Reading through the Bible together
Much depth of feeling can be read in this chapter. Three parties are in constant conversation. Isaiah speaks to the righteous left in Judah (vv.1-3), God speaks tenderly to His people (vv.4-8), Judah speaks back to God (vv.9-10). Then Isaiah repeats the promise of the return of the exiles (v.11), God speaks to Judah again (vv.12-16) and specifically to Jerusalem (vv.17-20), and finally, Isaiah speaks to the afflicted and discouraged (vv.21-23).
Here, we also find two examples of double vocatives. What is that? In the Bible, a double vocative is a sign of deep emotion and concern, such as “Martha, Martha…” (Luke 10:41), or “Simon, Simon” (Luke 22:31). When the righteous in Judah appeal to God, they cry: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord” (v.9). It was God who “cut Rahab” (Egypt, see Isa. 30:7) and wounded the dragon (Satan). Then, in verse 17, God answers to Jerusalem: “Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem.” He recognizes the pain He would inflict on His people through the power of Babylon, leading to “desolation and destruction” (v.19), which meant the desecration of the temple, and the burning down of the city.
Then God ends this painful description with a note of hope. It is the Lord Himself who “pleads the cause of His people” (v.22). Those who have inflicted pain on them will be repaid (v.23). This is why the chapter stresses two wonderful attributes of God: His righteousness and His salvation (vv.5-6).
What a remarkable God we serve, one who would engage in such conversation with His people! He would be in His right to let us reap the consequences of our actions, with no explanation given. Yet, He stoops low to help us understand the cause of our disease and the reasons for His actions. He would much rather avoid having us take “bitter medicine,” for He is a tender Father who aches with the suffering of His children. But He is more interested that we get well—no matter the cost or the pain—than continuing obliviously in sin and, subsequently, be lost forever.
Let us follow the example of Abraham, our father in the faith (v.2). Out of Babylon he came, answering God’s call to be devoted to Him. We too, must come out of our Babylon of sin, doubt, indolence, entertainment, and self-indulgence, and follow this wonderful God to the end.
Ron E M Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology
Andrews University Seminary