Israel’s Call to Salvation
Isaiah is book of prophecy about Israel and the Messiah. God does not want Israel to forget Him in troubled times. Israel will face times of severe difficulty. The end of chapter 51 speaks of Israel’s painful purging by God of her wicked rebellious sinners.
God pours out His wrath upon Israel to cleanse her of the ungodly. The wrath is devastating to Israel. God likens her to a woman suffering from drinking the cup of God’s anger. She awakens to find herself in complete disarray. Jerusalem no longer resembles the glorious, and beautiful city she once was. She is unrecognizable. Devastation, destruction, famine, and the sword ravage her. In the process, her sons die.
God loves Jerusalem. The purging wrath is for her good. She must be cleansed of wickedness so she may be a glorious, sparkling gem of perfect radiance. God’s work is always for the better.
Isaiah now speaks of how God is inviting Jerusalem to make her salvation complete. God invites her to holiness and freedom.
In this passage, two times the Lord tells His people to rise-up and four times He tells them that He is speaking to them. The image we may have when going through this passage is of a dusty, filthy jail cell. Jerusalem is lying on the floor. She is trying to get her bearings. God, is standing outside the jail cell, calling to Jerusalem. It’s me. I have come for you. Get up. Wash yourself. Put on these garments. Take those chains off, they are no longer locked. Walk out of the jail and into my arms.
The main idea of the passage is: Arise and respond to God’s voice, believing He will rescue His people.
Arise and clothe yourselves in the beauty of holiness
In the previous chapter, we read that the Israelites pray to God and ask that His right arm will put on strength to save them from their situation. They call upon God and say, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD” (Isaiah 51:9).
God hears their cry and corrects His people. It is not God who needs to wake up; His people are the ones needing to get up.
“Awake, awake, clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion;” (Isaiah 52:1)
God does not need to awaken His strength, they are the ones who need to be strong. God calls them to get up out of bed and get dressed.
“Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city.”
God has a vision for Jerusalem. His vision of her is holiness and beauty. God calls her to wake up and put on her garments. God holds holiness before her; she needs to arise and get dressed. Jerusalem needs to make God’s vision her vision. God doesn’t need to wake up; it is Jerusalem who must awaken.
Jerusalem is to be a city of holiness, not a city of filth. God is calling her to put on a garland instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a blanket of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
The clothing of holiness is the most beautiful of all garments. Holiness gives her strength. The strongest of all people are those who are holy. Jesus is holy, and He is the right arm of God. Holiness withstands all evil and wickedness. When Jerusalem awakens from her slumber and puts on holiness, “the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer come into her (Isaiah 52:1).” She will be a city of glory because she will be rid of evil and darkness.
What about us? Are we slumbering when we should arise? Are we lazy and willing to lie in filthy rags when God is telling us to arise from the filth of this world? God’s message to His people is the same throughout time. The New Testament calls us in the same way Isaiah calls to Jerusalem.
We are to lay aside our corrupted selves and be renewed by putting on our new self, which in the likeness of God is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:22-24). We are told to lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12). Put aside anger, wrath, malice, and evil practices. Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
God is always calling His people, in all times, to arise from the filth of this world and to put on His beautiful garments of holiness.
Arise to the Opportunity for Freedom and Exaltation
Not only are we to arise and dress in garments of holiness, but we are to shake off the trappings of the world.
“Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 52:2)
God people are not passive recipients of His work. They are to arise from the dust and take the chains off their neck and walk out of captivity.
Jerusalem needs to be strong in her faith. God stands holding garments of holiness, but she must stand up and get dressed. It is God who breaks the chains and makes the iron like paper, but she must remove the chains from her neck. God opens the prison, but she must walk out.
If Zion is to be restored, she must stop blaming God for her captivity, and recognize she is responsible for her imprisonment. If she is to be restored, she must believe God set her free. God’s work is complete. She must exercise her faith and walk and take hold of God’s promises. She must stop thinking her situation is hopeless and believe God breaks her chains. She may be free if only she rises-up by faith.
Again, we ask the question, what about us? God’s message to His people centuries ago is the same message for His people today. We cry out to God, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)
God responds and says, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:2). Jesus sets us free from everything making us captive.
What is holding you captive? Are you weighed down by the chains of alcohol or drug addiction? Jesus breaks those chains. Are you consumed by worry and anxiety or suffering from the heavy bondage of depression? Does guilt and shame weigh you down? Are you in bondage to anger or bitterness? Does the glow of the computer screen hold your eyes captive to porn or video game addiction?
Jesus says, “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:32).
The Bible does not say, “Put your faith in Christ and ‘poof,’ you are automatically holy.” As Christians, we have a responsibility to rise from the dust and remove the chains. The Son sets us free, but immediately after that sentence we are told that we are obligated to put to death the deeds of the body and live according to the Spirit. We have a responsibility to walk in the newness of life. (Romans 8:12-13)
After explaining the forgiveness of sins which comes by grace through faith, the Paul tells us that we are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. As we consider ourselves dead to sin, we are not to allow sin to be our master. We are not to go about presenting our bodies to sin and unrighteousness, but we are to present ourselves to God as those who Christ has made alive. Sin is no longer our master. We are freed from sin. We have a new master. We are slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:11-14, 18).
The principal of putting off garments of sin and putting on garments of holiness is expressed in many different ways in the New Testament. Paul tells the Galatians that Christ sets us free; therefore don’t be subject to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). James says that faith without works is dead. In other words, the proof that we believe that we are set free from sin is for us to take off the chains of sin and walk in righteousness. After looking in the mirror of God’s word and seeing our face is dirty, we are to wash our face.
Who is responsible for our sanctification? God? Or us? The answer is yes.
It is a critical moment in our sanctification when we move from thinking we are a helpless victim to realizing God places an opportunity before us to rise and walk away from the chains. We are not captive to the filth of this world; Christ sets us free.
God is calling all of His people to walk out of prison and be the free children He calls us to be.
After calling us to arise, God gives us four reasons to have faith and believe His call.
Have Faith that Nothing Prevents God from Responding to our need for Him
The first reason to have faith in God’s call to arise is that there is nothing holding God back from saving them.
For thus says the Lord, “You were sold for nothing, and you will be redeemed without money.” (Isaiah 52:3)
The Israelites are given over to Babylon by God. It is not because God owes Babylon, so He sells His people as slaves. God didn’t sell the Israelites. God gave His people to Babylon. Because they were sold for nothing, God doesn’t need to raise capitol to Babylon to get them back. They can be redeemed without money.
What God is saying to His people is that there is no third-party creditor preventing God from redeeming His people. He may walk into the jail of Babylon and bring them out. Babylon is not a jailer waiting for payment. Babylon is God’s jail.
The same goes for all of us. If we are slaves to sin, there is no third-party in the universe that God has to make a deal with to set us free. Our freedom from slavery is completely up to God. God put the Israelites in captivity. The only person who needs to be satisfied, for the jail doors to swing open, is God. He holds the key to the jail and the chains. A price must be paid to God.
The reason God’s people are captive in jail is that God’s justice is offended. We break His commands. We are guilty. Punishment must be rendered for our release. The only barrier to our freedom is God’s offended justice.
Jesus compassionately sees our condition. He sees that the only way we may be set free is if the punishment is paid in full. Jesus sheds His blood to redeem us from our lawless deeds. He redeems us and makes us His possession. We are bought from God’s prison by God. God rescues us from the domain of darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. Christ pays the full penalty. (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 4:4; Colossians 1:13-14; Titus 2:14; Hebrew 9:12-15)
Let me say it another way. God doesn’t need to rescue us from any other being in the universe. We are not captured by Satan. God doesn’t have to raise money to pay Satan the price of our debt to get out of jail. God is the creditor and we are the debtor. We must pay the penalty of breaking God’s law. We must pay the price in His court of justice. But, we are unable to pay. The price is too high. Jesus pays the debt we owe to God. God saves us from the wrath of God.
Have faith that the only thing preventing God from responding to our need for Him is God. And if God says we are free, we are free indeed.
Have Faith that our Sovereign Lord Rescues His people
For thus says the Lord God, “My people went down at the first into Egypt to reside there; then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. (Isaiah 52:4)
God describes two scenarios which His people need rescuing. The first scenario is in Egypt and the second is with the Assyrians.
There is much debate among commentators with identifying the Assyrians. It could be the Babylonians who take over Assyria. We are not sure. But, the main point remains the same.
Isaiah writes, “for thus says the Lord God.” In Hebrew, the address is, “for thus says the Sovereign Lord.” The One who controls all things is aware of the situation in history in Egypt and the current situation in Assyria. In both situations, when they are in trouble, God will rescue them.
For centuries, God proves that He continually watches over His people. He knows their situation at all times. He is the One sovereignly ordaining their circumstances. It is as Jesus tells us, a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without God’s knowledge. God knows everything about every situation.
God is always watching over His people. We need to have faith that God is sovereign to rescue us no matter the situation or the place.
Have Faith that God saves us for the glory of His Name
God reveals the reason why He rescues His people. It is because of this reason that we may have the utmost confidence in our salvation.
Now therefore, what do I have here,” declares the Lord, “seeing that My people have been taken away without cause?” Again the Lord declares, “Those who rule over them howl, and My name is continually blasphemed all day long. (Isaiah 52:5)
God is in heaven, pondering the situation. “What have we here? What shall I do?” My people, who are called by My name, are taken without a cause. The leaders of Israel are howling and crying out. The unbelievers look at My people and mock them because their God isn’t responding. Because of this situation, God is pondering, in what way shall I defend My name?
God will not be idle while the world makes fun and blasphemes Him as powerless. There will come a day in which God will rescue His people, not because they deserve rescuing, but because they bear His name. God saves us for the glory of His name.
There is no greater reason for God to save us. He will save us for His glory sake. He will employ every star in the universe, every wave of the ocean, and every torrential wind of the air to defend His glory. We may have the utmost confidence that when we put our faith in Christ, we will not stand around in eternity saying, “well, that was a big mistake.” No. Our salvation rests on a rock solid foundation.
God’s eyes are looking back and forth across the world. His eyes stop upon those who are called by His name. His claim upon His people is absolute. He will strongly defend and rescue those who are called by His name. We put our faith in God who is zealous for His glory.
Have Faith to Know the God who speaks
After pondering the question, “what shall I do,” God arrives at an answer. (The truth is that we know God decided in eternity and not at that moment. It’s not as if God decides at that time.)
God reveals two ways He will defend His name. Each way begins with the word, “therefore.”
Therefore My people shall know My name;
therefore in that day, I am the one who is speaking, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 52:6)
Know His Name
The first way God tells us that He will glorify His name is that His people will know His name. To know God’s name is to know everything about His character and attributes. Revealing the name of God is to reveal everything about His being.
To make it, so God’s people will know His name, God will manifest His power in the events and circumstances powerfully. The truth of everything about God will be on display. There will be nothing ambiguous about what takes place so that the character and attributes of God will be evidenced.
Remember how God evidences Himself in the Exodus. He brings plagues upon the enemies of God’s people while they remain in safety. God will act in a way which draws us closer to Him. When we witness how He responds, the result will be that we will intimately know Him. The beauty of this passage is that God wants us to know Him. He wants to be the hero who rescues us. God desires for us to have a personal, loving relationship with Him.
God works to reveal to His people His name during the time of Noah. He does it during the time of Moses, Elijah, and David. God reveals His name during the time of Isaiah and Ezekiel. God reveals His name by sending His Son.
The ultimate way God’s people know God’s name is the cross of Jesus Christ. God works in such a way on the cross that we learn everything we need to learn about God. Think of what we know about God’s being because of the cross. We know God is loving, compassionate, and forgiving. Jesus death on the cross shows the holiness of God’s nature and His hatred of sin. We see how God judges sin. We know God ordains circumstances and events to accomplish His purpose and plan. We see God’s power over death and the victory over our enemies. The cross reveals to us that God is good.
Know He Speaks
The second way God will glorify His name is that His people will know that it is Him who speaks. We will know God, and we will know that He is speaking to us. Notice in these verses how Isaiah calls to our attention that the Lord is speaking to us.
Verse 3: For thus says the Lord.
Verse 4: For thus says the Lord God.
Verse 5: declares the Lord, and again, the Lord declares
Isaiah is written so we may have unshakeable proof of the existence of God and that the God we know to exist is good.
The purpose of the book of Isaiah is to prove to us that God speaks to His people. We see countless prophecies in the book of Isaiah. Some come true in Isaiah’s lifetime. Others come true 150 years after Isaiah’s life (e.g., Cyrus). Other prophecies we see coming true in the time of Jesus, 700 years after Isaiah. And, we still see Isaiah’s prophecies coming true in 1948 when Israel becomes a nation once again.
We hear God speak. We ask aloud, “Is that You, God? Are You speaking to us through Isaiah?”
God says, “Yes, it is me. I will prove that it is Me by ordaining the events of history. And, when you see My word fulfilled, you may know My promises will also be fulfilled.”
We may have the utmost confidence in the ministry of God’s Word. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27).” God’s people hear God’s voice. Whenever we speak the truth of God, we may have confidence the Word of God will work in the heart of the sheep.
Our faith is rightly placed. We hear God speak. We look at the prophecy and how God proves Himself to be true to His word. And, because we believe His Word is true, we look at the promises of our deliverance written alongside the prophecy, and we trust God will be faithful.
Because we know God, and we know God is speaking, we have hope and meaning in life. We know we are delivered from all enemies and oppression.
Therefore, let’s go back to the beginning of the passage. God is speaking to us. He says that we are free. Arise, and respond to God’s voice, believing He rescues His people. Arise, and put on strength. Clothe yourself with the beautiful garments of holiness. Arise, shake the dust off your feet. Remove the chains of addiction, anger, pride, depression, shame, hopelessness, oppression, sin, selfishness, and so on. Take off whatever chain is keeping you from having a full relationship with the Lord, and walk into the freedom of being alive, risen, and seated with Christ in the heavenly places.