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God goes to great lengths to get our attention. He wants to communicate to us His plans for the future. He wants us to patiently trust Him and rely on His faithfulness to His promises despite the bleakness of our present circumstances. He does not want us to be paralyzed by fear. Here God calls on His people 3 times to pay close attention and listen to His encouragement regarding the future.

I always like the song “The Voice of Truth”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story

And the voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”

And the voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”

Out of all the voices calling out to me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth


Book heading toward a major climax – lots of imperatives used in this section; some of the commands in the more intensive doubled form; references back to earlier sections in the prophecy – building to a climax

Oswalt: there is more reason to see vv. 1-8 as a unit separate from what follows than there is to see it as united with what follows (in particular, the thrice-repeated command by God to listen; the repeated emphasis on righteousness and salvation; and the identification of the hearers as those who are seeking God).

Young: God had called Abraham with the understanding that he would bless him. This He has indeed done, in that the nation of Israel has sprung from Abraham; but the epitome of blessing and increase is yet to come. Thus, comfort and encouragement are given to those despairing ones who hear the words of the promise. The ancient promise looks forward to its most glorious fulfillment: God will bless Abraham and multiply him in bringing blessing and increase to his descendants.

Motyer: the three oracles [strophes] form a sequence. The first (1-3) makes promises to Zion, but promises which, with their Abrahamic and Edenic orientations, have implications wider than Zion. The second (4-6) reveals the true extent of the promises, they are for the world; and the third (7-8) asserts that no power can prevent the Lord’s righteous and saving purposes from being fulfilled. All three sections have in common the topic of “righteousness.”

Common 3-part Outline used by many commentators (Wiersbe, etc.):

Look Back / Look Forward / Look Within

Next sections: “Awake” (v. 51:9, 17, 52:1, 11 “Depart”)



A. Call to Listen – Addressed to Those Pursuing Righteousness and Expecting God’s Blessing by Faith

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, Who seek the LORD:”

Grogan: The prophet calls for maximum attention

Thompson: Now the verb “listen” (shamah) in verse 1 and verse 7 are the same. The word means to listen in the sense of understanding, applying and obeying the Word of God (William Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 836). The verb “pay attention” (qashab) in verse 4 is one that means to perk up your ears as an animal would and carefully attend or focus on what you hear (Ibid., p. 746).

Parunak: the Servant’s voice begins to merge with that of the sovereign Lord. . . Both verses emphasize the point of 50:10-11: human righteousness comes from God. Our relation with him begins with righteousness that he imputes through faith, and continues with practical righteousness that he generates in us.

Motyer: addresses those whose lives are characterized by pursuing righteousness and seeking the Lord; verse 7 reveals their minds (they “know righteousness”) and their hearts (they are indwelt by the Lord’s law). In other word, they are the believing remnant who expressed their reverence for the Lord by submitting their minds to, and modeling their lives on, the word of the Servant and following him in the way of faith (50:10).

B. Content of the Exhortation: Remember your roots and take confidence in God’s future blessing

1. Remember Your Pedigree of Faith

“Look to the rock from which you were hewn

And to the quarry from which you were dug.”

Go back to your roots to find encouragement

Especially think back to the promises of God that began in Gen. 3:15 regarding the seed of the woman that would come; these promises became more specific in the Abrahamic Covenant

We might be blessed to come from a family that has roots in the faith (remember Timothy’s testimony) – 2 Tim. 1:5 “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well”

What an excellent Pedigree of Faith!

But others like the Apostle Paul did not have such a background – still we can identify with the common faith of Christians from the formation of the Church on the day of Pentacost down through the ages — despite whatever persecutions and difficulties they faced

[song “Faith of our Fathers”]

The Jews are reminded of their rock and quarry – the solid nature of their spiritual pedigree

They had impressive roots

2. Remember Your Miraculous Origins

“Look to Abraham your father

And to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain;”

Young: Actually in the birth of Isaac the Israelitish nation was born, for he was the seed of promise. That Isaac was born manifests the fact that the power of God overcame the forces that would withstand the fulfillment of the promise of salvation.

If anyone had cause to fear the future, it was Abraham and Sarah – who laughed at the notion that God could remove their barrenness and provide such widespread blessing

Yet the Scripture records that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness; becomes the father of those who believe God – specifically of true Israel – into which tree of faith the believing Gentiles have been grafted in

3. Remember Your Humble Beginnings

“When he was but one I called him,

Then I blessed him and multiplied him.”

Think of the calling of Abram – from Ur of the Chaldees; from a background of idolatry and ignorance of the true God – yet transformed by God

God can do a lot with a little (Zec 4:6-10)

1 Cor. 1:26 “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world”

Eph. 1:18 “that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”

2 Tim. 1:9 “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity”

Beall: The language here (bless and increase) is the covenant language of Gen 12:1-3, certainly implying that God would not abandon the covenant He made with Abraham–God had blessed Abraham thus far, yes; but even greater blessing was yet to come to Abraham’s descendants. v. 3 elaborates on this promise: the Lord will comfort Zion.

Magnitude of the multiplication and blessing: grand scale

Like the sand on the seashore

Like the stars in the heavens

C. Contrast Between Devastation and Blessing; Between Sorrow and Joy

1. Comfort

“Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion;

He will comfort all her waste places.”

Beall: The word for comfort (used twice in this verse) is a favorite of Isaiah’s, seen at the beginning of the section of comfort, Isa 40:1 (found in piel/pual also in Isa 12:1; 22:4; 49:13; 51:12, 19; 52:9; 54:11; 61:2; 66:13[2]), and used five times in this section. In this section its meaning is tantamount to redemption. The language which follows clearly speaks of the millennial period, in which the wilderness and desert regions will be transformed into a place as verdant as Eden, with joy, gladness, thanksgiving, and singing (compare 40:3-4). Though Israel was currently in captivity, she would still inherit the land as promised by the Lord to Abraham (Gen 15:18-21).

Parunak: First he highlights the physical restoration that Zion will experience. We have seen this promise multiple times throughout the book: 44:26; 49:8; 41:18; 41:19. His action remedies two disasters. The “waste places” are literally “ruins,” the result of the Babylonian invasion, while the vitalization of the desert reverses the curse imposed after Adam’s sin, restoring the Edenic state.

2. Blessing

“And her wilderness He will make like Eden,

And her desert like the garden of the LORD;”

Rich Cathers:

waste places – chorbah – a place laid waste, ruin, waste, desolation

Eden – `Eden = “pleasure”, the first habitat of man after the creation

God is promising that He will take a Jerusalem that is a deserted wasteland and make it a thriving garden.

Motyer: Like Eden is not simply a figure of beauty and plenty but also one of the absence of the divine curse consequent upon sin.

Grogan: God’s promise to Abraham included a land as well as a people (cf. Gen 17:1-8). The capital city of that land is now in ruins and its environs reduced to a wasteland, but God will comfort her (v. 3; cf. 40:1-9) by transforming her land and giving her a voice to praise him. Genesis has been in view in the reference to Abraham and Sarah (v. 2); and it is mentioned again when the prophet alludes to the Garden of Eden, an allusion incidentally that was clearly meaningful to the first readers of the prophecy.

Young: It is a strong contrast: on the one hand, waste, desert, and desolate places; on the other, joy, gladness, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

3. Joy

“Joy and gladness will be found in her,

Thanksgiving and sound of a melody.”

Rich Cathers:

joy – sasown – gladness, joy, exultation, rejoicing

gladness – simchah – joy, mirth, gladness; pleasure

thanksgiving – towdah – confession, praise, thanksgiving; give praise to God; thanksgiving in

songs of liturgical worship, hymn of praise

melody – zimrah – music, melody, song, literally, “psalm”.

We don’t want to forget our past … but we don/t want to just live in the past either


A. Call to Listen – Addressed to Those Anticipating the Full Inheritance Awaiting the People of God

“Pay attention to Me, O My people, And give ear to Me, O My nation;”

Thompson: We may observe that from verses 4-7, that there is a great emphasis on the personal pronoun “Me” and “My.” These two pronouns are used fourteen times in these verses. God is stressing what belongs to Him. Notice that in verse 4 God calls Israel “My people” and “My nation.” God wants Israel to know that she is His property.

1 Pet. 2:9 “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people . . . show forth the virtues”

B. Content of the Exhortation: Wait expectantly for the coming Messiah and His reign of righteousness

1. Anticipate the Expansion of God’s Revelation — Worldwide

“For a law will go forth from Me,

And I will set My justice for a light of the peoples.”

It makes a difference who is issuing the laws of the land – we try to vote into office those who will make wise decisions – here we have God exercising direct control – proclaiming His law; establishing true justice

Parunak: The promise here is that God’s kingdom, his rule, is not just for Israel, but extends across all the earth.

S. Lewis Johnson: This is the law in the future. Remember back in the second chapter, he spoke about the law of the Lord going forth from Jerusalem. What is the law of the Lord that shall go forth from Jerusalem during the kingdom age that is to come? Well it is the gospel of redemption in all of its manifestations. It is what Luke calls the knowledge of salvation.

Oswalt: mispat is the fair, equitable, and blessed governing of a world by its Creator according to the purposes for which it was created. The opposite of mispat is not injustice but chaos, which of course includes injustice but is much more far-reaching.

2. Anticipate the Arrival of God’s Salvation and Judgment

“My righteousness is near,

My salvation has gone forth,

And My arms will judge the peoples;”

3. Anticipate the Reception for the Long Awaited Messiah

“The coastlands will wait for Me,

And for My arm they will wait expectantly.”

Beall: In the Servant passages (42:3-4, 6; 49:6) it was the Servant who was to establish justice on the earth and to be a light to the nations; here, it is the Lord (compare also Isa 9:7). Similarly, in v. 5 the Lord states that “the coastlands shall wait upon Me”; while in 42:4 it was said of the Servant that “the coastlands shall wait for His Law.” Clearly, the work of the Servant and the work of the Lord are one and the same. . . The “arm” of the Lord might also be a Messianic term, especially in light of Isa 53:1 (“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”).

Oswalt: We long for someone who is both strong enough and good enough to rule . . . in justice. Given the realities of human nature, order requires rule, and rule requires power. But power of what sort? Here is the truth God has been trying to get his people to hear throughout the book. It is the power of self-denial, the power of self-sacrifice, the power of innocence, the power of faithfulness, the power of holy love. This is the power for which all the world waits in breathless anticipation.

C. Contrast Between the Temporal and the Eternal

1. The Temporal is Passing Away

“Lift up your eyes to the sky,

Then look to the earth beneath;

For the sky will vanish like smoke, And the earth will wear out like a garment

And its inhabitants will die in like manner;”

Parunak: He draws their attention to the most fundamental and enduring elements of their environment, the heavens and the earth.

2. The Eternal is Coming to Stay

“But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not wane.”

Constable: The sky and the earth may appear to be permanent, but the really permanent realities are God’s promises of coming everlasting salvation and righteousness (cf. Luke 21:33).

Stedman: Look ahead! A new day is coming! God is at work. We are not headed for darkness and despair, we are headed for peace and light and glory; for power and ministry such as we could never dream. In Second Corinthians 5 the apostle says, “This light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us an exceeding weight of glory,” (2 Corinthians 4:17). That is what lies ahead. We must go through darkness here for a while, but it will not last forever. Once in a meeting where people were sharing their favorite Bible verses, I heard a man say, “My favorite are those verses that begin, ‘And it came to pass. . .’ When I face discouragement, I say to myself, ‘It didn’t come to stay, it came to pass.’ ” That is what God is saying. It will not last forever. We are headed for light, for peace, and for glory. Verse 7 adds another “Hearken.” Do not only look back and look ahead, also look around!


A. Call to Listen – Addressed to Those Fearing the God of Righteousness

“Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, A people in whose heart is My law;”

God not impressed by external and hypocritical conformity to His law; He desires truth in the inward parts

B. Content of the Exhortation: Do not allow the fear of man to divert you from taking a stand for the righteousness of God

“Do not fear the reproach of man,

Nor be dismayed at their revilings.”

Had been instructed to Remember the past

Had been encouraged to Anticipate the future

Now commanded to trust and obey in the present – don’t be paralyzed by fear

Persevere in Faith

C. Contrast between the Temporal and the Eternal

1. The Temporal is Passing Away

“For the moth will eat them like a garment,

And the grub will eat them like wool.”

S. Lewis Johnson: the smallest expression of the power of God is sufficient to overthrow all of the forces of evil. O what a tremendous God we have. I think there is something else in that text too. It seems to me that by this reference to the moth and the worm, we are taught that God’s destruction is a destruction that goes on before we know it.

Stedman: we are told again and again in the Scriptures not to fear the bluster and arrogance of cruel and violent people, because God is undermining them. The psalmist says in Psalm 73, “He has set their feet in slippery places,” (Psalms 73:18). We ought to feel sorry for them, hollow shells as they are for their foundations are being undermined.

2. The Eternal is Coming to Stay

“But My righteousness will be forever,

And My salvation to all generations.”

Guzik: Knowing that the righteousness and salvation of the LORD are permanent and the opposition and mocking of the wicked is temporary, we should stand strong in faith. This is something to listen to!


  • Remember Your Past – God has been faithful and will continue to fulfill all of His precious promises to those who are children of Abraham by faith

  • Anticipate Your Future – Ultimate Salvation and Righteousness are Coming

  • In the Present, Choose Faith, not Fear – Walk by Faith and proclaim the Righteousness of God — not intimidated by Fear