Translation and sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 17 Aug. 2008
· Our passage begins with the description of a birth, but it is an unusual birth, an exception to the curse of Gen. 3:16 that childbirth would come with pain.
· 7. Before she went into labor she gave birth; before pain came to her she had already delivered a man! 8a. Whoever heard of [anything] like this? Whoever saw [things] like these?
· Who was this lucky woman? v.8 tells us that it was Zion (the true people of God) who was in labor.
· Here in v.7 she gives birth to a male child (the Hebrew text specifically says it is a male), and then in v.8 she gives birth to more than one child - a country, a nation!
· These verses parallel v.9 from the previous chapter where it says, “I will cause a seed to come forth from Jacob, and from Judah an heir of my mountains, and my chosen ones will take her over, so it will be my servants who will dwell there.”
· Jewish commentators say that this prophecy describes the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon. The only explanation I found in my Jewish commentary on why a “male child” is emphasized is… that boys were preferred over girls. Come on; surely you can do better than that!
· There is a story of a Jewish Talmud teacher whose students started falling asleep on him, so he said, “Did you know that there once was a woman who delivered 600,000 children in one day?” That shocking statement woke his students up again, and he proceeded with his lecture on Jochabed, Moses’ mother. In giving birth to Moses, she gave birth to the future freedom of 600,000 Jews from Egypt!
· In a similar way, I believe this passage is talking about the birth of one actual male child as well as the birth of a nation that this one man delivered from bondage:
· God asks six questions here in vs. 8-9. He wants us to stop and think and learn from them.
· As a result, I think there is another lesson we can learn from these questions. Instead of answering the questions, “Whoever heard of such a thing… Can a nation be born in one step?” with the answer, “Yes, it happened at Pentecost,” you could just as easily answer the question in the negative, “No, such a thing has never happened before; it has always been God’s way to mature His plans over time!”
o ILLUSTRATION: When I was a Junior in High School, I was gripped by a sermon in which Rev. Ron Steele called us to pray for the revival of the church. I’ve been praying for more than two decades for this. Have I seen what I’m praying for yet? No. I get really discouraged about that. God, are you going to fulfill this vision you gave me? I want to see it fulfilled NOW! I don’t want to wait for decades or years or even weeks. When I make an order over the Internet, I want to see that UPS truck deliver my goods within two days or else I get impatient.
o The people of Isaiah’s day were the same way. They wanted everything to get better quickly, and they were tempted to doubt God’s promises when year after year went by and the best of Isaiah’s prophecies didn’t come true. We could take these questions to be a gentle reminder to the Jews who truly served God, saying, “Be patient children, this are my best promises, I will take time in maturing them.” There will be 70 years of exile and then 500 more years until this son is born, but He will come, so hang on to this promise!
o This takes faith, so God asks in v.9. “Do I myself cause a breakthrough/bring to the point of birth and not bring to birth?” says Jehovah. “Would I, the one who brings to birth, just shut [the womb] up?” says your God.
This phrase comes from a saying that
the people had back in chapter 37 when the Assyrian warlords threatened to
destroy the city of Jerusalem: 37:3 They said to him
[Isaiah], “Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and
of disgrace; children have come to the point of breakthrough, but there is no
strength to give birth. 4 It may be that Jehovah your God will hear the words
of the Rabshaqah, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the
living God, and will rebuke the words that Jehovah your God has heard;
therefore lift up prayer for the remnant that can still be found.’”
King Hezekiah of Judah had begun to see the breakthrough of revival among God’s people, they were destroying idols and worshipping God in righteousness, and now, all of a sudden it looked like the end of God’s people as the ruthless Assyrians poised to wipe them out!
You know the end of the story: God sent His angel and wiped out the Assyrians instead, and gloriously delivered His people!
o I have been present at the birth of all nine of my children, and every time, my wife got to a point where she said, “I can’t take any more of this.” That’s generally the point when the baby is ready to be delivered, and without fail, the baby is born soon afterward.
o That kind of thing happens in a lot of contexts: at work, in our personal fight against sin, in our waiting on the fulfillment of a lifetime goal or dream... I’ve seen it in our child-rearing when we reached a point with one of our children where we had worked hard for 12 years teaching and disciplining him and it didn’t look like it had done any good - we just felt there was nothing more we could do. Then finally there was a breakthrough, and that child truly repented from rebellion and became an absolute joy.
o Whenever you reach the end of yourself and come to the point where you’re beginning to wonder if God can be trusted to keep His promises, press on, the birth is near.
o “Do I cause a breakthrough and not bring to birth?” says Jehovah. No! “They will not grow tired for nothing and they will not bear children for dismay, for they will be the seed of the ones Jehovah has blessed, and their offspring will be with them!” (65:23)
o God will not leave His work unfinished: “He who began in you a good work will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
· Today happens to be my 40th birthday. Now, when we celebrate birthdays, when do we do it? Halfway through the year? No! We celebrate after the year has been completed, right?
· We’re also starting a new school year. Has anyone gotten your letter grades and academic awards for this semester yet? Why not? Because it’s not the end of the school year yet!
· However, God asks us to turn our normal pattern upside down. He commands us with three different imperatives to celebrate the fulfillment of His promises:
10. Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad in her, all who love her! Celebrate with her out of joy, all who mourn over her, 11. because you will nurse and be satisfied from the breast of her comforts, because you will suck/drink deeply and indulge/delight yourself from the abundance of her glory!
Rejoice because you are about to be
comforted. Don’t wait until after you have received the comfort of God,
65:18 Instead, be glad and rejoice until forever in that which I am creating, for look at me creating Jerusalem to be a joy and her people a gladness!
This creation is not complete yet, but we are still commanded to rejoice and be glad.
· This is a continuation of God’s call to faith, for, as the book of Hebrews tells us, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.” (11:1)
· How do you go about rejoicing, being glad, and celebrating over the delight you will have in the future?
o This ties in with the previous passages on heaven. Think about heaven and look forward to it! The week before you go on vacation is generally one in which you don’t get depressed because you are thinking about and looking forward to that vacation. In fact it makes the week fly by. Same with us when we live our lives considering that we are on the brink of that eternal vacation in heaven!
o What do you do to celebrate? Do you dance? Sing? Cheer? Have a feast? Then make those things a regular part of your life - and do it in and with the church! (“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad in her”)
o 52:9 Burst out! Cheer together, dry places of Jerusalem, for Jehovah has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem! 10. Jehovah has bared the arm of His holiness before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God!
o This also means fighting self-pity and depression. Fight them; don’t give in! Your Lord has commanded you rejoice, so draw your sword – the sword of the word, and start swinging when you are tempted to pout or mope!
o Psalm 37:1 Fret not over evil-doers, neither be envious against them that work unrighteousness. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb. 3 Trust in Jehovah, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself also in Jehovah; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way unto Jehovah; Trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass.
· This comfort in v. 11 is spoken of as a continuation of the metaphor of a birth. Once that baby is born, the next step is to put it to the breast and let it start nursing! At that point in a woman’s experience of motherhood, her breasts are filled to overflowing with colostrum and milk, and the child finds great comfort from those breasts! There are endorphins or something in the milk that leaves the baby happy and peaceful.
· The child in this passage that is born now nurses from Jerusalem. Perhaps this is a metaphor for the newborn church being nurtured with the words of Jesus and the Jewish Apostles and Prophets. The faithful remnant of Jewish believers became the ones who preached the Gospel to the world after they were discipled by Jesus.
· Verse 11 also tells us that we will be satisfied. In God’s provision you will find luxury and the delight that you long for.
o The world constantly promises to deliver satisfaction and delight, but it can never do so:
o Food will never
satisfy you, no matter what kind of delicacy it is.
9:20 described this: “…wickedness burns like fire… He snatches on the right and hungers, and he eats on the left but he is not satisfied…”
o Buying things will never satisfy you, no matter how fun the shopping experience promises to be.
o Relationships will never satisfy you, no matter sexy or friendly they are, they will all leave disappointment.
o Only God will bring satisfaction.
· Who will get that comfort and satisfaction? Those who love Jerusalem and who mourn over her.
o How do you mourn over Jerusalem?
§ Let your heart be moved with compassion when you see a brother or sister in Christ who is hurting; “weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15)
§ When you see sin in people’s lives, mourn over it and ask for God’s forgiveness and restoration. Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
§ Stay informed about the persecuted church worldwide and remember them as well – that’s why we regularly include news of persecuted believers in the back of the bulletin.
o How do you feel about the church? Do you love it? How do you show that love?
§ Engage in the regular worship and fellowship of the church,
§ Join as a member,
§ Give of your resources and skills to help her thrive,
§ Tell others how wonderful she is and how wonderful her Savior is,
§ Study up on her and pray for her.
Timothy Dwight pointed the way in his
hymn, “I love thy kingdom Lord:”
For her my tears shall fall, for her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and toils be given ‘till toils and cares shall end.
Beyond my highest joy I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows, her hymns of love and praise.
12. For thus says Jehovah, “Look at me, extending peace to her like a river, and the glory of nations like an overflowing stream, and you will nurse upon the side/hip/arm. You will be carried, and upon the knees you will be bounced/dandled/fondled/play peek-a-boo.
· Let me answer the most obvious question first: What’s with my translation of “peek-a-boo?” Here’s what. This word is used only four times in Isaiah, and each of the previous three times (29:9, 11:8, 6:10) it meant to cover over the eyes or make blind. So I asked myself, “What would a loving mother be doing with a little child in her lap, covering over the child’s eyes?” The obvious answer to me is that she’s playing peek-a-boo!
· This passage parallels chapter 60:4b Your sons from afar will come, and your daughters will be carried on your side… 16. And you will suck the milk of nations; the breast of kings you will suck! And you will know that I, Jehovah, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
The relationship between a mother and
child is very special and close. It includes comfort, nourishment, games, and ideally
a lot of time spent together. God chooses this relationship to describe His
relationship with us as a comforter. There is also a picture of a river valley
extending between God and you, into which He will pour His peace and channel it
right to you.
48:18 If you pay attention to my commandments, then your peace will be like the river…
· In v. 13, God pictures the child grown up to be a man, but the comfort is still there, and God says that He Himself is the comforter: “Like a man when his mother comforts him, so I myself will comfort you, and it will be in Jerusalem you will be comforted.”
o The words “in Jerusalem” are emphasized in the Hebrew text here. Nowhere else but in Jerusalem can this comfort be found. We get a foretaste of it in the church, and we will get the fulfillment of it in heaven - the New Jerusalem.
o E. J. Young wrote that this is speaking, “Not of the physical boundaries of the city, but in the Jerusalem of God. His church… It is only in the church of Jesus Christ that such abundance of comfort and consolation may be found… because the Lord is with His church, and it is from Him that these blessings come…”
o The word “I” is also emphasized in the Hebrew, underscoring
that it is God Himself who will be our Comforter. Jesus sheds more light on
this in His descriptions of the Holy Spirit recorded in the Gospel of John:
14:16 And I will pray to the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth… He abides with you, and shall be in you... 26 But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you… 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, He shall bear witness of me… 16:8 when He is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment… 13 Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth…
14a. And you will see and your heart will rejoice/be glad/celebrate, and your bones will flourish/ sprout like the grass
· There will come a time when faith will become sight, when you will see these promises fulfilled
· 35:1 Wilderness and arid land will be glad, and desert will rejoice and blossom like the crocus... They themselves will see the glory of Jehovah, the majesty of our God. 3. Strengthen the drooping hands and make firm the feeble knees. 4. Say to the hasty of heart, “Be strong, do not fear, see your God! … He Himself will come, and He will save you.”
Some five hundred years later, Simeon and Anna got to see the
first part of the fulfillment:
Luke 2:25-32 …there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents [Joseph and Mary] brought in the child Jesus, that they might do concerning him after the custom of the law, 28 then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 “Now let your servant depart, Lord, according to your word, in peace; 30 for my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 Which thou prepared before the face of all peoples; 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
· Just as bones are strengthened by the calcium in milk, so the people of God will flourish in the nurturing that God provides for them:
o 58:11 Jehovah will guide you continually and will satisfy your soul in scorched places and fortify your bones, and you will be like a watered garden
o They’ll grow like weeds. Ask any of the young men in church today about how fast grass grows! It can put on a couple of inches every week.
o This is the kind of growing environment God has in store for you who believe in His son Jesus as Simeon did.
o God gave a similar illustration to Ezekiel by taking a whole valley full of dry bones and turning them into living, breathing people again. (chapter 37)
o God takes hopeless people who are dead in their sins and trespasses against Him and makes them into His holy people, transformed by His love for them.
· 14b. and the hand of Jehovah will be known by His servants, but He will denounce/show indignation/fury/foam at the mouth (Strong) concerning His enemies.
· God’s “hand” includes His power to orchestrate events, His power to protect His people, and His power to create new life:
o It was the “hand” that brought plagues upon Egypt so that the nations would sit up and take notice of the God of Israel (Exodus 7:4-5).
o It was the same hand that brought Israel through the Red Sea “so that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of Jehovah, that it is mighty; that you may fear Jehovah your God for ever.” (Joshua 4:23-24)
o It was the hand to which David appealed when Saul was chasing him through the wilderness with an army trying to kill him, “Help me, O Jehovah my God; Oh save me according to thy lovingkindness: 27 That they may know that this is Your hand; That You, Jehovah, did it.” (Psalm 109:26-27)
o It was the hand that Isaiah prophesied would bring new life to God’s people: 41:16b And you shall rejoice in Jehovah; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory… 18 I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys... 19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive… 20 that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of Jehovah has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
o And it is the hand, as we’ll see in the last segment of this chapter 66 that saves the nations as well: O Jehovah, my strength, and my stronghold, and my refuge in the day of affliction, unto thee shall the nations come from the ends of the earth… 21 Therefore, behold, I will cause them to know… my hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is Jehovah. (Jeremiah 16:19)
· As you choose to wait in faith and rejoice in the coming salvation, you will see that hand too!
· Do you know the hand of God? That’s the obvious first question. If you want the comfort promised by God here, you must be born again into His church, and that happens when you place your trust in the God-man Jesus who was born 2000 years ago, died on the cross, and offers His death as a substitute for your death at the hand of a God who declares that the payment for sin is death. If you believe in Jesus, then you have great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4) of heaven.
· If you are looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises with faith in Jesus, then be patient and let God take time in maturing them. Whenever you reach the end of yourself and come to the point where you’re beginning to wonder if God can be trusted to keep His promises, press on, the birth is near.
· In the meantime be a celebrator in and with the church. Fight self pity and depression, rejoice, be glad, and celebrate. Look for your comfort and delight in God and His word. Be a lover of the church and a mourner over her when that is called for.
· And one day you will get to see the hand of the Lord!
6. A voice of an uproar from the city,
a voice from the temple,
the voice of Jehovah completing payback to His enemies.
7. Before she went into labor she gave birth;
before pain came to her she had already delivered a man!
8. Whoever heard of [anything] like this?
Whoever saw [things] like these?
Can the earth be induced to go into labor in one day?
Can a nation be birthed in one step?
For Zion has gone into labor and simultaneously given birth to her children!
9. “Do I myself cause a breakthrough and not bring to birth?” says Jehovah.
“Would I, the one who brings to birth, just shut [things] up?” says your God.
10. Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad in her, all who love her!
Celebrate with her out of joy, all who mourn over her,
11. because you will nurse and be satisfied from the breast of her comforts,
because you will suck and indulge yourself from the abundance of her glory!
12. For thus says Jehovah, “Look at me,
extending peace to her like a river,
and the glory of nations like an overflowing stream,
and you will nurse upon the side,
you will be carried,
and upon the knees you will play peek-a-boo.
13. Like a man which his mother comforts him,
so I myself will comfort you,
and it will be in Jerusalem you will be comforted.
14. And you will see and your heart will celebrate,
and your bones will sprout like the grass,
and the hand of Jehovah will be known by His servants,
but He will denounce His enemies.