God will Comfort and Restore Zion
What words of hope and encouragement did God have for the exiles?
Isaiah called on the people in exile to “listen” to his words (51:1-3, 4-6, and 7-8) regarding the certainty of the coming deliverance.
In verses 1-3 he called upon the people to remember how their history miraculously began with Abraham and Sarah. When Abraham was one, God called him and blessed him and multiplied him. In like manner God would perform a similar miracle with the exiles. He would take the few and transform them into a mighty nation and restore their devastated land.
In verses 4-6 he declares that God’s salvation has gone forth.
In verses 7-8 he tells those who are enduring persecution in exile not to be dismayed because their revilers will soon vanish like garments destroyed by insects.
In verses 9-11 the prophet pleads with the Lord to demonstrate His power on behalf of His people even as in the days of old. He cites two dramatic occasions when God demonstrated His power.
First, in creation (51:9). The reference to “Rahab” and the “dragon” in verse 9 is to the creation of the universe. The terms are borrowed from a Babylonian myth that said that Marduk slew a dragon and created the heavens and the earth with the two severed parts. Isaiah was not endorsing the Babylonian myth but emphasizing that God, and not Marduk, was responsible for creation.
Second, God demonstrated His great power in the Exodus (51:10). Verse 11 is a hymn of celebration (see also Isaiah 35:10). The Lord’s response is recorded in verses 12-16. The Lord reminds His people that it is He who comforts them (51:12a). The word “comfort” means more than to console, it means to deliver one out of his troubles.
God tells His people not to fear their oppressors who are like grass that will soon die (51:12b). Apparently, their fear of man had caused them to lose sight of God (51:13). God promises them that they will soon be delivered from bondage and hunger (51:14). God’s promises are trustworthy because they come from Him who created the universe and entered into a covenant with His people (51:15-16).
In verses 17-23 the Lord called upon Jerusalem to rouse herself in anticipation of the coming deliverance. Jerusalem is pictured as a drunken woman staggering through the streets (51:17) with none of her sons to steady her (51:18) because they too are drunk with the Lord’s wrath (51:19-20).
These verses served to remind Jerusalem that her punishment came because of her sin (see also Isaiah 40:1-2) and not because of some capricious act on the part of God. God announced that Jerusalem would no more drink of the cup of the His wrath (51:21-22). Instead, He would give the cup to her tormentors who have treated her with contempt (51:23).