Isaiah 53 is well known by Christians as a text prophesying the arrival of the suffering servant. Isaiah describes what will happen to Jesus. Jesus will offer his life as a guilt offering so that many will be accounted righteous before the Lord. Isaiah 53:10 declared that the servant would see his offspring and verse 11 said he would see and be satisfied by the work he accomplished. But the picture does not end. Just because there is a chapter break does not mean that Isaiah’s message concerning his servant and his work is over. Isaiah 54 records one of the works that Christ accomplished by giving his life for us.
Numerous Offspring (54:1-3)
The prophecy continues by calling for the people to sing. Burst into song and cry aloud! Notice that it is the “barren one” who is to break forth into singing. There is to be joy because the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married. Isaiah has pictured Zion, the people of God, as being made desolate by their sins. Sin has crushed the nation so that there seems to be no hope. In Isaiah 49:14 the people of Zion believe that God has forgotten them because they are judged by God and left desolate. But the desolate are not forgotten. The Lord has acted in his servant to bring the desolate children. Now the barren are having children. This has a reference to the miracle that God gave to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah was barren and without children. But Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, had a child named Ishmael. But hope was not lost. Sarah would bear a child and the children through Abraham and Sarah would be more numerous than Hagar.
However, the arrival of Isaac as the child given by God to Abraham and Sarah was not the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. Something greater was going to happen. Children are coming! These children are a reference to God’s covenant people, those who will belong to the family of God. While there was no expectation of offspring at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, God predicted a change of circumstances which will cause children to come. So the people are to rejoice for God is going to bring children. Remember Isaiah 53:10 pointed out that the servant would see his offspring. Offspring are coming! Not only are offspring coming, but it will not be just a couple of children. In verse 2 Zion is instructed to enlarge the tents and make more room because the offspring will be numerous. Further, there will be so many children that they are going not only possess Zion, but they are going to possess the nations. The servant’s death and resurrection has made it so that his offspring, the people of God, will be so numerous that they will be spread throughout the nations. This prophecy will explain more about how this will come about.
But before he explains how this miracle of the barren one will bring forth offspring spread throughout the earth, God tells them that there is no need for fear (54:4-8). Listen to God’s words in verse 8: “But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you.”
The Covenant of Peace (54:9-10)
Now God makes an amazing promise. In fact, God says he will make a promise with his people like he did with Noah. Remember the promise made to Noah was that he would not destroy the world by water again (Genesis 8-9). God so passionately loves his people that he makes a covenant of peace with them. The steadfast love of the Lord will not depart from you. This covenant of peace with God will not be removed. The servant would come and bring a covenant that would never be removed. In Ezekiel 37:24-28 this covenant of peace is described as an everlasting covenant. This is truly amazing! Sinful people are going to break this covenant repeatedly. But God will not revoke his steadfast love. God will not remove this covenant of peace. There is never a point when we will sin too many times that we cannot return and belong to this covenant again. God never says, “No, you cannot be in my covenant.” There is nothing that we can do that moves God to reject our plea for forgiveness and belonging to him if we truly desire him.
The Blessings of Belonging to the Covenant of Peace (54:11-17)
Isaiah goes on to describe why you would want to belong to this covenant of peace that God has established. These are some of the blessings that come from being in God’s covenant of peace. Verses 11-12 describe a transformation of God’s people. The afflicted will now be set with precious stones. The imagery is similar to that given in Revelation 21:10-21. What makes the afflicted beautiful is that they have the glory of God (cf. Revelation 21:11).
Let me try to illustrate this idea. Each year at the South Florida Fair they have a very large sand sculpture. It is amazing to see the details and gravity defying designs that are made out of sand. Now sand by itself is not very glorious. If you went to the fair and all that was inside the expo building was a big tower of sand, no one would say that it is amazing. Everyone would simply walk past it. It is just sand. But when the big pile of sand is made into something glorious, now people pay attention. This is the idea that Isaiah is presenting. Without God, we are just some people who walk the earth for a short amount of time doing things that in the scheme of the world are fairly insignificant. But when you are joined with God in his eternal covenant, now you are beautiful stones being built into a spiritual house reflecting the glory of the Lord. The afflicted and oppressed have beauty and purpose in the temple of the Lord. This is what God is picturing for us. You can belong to something beautiful and glorious: the kingdom of God through his covenant made available through the death of Jesus.
The second blessing is that all the children are taught by the Lord. This is a description of those who are truly children of God. Throughout the book of Isaiah the prophecy has noted how the people have not listened to the Lord (6:9-10; 29:9-10; 30:9). We saw when Isaiah was commissioned by the Lord to preach to the people that they would not listen, that seeing they would not see and hearing yet they would not listen. We read about the people saying that Isaiah’s teaching were simply “blah, blah, blah.” The words were just line upon line and rule upon rule. No one wanted to listen to the words of the Lord. God lamented in Isaiah 48:17-18 that they would have listened so that judgment would not have fallen on them. But now the people who belong to this glorious covenant will be taught by the Lord. The children will listen to God.
Jesus quoted this passage of Isaiah in John 6:45. The Jews were grumbling that Jesus said he had come from heaven. Listen to Jesus’ response:
Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— (John 6:43–45 ESV)
No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws that person. Isaiah says that you come to the covenant of God by being taught by God. Jesus confirms this in his explanation. The children are taught by God. If you are drawn by the Father, have heard and learned from the Father, then you will come to Jesus. Those who are in the covenant with God want to learn from God. They want to hear the scriptures. They want to read what God has to say. They are listening to the calling of the Father. Being taught by the Lord will bring great peace to the children. Peace with God will be received when we are taught by the Lord.
What does it mean to be taught? Being taught is more than listening. I had many college classes where I was there but I was not being taught. Being taught means that you hear what is said, you learn what is said, and you become proficient in the material. Why did your teachers give you tests? They wanted to see if you have been taught! Yes, you were present in class and you heard the teacher’s words. But were you taught by the teacher? In the same way, are we taught by God? Are we absorbing what God is declaring and letting it change us? What a glorious blessing to be in the covenant of peace that we are taught directly by God through the words you hold in your hands this morning! Let these words change your life! Verse 14 says that we will be established in righteousness. God’s words will make our lives completely different, living for right and not for sin.
Finally, God says that you are protected spiritually when you are part of his covenant. Verse 15 says that those who stir up strife against you will fall. God is going to deal with those who stand against you spiritually. Listen to verse 17: “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed.” God has us in his hand, no matter what they may do to us. No attack will stand. Think of Paul’s glorious exclamation:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:31–34 ESV)
Christ has brought us a new, everlasting covenant through his guilt offering for our sins. The children of the Lord are spread throughout all the earth now. We are enjoying the blessings of being in relationship with the Lord now. God is building us up into this glorious kingdom, each of us as a precious stone in the structure (cf. 1 Peter 2:5). We are secure in the hand of the Lord as we are taught by God. We enjoy such a blessing in the covenant that we can say with Paul:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:21–23 ESV)
People of God’s covenant understand that our possession beyond the grave is better and more precious than anything or anyone on this side of life. This covenant changes everything. Come to the covenant of peace and let God change everything.