Studies in Isaiah 54: 8. A Glorious Restored City
Isa 54:11 “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with lapis lazuli.
The Lashed City: In the opening verse of the chapter, Israel is compared to a barren, desolate woman. Now she is being described as having been lashed by the storms of life and, again, not comforted. Yet it is now a description of a city – “I will rebuild you…. foundations…. battlements….. gates….walls,” (v11,12) therefore a city that has been beaten (lashed) and is still smarting because of it – not comforted. It is reasonable to suggest that the city is Jerusalem, not merely the land, for Jerusalem was so often the focus of attack when enemies invaded and Jerusalem was the heart of Israel with the temple, the dwelling place of God, in its midst. Every time it happened – and it happened more than once – it was because the Lord lifted off His hand of protection from them because of their sin, and an enemy invader came against their unprotected state. Often, they were beaten and invariably depleted, ravished by those enemies, chastened, humbled, brought low, and until the Lord came and restored them, ‘not comforted’. Only He could bring that comfort that they needed, a reassurance of His loving presence that brought blessing with it. They are in one of those times, waiting for the comfort that only He could bring, smarting under the lashes of an enemy, with broken down walls, damaged gates, a ravished and tattered city. This was how it was certainly after the Exile, a city burned to the ground, a heap of ruins. Lashed? Understatement! But watch what follows.
A Rebuilt City: Her current state, that Isaiah speaks to, is beaten, lashed, broken down, but now the Lord says He will rebuild it: “I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise.” Wow, that’s interesting. There is a footnote that the word is uncertain but it seems to be of a decorative if not a precious stone. This is not just a common building stone, this is something special! See how he goes on: “your foundations with lapis lazuli. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.” (v.11,12) The picture he conveys is of a truly beautiful, outstanding, wonderful city, unlike anything else we know! We could speculate about the meaning of the individual stones but instead let’s not lose the wonder of the overall picture: this is going to be an amazing city! It is perhaps but a glimmer of the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven and revealed in Revelation 21. There it is revealed as ‘a bride’ the people of encounter with the bridegroom, the people of God united eternally with their Saviour. (Rev 21:2). It is also the place of God’s dwelling (Rev 21:3) i.e. the people of God are the dwelling place for God Himself, (true already in a measure in that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.)
A Taught People of Peace: But it is not only the structure if the city that is described, but also the life that follows the rebuilding: “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.” (v.13). The talk of children speaks of the future, the next generation who will be restored to the Lord. They will come into such a relationship with Him that He will teach them. They – and we – need teaching; we need God to show us the way, the way to live, the way ahead. And what comes with this relationship? Peace. Indeed, “great will be their peace.” This has a sense of strength about it, this is an assured, strong peace, a peace that is not fragile but enduring. That is what it is like with the Lord. Yes, this is our inheritance and through the affairs of the world we can temporarily lose this peace, but the apostle Paul exhorts us, “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6,7) There is the answer: reclaim your relationship in prayer and let His presence restore the peace that is rightly ours in Christ.
Fearless Righteousness: “In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you.” (v.14) The truth is that righteousness means right living before God and as the Lord restores this ‘city’, this people, drawing the next generation into relationship with Him, and teaches them, they will respond rightly and live rightly. That is God’s objective for them. That is His desire for us if we could only see it. It is not to be religious but to live rightly according to God’s will, God’s design as revealed through His word and led by His Spirit. When we do that, we will know peace, we will know order, we will know blessing. With His hand upon us, His Spirit guiding us, we will know the goodness of life that God intends for us. I like the way the Living Bible puts this verse: “You will live under a government that is just and fair. Your enemies will stay far away; you will live in peace. Terror shall not come near.” When God’s blessing is upon His people, this is the security we will have: good governance, protection.
National Failure: The trouble is that in today’s age, as nations we are not the people of God, not living under His blessing and His protection because, as nations, we have turned away from the Lord and live godlessly and unrighteously. Thus our governance is often questionable and we fear attacks from others and so often, therefore, talk about deterrents, and so on. But merely because a nation, as a whole, lives like this, it is does not mean that we as individuals have to and, as we seek to be godly and righteous, we may expect to know His blessing, His peace and His protection. Remember Jesus taught us to pray, ”lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” It is His intent that we know that deliverance from evil, that protection from the enemy. Now there is more to say on this but as it flows in the following verses we will pick it up in the next study.
To Recap: But before we leave this one, let’s pick up the things we have seen here. Not only does the prophet bring us a picture of a distraught barren woman, he now also brings us a picture of a distressed city, one that had been lashed and beaten down but which now will be restored. But this is not casual, make-piece, making good some broken bits, this is a wholesale, total restoration using incredibly beautiful stones, to create an incredibly beautiful city like has never been known before. Such a city has never been built and so we must assume it is the city yet to come, the city the saints of old yearned for (see Heb 11:13-16). It is a vision to be held onto, a glorious future that the Lord promises His people. Whatever disasters we may know in this world in the present, there will come a time, a place, and experience that exceeds our wildest dreams, a place of such blessing that our present existence appears as a mere grey, drab existence in comparison. This is what we have to look forward to. Never let go of that.