Our subject for this afternoon is found in the fifty-first chapter of Isaiah, beginning with the first verse.
"Hearken to Me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you...." Isa. 51:1, 2.
In this chapter God is speaking to the descendants of Abraham, to a generation that is following after righteousness. We now need to find in the stream of time the exact generation which Inspiration here addresses.
Is it the people of Moses' time? of Isaiah's time? of the Apostles' time? of our time? or of some other time? If the chapter is addressed to us, then our need of studying it, and our interest in it, will be infinitely greater than it would be otherwise. The information we are seeking is found in verse seventeen--
"Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out." Isa. 51:17.
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This verse reveals that God is speaking to a people who have gone through all the trials -- hardships, captivity and persecution allotted them to go through for their sin and disobedience -- they have drunk of the dregs of the cup of trembling and even wrung them out. At long last there are no more dregs left in the cup. This, of course, could not be said to the people in Moses' time, nor in Isaiah's time, nor even in the Apostles' time. It could not be said to any people at any time but to those who have come to the time of their liberation from want, fear, and insecurity which they have created through their sin and rebellion. Their Divine calling to awake, however, reveals that though the time of deliverance has come, yet they are in deep spiritual sleep -- ignorant of these good tidings.
"Thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of My fury; thou shalt no more drink it again." Isa. 51:22.
God, you see, positively addresses a people who have already taken all the punishment they are to take, and at long last He is pleading their cause. This cannot be said at any time to any people heretofore. How do we know that the time is here and that the Lord is now speaking to us? We know it from the fact that these long concealed prophecies on the subject are now for the first time unfolded and brought to attention. We are now ready to study the chapter verse by verse.
Isa. 51:1, 2 -- "Hearken to Me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him
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alone, and blessed him, and increased him."
God advises His people of today to hearken unto Him. They are those who are endeavoring to obtain righteousness, those who are seeking the Lord, and who are anxious to have a revival and reformation among them. They are now urged to look to the rock whence they are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence they are digged.
We are not to conclude that the Jews are the only descendants of Abraham. Those who are fortunate enough to have this revelation brought to them, are the people. There is no other safe conclusion if God causes the prophecies to be written, sealed, and then unsealed at His will and at the time appointed. The Jews, therefore, are not the only descendants of Abraham. To find who these seekers of righteousness really are, there are several genealogical facts to consider: (1) Only the citizens of the kingdom of Judah (the two-tribe kingdom, Judah and Benjamin) received the title Jews. (2) Those of the ten-tribe kingdom (the kingdom of Israel) were scattered among the nations, and there they completely lost their identity. (3) The Christian church herself is an upshoot of the Jewish church and nation -- the Apostles and her followers, up to about 35 A.D. were all Jews. Then it was that again a multitude of Jews lost their identity by calling themselves "Christians." Comparatively speaking, only a few Jews, from the Kingdom of Judah, have preserved their national title, Jews.
The descendants of the early Christian Jews and the descendants of the ten tribes, down the stream of time must have increased to a great innumerable multitude, for Abraham's seed was to be as the sand
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of the sea for multitude. It is, therefore, obvious that the few identified Jews of today are not the only descendants of Abraham's, but that many of the Gentiles must be of Abraham. Since this mixed up situation exists, hardly any one can really say for sure that he is not one of Abraham's children. Perhaps many of the nations whom the world calls Gentiles are the children of Abraham. We do not know for sure who is who. God, however, has kept a perfect genealogical record, for He says: "I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know Me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there. And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the Highest Himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count, when He writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah." Psa. 87:4-6.
Furthermore, though one be of Gentile blood, if he truly accepts Christ he by his spiritual birth becomes of the seed of Abraham for says Inspiration, "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. 3:29. The children of Abraham here addressed, therefore, are not to be sought among the identified unbelieving Jews, but among the Christians. They are admonished to look to Abraham and Sarah, and to consider that when God called Abraham, though he was alone, he nevertheless obeyed and God blessed him; that in spite of all the apparent impossibilities with both him and Sarah, He increased him. What if you personally and alone were called by His word, as was Abraham, to stand alone for Truth and righteousness, would you be a hero for God as was Abraham, or would you do as did backsliding Judas Iscariot?
If we were not privileged to choose as was Abraham,
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God would not have reminded us of Abraham's experience. We are plainly told not to lose courage, but to have faith in God, for He intends to bless and increase us, as He blessed and increased our ancestors, Abraham and Sarah. The reason He gives for blessing us as He blessed them, is this:
Isa. 51:3 -- "For the Lord shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody."
The focal point of the Scriptures is the rebuilding of Zion, and that is our charge.
Isa. 51:4, 5 -- "Hearken unto Me, My people; and give ear unto Me, O My nation: for a law shall proceed from Me, and I will make My judgment to rest for a light of the people. My righteousness is near; My salvation is gone forth, and Mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon Me, and on Mine arm shall they trust."
We are asked to hearken to the Lord because a law and a judgment are to proceed from Him. These are to be "a light to the people." Again, says the Lord: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations,
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and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Isa. 2:2-4.
The law is to go forth when the mountain (Kingdom) of the Lord's house is established on the top of the mountains (kingdoms), and when It is exalted above the hills. Then the "light" shall cause the rebuked nations to flow to the mountain of the Lord. And, too, instead of beating their plowshares into swords, and their pruninghooks into spears (Joel 3:10), they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Isa. 2:4.
To say, "My righteousness is near," and "My salvation is gone forth," is to say that salvation has been here, but righteousness is about to come. And how true!
What is the Lord's "arm" that judges the people? This we shall see as we read--
Isa. 51:9-10 -- "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?"
How illogical it would be for God to be trying to awake Himself, as though He, or His own arm, is asleep! This verse shows that He calls the Exodus
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Movement His arm. Rightly so, because God does His work with His servants. His servants, therefore, are His arm, and they shall judge (rule) the people, and the people shall trust on them.
Isa. 51:6 -- "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but My salvation shall be for ever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished."
We are necessarily reminded that all else shall perish, but those who obtain God's salvation and His righteousness shall stand forever.
Isa. 51:7 -- "Hearken unto Me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is My law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings."
Those who know His righteousness, the people to whom this Truth is revealed, and who have His law in their heart, obviously will suffer from reproach and revilings of men, but they are admonished not to fear. And what shall be the end of their adversaries? -- Here is the answer:
Isa. 51:8 -- "For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but My righteousness shall be for ever, and My salvation from generation to generation."
Painfully we pity our Laodicean brethren who are so angrily, but blindly, against us.
Isa. 51:9, 10 -- "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm
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of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?"
If His people were not asleep, then what need would there be for calling them to awaken? We are glad that God Himself is arousing us and plainly telling us that as our forefathers did great things, we, too, as the Lord's "arm," can and shall do even greater things than they.
Isa. 51:11 -- "Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away."
Thanks be to God that He is not only to awaken His people and to cause them to sing while marching into Zion, but is also able to remove their sorrows and their mourning forever. He is well able to put everlasting joy upon their heads.
Isa. 51:12 -- "I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass."
In an endeavor to show us how absurd it is to fear men that shall die as does grass under foot, Inspiration in this verse emphasizes the promised comforts of Isa. 51:11. It must be that with some the fear of men is great. Now that we have God's Word and comfort let us fear Him Who only is to be feared.
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Isa. 51:13 -- "And forgettest the Lord thy Maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?"
When we begin to fear man, just that moment we forget God. The question, "Where is the fury of the oppressor?" implies that in reality there is not any, that it is only a bluff.
Isa. 51:14, 15 -- "The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail. But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is His name."
Yes, the captives hope for their release, but God does not hope for the sea itself to divide, He divides it at will and causes His people to go through on dry ground.
Isa. 51:16 -- "And I have put My words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of Mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art My people."
Here we have God's own statement that the words we speak are the words of Truth direct from Him. Moreover, He assures us that His hand, His care and keeping, are around us; that by this means He may plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, "Thou art My people."
Isa. 51:17 -- "Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of
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trembling, and wrung them out."
Awake, awake, my friend to the fact that our captivity, our sorrow and our mourning are about over; we are never again to go through them. He Who divides the sea can indeed make us free.
Isa. 51:18 -- "There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up."
Zion's past and even present condition is now brought to view for our consideration. What a desolation! What a terrible state for a church to be in after having brought forth many converts! There is not a one to give her a helping hand!
Here we are told that the laity in Laodicea are not of any spiritual help to the mother (the ministry) -- no, not even one endeavors to lift his hand to help the ministering brethren, -- they are all more or less in agreement to stay "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Rev. 3:17.
Isa. 51:19 -- "These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee?"
David of old was given to choose one of three things: "...So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land?..." 2 Sam. 24:10-13. Now, in like manner God's people are asked
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to choose either desolation and destruction, or famine and the sword. Then unlike in David's day, He Himself solves our problem if we let Him.
These are some of the things which God's people have gone through, even how some of these things still surround them. Our hope, nevertheless, is in God's deliverance.
Isa. 51:20-22 -- "Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God. Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of My fury; thou shalt no more drink it again."
Shall we not be thankful to know that everyone whose name is found in the book shall be delivered even from the time of trouble into which we are soon to enter? -- Michael shall stand up for His people (Dan. 12:1)? Once He gathers us, he shall never again scatter us.
Isa. 51:23 -- "But I will put it [the cup of His fury] into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over."
The tables are turned: What God's people once had to take from their enemies, their enemies must soon take from them. Let us therefore not neglect to take advantage of God's plea of deliverance.
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Yes, my friends, since our long and trying journey is at an end let us as God's "arm" give earnest heed to His awakening call. Now at the end of our long and trying journey, let us allow nothing to hold us back from obtaining the two things that are to make us stand forever -- God's salvation and His righteousness.
We are now asked to choose either to stand on God's side or on the side of His adversaries (those whom we fear); those who are doing everything to close our eyes to God's Truth for this time -- either to choose God, His Spirit and His revealed Truth, or to choose men, desolation and destruction, the famine and the sword.
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