Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Isaiah 52:1-12

“Wake up, wake up; put on your strength, Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer enter you. 2 Stand up, shake the dust off yourself! Take your seat, Jerusalem. Remove the bonds from your neck, captive Daughter Zion.” 3 For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing, and you will be redeemed without silver.” 4 For this is what the Lord God says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to reside there, then Assyria oppressed them without cause. 5 So now what have I here”— this is the Lord’s declaration— “that my people are taken away for nothing? Its rulers wail”— this is the Lord’s declaration— “and my name is continually blasphemed all day long. 6 Therefore my people will know my name; therefore they will know on that day that I am he who says, ‘Here I am.’”

7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 8 The voices of your watchmen— they lift up their voices, shouting for joy together; for every eye will see when the Lord returns to Zion. 9 Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The Lord has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

11 Leave, leave, go out from there! Do not touch anything unclean; go out from her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. 12 For you will not leave in a hurry, and you will not have to take flight; because the Lord is going before you, and the God of Israel is your rear guard.

The Original Intent

1) How would this prophecy have been received by the first audience? (verses 1-6)

The first hearers of Isaiah’s prophetic words were in love with their rebellion and sinful ways. The Lord was in the midst of a several hundred year warning call to His people, which He gave through His chosen prophets like Amos, Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum who prophesied around the same time.

At the close of Isaiah’s life, it would still be roughly another 100 years before Israel would fall. Then, Israel would be carried off into exile to Babylon for their many rebellious sins against the Lord, specifically all the ways they had lived out worship for anything and everyone except the One True God.

The destruction of Jerusalem would be unlike anything the Israelites had seen or imagined since becoming a nation. It would be so horrific that death would line the streets and every aspect of their way of life and religion would be destroyed. (Ezekiel 33:27-29) The idea of a return as a nation would seem utterly impossible.

But God is a redeeming God, and even a hundred years before their captivity would begin, God was giving His people not only the opportunity to repent and change their ways, but also telling them of His rich mercy despite their just punishment.

That was the scene, but how were Isaiah’s words received? Not Well.

Israel loved her sin far more than she loved her God, and Isaiah’s prophecy of doom and exile were hated. False prophets rose up to contradict Isaiah, claiming God wasn’t coming in judgement. (Jeremiah 23:16, Ezekiel 13:4-8) Eventually, King Manasseh sought to put an end to the distasteful words of the prophet; tradition says he gave orders to saw Isaiah in half. (gotquestions.org, Hebrews 11:37)

The Everyday Application

1) How would this prophecy have been received by the first audience? (verses 1-6)

Ancient Israel’s doom and gloom are hundreds of years removed from us in the 21st century. Why do we care about an exile that will never affect us? Because we are living in our own exile right now.

Believer’s live in a world not made for us; we were remade to live with Him in glory. Peter, Jesus’ disciple and one of His closest friends, wrote to believers after the resurrected Jesus had returned to Heaven, Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul.” (1 Peter 1:1-2, 1 Peter 2:11-12)

The Lord’s urgent message to repent of sin and turn back to Him hasn’t changed, regardless of our timeline in history, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15)

We love our sin and rebellion just as much as ancient Israel, and the Lord warns us that judgement comes for us as well. The prophecy in Isaiah 52:1-6 was meant to give great reassurance to Israel for, despite the punishment coming, restoration would also come. Isaiah urged them to “Wake up!” and “Put on your beautiful garments” in preparation of returning to Jerusalem after exile. (verse 1)

God knew He would bring Israel home even though it looked hopeless. (verse 2) He knew He would send His Son to be the Savior of the world to a small, forgotten town in the hill country of Judea. (verse 6, Micah 5:2) He knew He would again send the Son to judge the world and bring all who trust in Him for rescue from sin to their eternal Home to live with God forever. (John 5:25-29, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Anna, the prophetess in Luke 2:36-38, knew God’s Word and trusted Him to follow through on it in His time and in His way. She was ready for it, she expected it, and when it came, she did her part to proclaim what she knew was true. Will we do the same?

The Original Intent

2) How does Anna’s role at the temple fulfill part of this prophecy? (verses 7-10)

Isaiah’s prophetic words spoke of a day when Israel’s freedom from exile would be declared and how wonderful that day would be; Israel would be forgiven and provided with a new opportunity to live as God’s set apart nation. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (verse 7)

This display of God restoring Israel would not be a quiet thing done in a corner, “for every eye will see when the Lord returns to Zion.” (verse 8) Restoration was a story meant to be told.

Isaiah’s first audience wouldn’t have caught the nuances in God’s carefully worded prophecy, but we can dig deeper and see beyond Israel’s homecoming to our own. Yes, it was absolutely amazing that God would restore Israel, but even grander was His authoritative victory over sin and death in humanity. With Christ’s death on our behalf to pay the insurmountable debt we owed because of our sin, and then His subsequent resurrection from the dead, He redeemed us from death and provided us with access to dwell with God Himself. “Praise be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Isaiah’s words “every eye will see” point forward to lyrics Pastor Paul picks up in his letter to the Philippian church as he describes the Lordship and victory of redemption Christ’s death and resurrection won for all who trust Him as their personal Savior, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)

Christ’s death and resurrection declared Him eternal victor over sin and death, and one day, He will return with trumpet blasts, the voice of the archangel, and His own shout of victory to call His beloved ones Home to a dwelling place where sin has no say ever again. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

The Everyday Application

2) How does Anna’s role at the temple fulfill part of this prophecy? (verses 7-10)

Eighty-four year old widow, Anna the prophetess, had made worship the anthem of her life. In her culture, widowhood was absolutely devastating. In a patriarchal society, few women could earn a living doing respectable work.

Wouldn’t you like to read Anna’s autobiography?! I would love to hear her own words describe her lowest of lows only to find that, somewhere along the way, God became her everything despite her great loss. While we don’t know much of Anna’s story, we know she used her life for praise and declaration of God’s good work. Scripture records that at the “very moment” she witnessed Simeon prophesying over eight-day-old Jesus (Luke 2:25-35), “she came up” up to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and immediately “began to thank God and to speak about Him…”. (Luke 2:38)

It would appear to any onlooker, and even close friend or family member, that Anna’s life was in ruins. No husband, no means of income, and seemingly no intention to remarry, but Anna’s life sang of a truth Isaiah had proclaimed hundreds of years prior, “Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.” (verse 9)

The Lord brought Israel home. The Lord comforted Anna in her loss and gave her new purpose through worship and ministry. And despite the ruins of sin in our lives, God sends us a Redeemer, His own Son.

How our voice should join the prophet’s and Anna’s! The Son has truly set us free (John 8:36), let’s make it known on mountains, in grocery stores, when we send a text, and as we talk with our children.

The Lord is our comfort! The Lord is our redeemer! The Lord has brought us salvation, rescuing us from the destruction of sin and the eternal death we deserve!

The Original Intent

3) Verses 11-12 seem random; how are they meant to be understood? (verses 11-12)

Have you ever wished for a direct roadmap for life from God? What to do at which juncture, what to say, and when? The book of Isaiah was like that for the people of Israel.

Remember, at the time they first heard this prophecy, coming judgment sounded ridiculous to them. They were getting along “just fine” in their sin without much consequence on the largescale as a nation, if you didn’t count the pesky, annoying voice of a prophet always speaking “gloom and doom”. Still, Isaiah obediently continued giving God’s roadmap of not only what to expect, but also how to respond when it happened.

Destruction for Israel would come as punishment for their arrogance and insistence on worshiping what was not God. Israel would be carried off to Babylon for roughly 70 years, but God, in His vast mercy and kind love, would free them. There would come a day when punishment would end, and freedom was announced. (Isaiah 40: 1-2)

On that day, the Lord, through Isaiah, instructed, “Leave, leave, go out from there!” (verse 11) Leave the old behind. Get out and go Home! (Isaiah 48:20, Jeremiah 50:8) Don’t become enamored with the false idol worship of Babylon; leave all those practices behind. (verse 11) Purify yourselves as a nation and return to the Lord your God with cleanness ready to enjoy the rich “second chance” to honor God as King and Lord of all.

The Everyday Application

3) Verses 11-12 seem random; how are they meant to be understood? (verses 11-12)

Verse 12 was meant to be a familiar “call back” to Israel’s family history, reminding them of the Great Exodus from slavery when the Hebrew people weren’t even an established nation yet. At the time God freed them from slavery in Egypt, there was a sense of extreme “hurry and flee!”. The Egyptians were pressing the Hebrews to leave because their land and their people were in ruins from the Ten Plagues. (Exodus 12:33)

In Babylon, however, no one was pressing them to leave. The allure of staying in the very city they had been taken exile would be enticing, and God wanted His people to be aware of its enticement and choose to leave. As additional encouragement to leave, the prophet says, “The Lord is going before you, and the God of Israel is your rear guard.” (verse 12)

During the first Exodus, God had gone before the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 31:8) and guarded them from behind by burying the oncoming Egyptians in the Sea. (see Miriam’s Refrain!) The Lord promised to be faithful to His people in the future just as He had been in the past, guarding them and leading them in the same way.

Isaiah’s prophecy applies so closely to our own narrative today in the 21st century, it’s absolutely astonishing. All who have trusted Christ Jesus for His total forgiveness and entered a relationship with Him, are now living in exile, much like Babylon. Our world, with its cultural pressure to conform to its standards and chase after its allures, is strong and powerful.

We are called to keep our eyes focused on the eternal glory of going Home to Glory. We are to reject the magnetic pull of sin and remember the Lord is our Faithful Guide. He goes before us to lead us, stands behind us to guard us, and will faithfully bring us out of exile just as He has faithfully led His people all through history.

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