In chapter 49, Isaiah writes in symbolic and poetic form. The Hebrew, at times, is obscure and the perspective is often ambiguous. At one point, it seems that Isaiah speaks of himself. Then it seems that the viewpoint is Israel and then… Messiah. This means that it is easy for you and I to make mistakes here. But, let’s try and untangle this, anyway.
Throughout the Book of Isaiah, the prophet has spoken eloquently of the coming of Jesus and should be seen as a herald of the coming of Christ, to the nations of the world. And, in this chapter, he speaks of the message of Messiah reaching the ends of the Earth – with salvation eventually returning to the children of Jacob. Then, the latter half of the chapter focuses on Jerusalem, itself.
In this case, the word is Zion, and there is only one place on Earth that can rightfully hold that name. Any time you see the word ‘Zion’, it means only one thing and one thing only:
More accurately, it’s the top of one of the lower hills of Jerusalem, and this focus on that tiny patch of land is a mystery. Yet, God has said that His feet rest there and that His eyes are continually on that place. We will focus on the part of this chapter that speaks of Jerusalem, but there is one thing worth pointing out before we go there.
It’s in verse three:
“And He said to me,
‘You are My servant, O Israel,
In whom I will be glorified.’
God speaks of being glorified in Israel. In the future. And, this is an important point to remember. God will use Israel, the children of Jacob, to proclaim that He is God to those who refuse to accept Him. Yes, He did this when God the Son came into the world and saved us from our sins. But, that happened in spite of Israel.
The incredible events surrounding the return of Jacob to God will show everyone that God is who He says that He is. They will see something miraculous, something foretold in the Bible. The world will still reject Him, but they will have no excuse for doing so.
Then, just before we speak of Jerusalem, we see this in verse 13:
Sing, O heavens!
Be joyful, O earth!
And break out in singing, O mountains!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
And will have mercy on His afflicted.
That is the moment that we are looking for. That’s the end point, and no… this is not the Millennium, because of what the following verses say:
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
And my Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.
16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.
Again, this can ONLY be Jerusalem speaking in verse 14. Before the Jews began returning to the Land of Israel, in the late 1800s, Jerusalem was an awful place that you went to die. Malaria, poor sanitation and persecution by the Ottomans made it a desolate and impossible place to live and thrive.
Yet, and this is important, Zion (Jerusalem) is inscribed on the palms of God’s hands. Even though Jerusalem was battered and afflicted for almost 2000 years, she was not forgotten and could NOT be forgotten.
To put it another way:
God is a Zionist and has always been a Zionist.
And, you could make a good case for the following four verses already being fulfilled:
17 Your sons shall make haste;
Your destroyers and those who laid you waste
Shall go away from you.
18 Lift up your eyes, look around and see;
All these gather together and come to you.
As I live,” says the Lord,
“You shall surely clothe yourselves with them all as an ornament,
And bind them on you as a bride does.
19 “For your waste and desolate places,
And the land of your destruction,
Will even now be too small for the inhabitants;
And those who swallowed you up will be far away.
20 The children you will have,
After you have lost the others,
Will say again in your ears,
‘The place is too small for me;
Give me a place where I may dwell.’
Having lived in Jerusalem, I can tell you that finding a place to live is hard. In fact, her boarders are expanding farther and farther outward, engulfing towns and villages, to provide places for people to live. But, there are clues in the above verses that indicate that this isn’t just about now.
(17) …Your destroyers and those who laid you waste
Shall go away from you.
(20)The children you will have,
After you have lost the others,…
I don’t see that the Arabs who laid waste to Jerusalem have completely gone away from Jerusalem. They lost sovereignty over Jerusalem, but they are still around, causing trouble. But, Ezekiel and Zechariah indicate that these troublemakers will be completely defeated. And, it sounds like they will finally go away.
Unfortunately, Zechariah records a great loss of people in the process. Two thirds of those in the Land will be cut off and die. (Zech. 13:8) I would love to believe some fairy tale that those who die are the invaders. But, the context indicates that these are children of Jacob who die.
There will be great loss. But, after they have lost so many, God will bring them others to take their place. And, I believe that we are talking about brothers and sisters in Christ. Jewish and Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ.
This theme continues with verse 21:
21 Then you will say in your heart,
‘Who has begotten these for me,
Since I have lost my children and am desolate,
A captive, and wandering to and fro?
And who has brought these up?
There I was, left alone;
But these, where were they?’ ”
22 Thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations,
And set up My standard for the peoples;
They shall bring your sons in their arms,
And your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders;
23 Kings shall be your foster fathers,
And their queens your nursing mothers;
They shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth,
And lick up the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord,
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.”
You could claim that this has already happened. And, you might be right, if you believe that. The Balfour Declaration. The support for Israel by American presidents and Congress. Lots of Gentile rulers have given a lot of aid and support for Israel.
But, is there something bigger coming, in the future?
We’ll have to see. But, other passages seem to make that abundantly clear. The challenge is in seeing how all the pieces fit together. So, let’s move on.
Here are the last three verses of Isaiah 49:
24 Shall the prey be taken from the mighty,
Or the captives of the righteous be delivered?
25 But thus says the Lord:
“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,
And the prey of the terrible be delivered;
For I will contend with him who contends with you,
And I will save your children.
26 I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh,
And they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine.
All flesh shall know
That I, the Lord, am your Savior,
And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
I don’t think that we can say that this has happened. This sounds like what is described in Ezekiel, about the coming of Gog and Magog.
Yes, the Arabs have destroyed themselves in their opposition to Israel. Even Iran has done tremendous damage to her well being, because of her maniacal hatred of Israel and the Jewish people.