Our reading today begins with a call for Zion to “awake” (52:1), echoing the call for Jerusalem to “wake up” in 51:17. Here, Zion and Jerusalem are equated (see Heb 12:22). This is speaking of the gathering of the remnant (God’s spiritual people) where the uncircumcised and unclean will not be (see Rom 2:29). These are those who will be freed from the captivity of sin and death (v. 2). In verse 4 the Egyptian and Assyrian oppression of Israel are conflated. They are both representative of the oppression of God’s people by sin and death. But God will, for the sake of His own name, reveal Himself to and act for the benefit of His people (vv. 5-6).
In verse 7, the image is one of a messenger bringing good news to Jerusalem. A messenger would have to climb mountains to get there. Here, the good news is the redemption of the spiritual Jerusalem. It is message of salvation. This is the message of the Gospel that the church preaches (see Rom 10:9-15). We are the watchmen who lift up our collective voice (v. 8). In verse 9, we have again the voice crying in the wilderness (waste places) of the comfort of God’s redemption (Isa 40:1-3). In verse 10, the arm of the Lord is again His power worked through Christ (see Isa 51:9). Verses 11-12 are the return from captivity of God’s remnant; the calling of His spiritual people.
Verse 13 begins the final, and most well-known, Servant Song that speaks of Christ (52:13-53:12). Verse 13 speaks of the exaltation of Christ at the final judgment. Even though Christ was humiliated at His First Coming (v. 14), yet shall every mouth shall be stopped and every knee bow to Him at His Second Coming (v. 15). In 53:1, those who hear the salvation message (see 52:7), and those to whom the arm of the Lord is revealed (God’s power in Christ – see 52:10) are paralleled. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was just like any other human (v. 2). Yet He was hated, persecuted, and forsaken (v. 3). And throughout His suffering, through which He received punishment from God, He carried our sins on Him (v. 4). And He was crucified bearing our sins, bringing peace to us and healing us (v. 5). Even while we were at enmity with God, He laid our sins on Him (v. 6 – see Rom 5:8-10).
Throughout His suffering, He made no objections or pleas for mercy (v. 7 – see Matt 26:63, 1 Pet 2:23). He was like a lamb led to be slaughtered. This is applied to Christ in Acts 8:32-35. The “oppression” of verse 8 implies the injustice of the death sentence pronounced on Jesus. The question here is asking: who would have known that the Servant would have to die because of the sins of God’s people? And when He did, He died as if wicked man (see Luke 23:32), and was buried in a rich man’s grave (see Matt 27:57-60), even though He was sinless (v. 9). But this was the will of God (v. 10). He made Him a guilt offering – a sacrifice for sinners. Yet His days of living will be prolonged – they will continue after His death. This points to the resurrection. That the will of YHWH now prospers in His hand points to His exaltation and Lordship over His people, and the fact that He is God’s plan. From His suffering and death, He will be satisfied (v. 11 – see Heb 12:2). The Servant will make many righteous by taking on their sin (v. 11) and giving them His righteousness (v. 12 – see 2 Cor 5:21). He will do this through His humiliation and death, taking on our sin and being our Mediator.
Chapter 54 begins by calling for celebration from those who had up until now not been God’s people (54:1). The nations have been desolate as long as God’s “wife” (physical Israel) alone had Him as her God. The “enlarge the place of your tent”, etc. refers to God expanding who are His people. As we saw, the physical land was said to be too small to hold all of God’s spiritual people (49:19-20). So God is going to enlarge the tent – the umbrella of who is considered His people – as Noah prophesied all those millennia ago (Gen 9:27). Verse 3 includes the offspring (Israel) and the people (the nations) spreading over the face of the earth as one spiritual people (see Gal 3:26-29, Acts 1:8).
In verse 4, we see that, ultimately, God will vindicate us like He will vindicate His Servant (which is through resurrection!). We will all be the bride of Christ, our Redeemer (v. 5). We were once abandoned by God, but through His great love He will gather us (vv. 6-8). This applies physically to the Judahites going into captivity, but spiritually for God’s people of all time. Like through the Flood, God’s salvation (like of Noah and His family) will include judgment (like it did for the rest of the world – v. 9). Those Who He saves, though, God is no longer angry with. Though the creation will come to an end, God’s hesed love will last forever (v. 10).
In verse 11, God calls out to those who have yet to be comforted. The description of precious stones being made into our dwelling place is symbolic of our dwelling where heaven meets earth – in God’s presence – as the church (v. 11-12). Eden is described as having been made of precious stones (see Ezek 28:13) as is our final home (see Rev 21:19-21). Our offspring will be blessed (v. 13) and fear will be removed (v. 14). God will make our enemies His enemies (v. 15 – see 49:25) and judge them (v. 16). But ultimately, we will be saved and vindicated as God’s servants (v. 17).
Chapter 55 begins with that call to believe the Gospel (55:1 – see 45:19). The free offer of the Gospel is highlighted here. God asks why we toil and spend for so much, when what we need is freely provided by Him: salvation (v. 2). So God again calls all people to Himself, and to enter into covenant with the Greater Son of David (v. 3). He (the Messiah) is a witness for all people, and Lord of all people (v. 4). The “you” in verse 5 is singular, so this is God telling the Messiah that He shall call a nation that He (as God) previously did not know and which did not know Him (v. 5). The Messiah will be glorified because all nations will come to Him!
Verse 6-7 is a call to repentance and forgiveness of sins (see Luke 24:47). That God points out that His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours (vv. 8-9) is to answer any objections against all we have seen in this section. The Servant suffering. The call of the nations. The difference between Jew and Gentile abolished. God’s eternal plan cannot be objected to. He sovereignly makes the rain and earth produce both food and more seed so the cycle may continue (v. 10). He will do the same with His Gospel call (v. 11). His Word will save, and then be spoken by those whom He saves, so that more can be saved and speak His Word. In verse 13, we see the wilderness being made inhabitable, a symbol of God’s Word reaching the lost, and His name being declared in all the earth.