Note: Isaiah 54:1-3 was the text of William Carey’s memorable sermon in Nottingham in June 1792. Concerned about the lost throughout the world, Carey exhorted his listeners to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. Immediately afterwards, Carey met with his companions and said, “I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the ropes.” As a result, the Baptist Missionary Society was formed and William Carey unwittingly launched what became the modern missionary movement.
God as Husband Will Make Barren Israel Fruitful
What comforting words did God speak to Jerusalem?
The language of Isaiah 54 is beautiful and tender. God, the loving and powerful husband, addressed Jerusalem, the barren and abandoned wife. Jerusalem, the childless widow, is told by God to rejoice because she will soon have numerous children (54:1). In fact, she will have to enlarge her home to make room for them (54:2). Even then, they will spill over into the surrounding countryside and cities and populate those areas (54:3).
Verses 4-8 speak of the reconciliation of Israel, the prodigal wife (54:4), to God (54:5). Israel had justifiably suffered God’s wrath (in the exile) but would soon experience His great compassion (54:7-8). When reconciled to God, the people would soon forget the “reproach of [their] widowhood” (54:4) in the Babylonian Captivity. Israel had been unfaithful to God by chasing after false gods so God allowed the people to briefly experience life in a land filled with idolatry. God however, had not forgotten His unfaithful wife. He would restore her unto Himself.
God Will Establish Israel on a Strong, Rich Foundation
What lay in store for God’s people?
God made a “covenant of peace” (54:10) with His people. He likened it to the covenant He made with Noah after the flood (54:9). The rainbow served as a constant reminder that God would never again flood the earth to destroy all flesh (see Genesis 9:15). God’s new “covenant of peace” with the exiles was like a rainbow over the dark skies of their exile. He promised goodwill toward His people. God’s new covenant (characterized by lovingkindness, peace, and compassion) would be everlasting (54:10).
Verses 11-17 describe what it will be like to live under God’s “covenant of peace.” While the city, temple, and walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, the language of these verses also looks to their ultimate fulfillment in the future. First, Jerusalem will be rebuilt with splendor (54:11-12). Second, there will be no need for a temple or priests because the Lord Himself will teach His people (54:13). Third, the inhabitants of the city will be prosperous and live free of the fear of oppression (54:14-15). Fourth, God will deal with the arms makers and dealers (54:16). Fifth, no weapon formed against them shall prosper (54:17).
Note: Biblical commentator Page H. Kelley writes, “Chapter 55 appears to have been written on the eve of the return of the exiles to Jerusalem under the leadership of Sheshbazzar in 538 B.C. (cf. Ezra 1:2-11).”