Studies in Isaiah 54: 10. Review
Isa 54:1,11 “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child …. “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise.
Outline: As we review this chapter we may suggest the following structure:
v.1-3 The Barren Woman
v.4-8 Comfort brought
v.9-10 The Comfort of Noah
v.11-14a The Lashed City rebuilt
v.14b-17 Assurances about the Future
The Present Anguishes: Isaiah presents us with two picture of Israel (or Jerusalem). The first is of a childness woman, who should have been a mother but never was. (v.1) The second is of a storm lashed city that has not been comforted (v.11a) Both pictures are of a people in desperate need of comfort and reassurance.
The Comfort Brought: Now when you look at the chapter, very little of it is spent in laying out these anguishes; the bulk of it is spent in bringing comfort to this barren woman, this beaten down city. The objective of this chapter is to comfort God’s people who are feeling they are barren, who feel they are beaten down.
Comfort by Transformation: The call to the barren woman is to, “burst into song, shout for joy.” Why? Because, “more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” (v.1) or, as the Message version puts it, “You’re ending up with far more children than all those childbearing women.” It’s a promise of what is yet to come, a flourishing family. Indeed, to cope with this enlarging family, make preparations it: “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes..” (v.2) Why? “For you will spread out to the right and to the left.” (v.3a) A picture of extensive growth, and yet it doesn’t stop there for it will be growth that rises up above others and vanquishes enemies: “your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.” (v.3b)
Reassurance over the past: But, as if that is not enough, the Lord continues to reassure His people: “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.” i.e. it’s all right, you don’t have to fear the future, indeed, “You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.” (v.4) It’s just ‘past history’ we might say.
Reassurance about God: It’s always important to remember who the Lord is. Four things in v.5! First, “For your Maker is your husband.” The one who brought you into existence is to be seen in a loving relationship context, not merely a distant all-powerful figure. Second, “the Lord Almighty is his name.” This One who speaks of relationship with you is God who is all-mighty and nothing is beyond His abilities. Third, “the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.” He is the One who is at the heart of Israel’s life and we should always remember, He is a Redeemer, He constantly works to get us back on track. Moreover, fourth, “he is called the God of all the earth.” He’s not just God of Israel but of the whole earth, and yet He has chosen you to be a special people. The whole earth may be under His watchful eye, but His eyes are upon you in particular because He has chosen to enter into covenant with YOU. All this shouts, He’s YOUR God and you are HIS cherished possession.
Disciplined only for a while: The past may have brought judgment, but with God that is never the end: “The Lord will call you back,” (v.6a) and so, “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back,” (v.7) and so – and note this is a threefold assurance – “I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” (v.8) The past involved judgment, the future is about restoration.
Noah as an example: Now a further encouragement and reassurance. The Flood had been a terrible judgment and yet Noah’s response afterwards, to worship God, had moved the Lord’s heart never to repeat such a judgment. Thus the Lord can now say that, although judgments may have come in the past, “yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” (v.10)
The Second Illustration: If a barren woman was the first illustration, he next uses a beaten down city as the next illustration: “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted.” (v.11) But this city will be rebuilt with beautiful stones (v.11,12). Nothing like it has ever been seen before, which makes us suggest that it is the city of God of Revelation 21. It will be a place where the future generations will enter into a new, close relationship with God, characterized by peace (v.13) and righteousness (v.14). Because of that, internal upsets they knew in the past, and fears of invaders, likewise known in the past, will be just that, things of the past (v.14), and the Lord will ensure security for them (v.15). The truth is that God is the one who raises up agents of judgment (v.16) but that will never again, in this new city, be their experience. (v.17)
And So? Thus the prophet brings us two negative pictures of Israel, revealing their experiences of the past, but with them (and they are only briefly mentioned) comes a chapter full of encouraging reassurances about the future. She (Israel) may have appeared as a barren woman in the past, but she will appear as a mother of a large family in the future. She may have appeared as a broken down and chastised city in the past, but her future destiny is of a rebuilt city unlike anything known beforehand. This all says, turn away from the past and look to a new and glorious future, for that is what the Lord intends for you. Of course this is all about ‘the people of God’, for that is what the ‘woman’ and the ‘city’ represented, seen as Israel in the past, but the whole Church (including believing Israel) in the future. Isaiah thus has a glimpse of a future that we only truly see with the help of John’s Revelation. It is a picture and story of redemption, as the Lord reminds us, He is the Redeemer of His people. That, of course, is who we are even today, the redeemed people of God with a glorious future in front of us. Hallelujah!