He commands them, “Rouse yourself (literally, awake)! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the LORD’s hand the cup of His anger. The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs. There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne, nor is there one to take her by the hand among all the sons she has reared.”
They have foolishly depended on the strength of man (their sons), just as today’s church foolishly depends on man’s wisdom and man’s ways. But it is not by the strength of man that Jerusalem (or the church) will be restored, but by the power of the LORD.
Therefore, He commands them twice to wake up! If He says it twice, it means they must wake up quickly! They chose to drink from the cup of His anger, because they refused to repent. They reeled like drunkards as they drank it to the dregs. The sons of Jerusalem, upon whom she relied, could not guide her, nor could they take her by the hand to lead her back to the land.
Verses 19-20 —
The LORD says, “These two things have befallen you; who will mourn for you? The devastation and destruction, famine and sword. How shall I comfort you? (Hebrew-to-English, Who shall console you?) Your sons have fainted, at the head of every street, like an antelope in a net, full of the wrath of the LORD, the rebuke of your God.”
No one will console the unrepentant. They have chosen to drink from the cup of His anger, and Jerusalem has chosen to rely on her sons instead of the LORD.
So they have been judged by the LORD. They have endured devastation and destruction, famine and the sword of Babylon.
All they have relied upon has failed. Jerusalem’s sons have fainted (i..e, they have become weak), they lie helplessly in the street, they are caught in Babylon’s net. They are full of the wrath and rebuke of God, having drunk from the LORD’s hand the cup of His anger.
It is the same today, beloved! Continued rebellion against the LORD will always result in utter helplessness and captivity!
Verse 21-23 —
But now the LORD says, “Please hear this (literally, hear now this), you afflicted (humbled), who are drunk, but not with wine.” They are drunk with the cup of His anger, and they know it.
When they have repented and returned to Him, they will hear these words from Him — “Thus says the Lord, the LORD, even your God, who contends (fights) for His people. Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling, the chalice (bowl) of My anger (fury); you will never drink it again.”
He says that if they repent, He will fight for them, and He never loses a battle! And when they have repented, they will never again drink the cup of reeling, the chalice of His anger, because their repentance and return to Him will be complete!
A day will come when they will return to Him with all their hearts. Then He will make them ones who intimately experience His righteousness because His righteousness is literally within them! And His law will be written on their hearts!
He will fill them with His Holy Spirit!
Then they will they never again drink the cup of reeling and chalice of His anger, for they will be filled with His Holy Spirit, their rebellious sin nature will be crucified (Galatians 5:24), and their hearts will be purified (Acts 15:9)!
What will the LORD do with the bowl of His anger? He says, “I will put it into the hand of your tormenters who have said to you, ‘Lie down that we may walk over you.’”
I will use the Hebrew-to English for the last portion of this verse. The LORD says, “They have made your back as the ground and as the street to those who cross”.
Certainly, Babylon will receive upon themselves what they have done to His people. And in the end, the seven bowls of wrath will be poured out upon those who worship the world system that defies God (see all of Revelation 16). What they have worshiped will fall and be utterly destroyed (Revelation 18:2, 8). Then Satan and all who worship the world system that defies God will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
So what does all of this mean to you, beloved? Pursue righteousness, and seek the Lord! Obey His commands to stay and wait to be filled with the Holy Spirit! Then you will intimately experience His righteousness, for He will fill you with it. And His law will be written on your heart.
Then you will shout with joy unspeakable and full of glory, for you will know that He has freed you from slavery to sin (John 8:31-36) by delivering you from your sin nature, so you freely and gladly obey Him with all your heart!
Lord Jesus, may believers see that You will do all that You have promised, for all believers who will repent and bear the fruit of repentance. Let it be so, I pray! Amen!