Isaiah 54:11 (ESV) … “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.”
The image in this chapter is that of Jehovah, the faithful husband, forgiving Israel, the unfaithful wife, and restoring her to the place of blessing. Isaiah has used the marriage image before (50:1–3) and will use it again (62:4). Jeremiah also used it (Jer. 3:8), and it is an important theme in both Hosea (chap. 2) and Ezekiel (chaps. 16 and 23). The nation was “married” to Jehovah at Mt. Sinai, but she committed adultery by turning to other gods; and the Lord had to abandon her temporarily. However, the prophets promise that Israel will be restored when Messiah comes and establishes His kingdom.
What kind of a restoration will it be? For one thing, it is a restoration to joy and therefore an occasion for singing (Isa. 54:1a). Isaiah is certainly the prophet of song; he mentions songs and singing more than thirty times in his book. The immediate occasion for this joy is the nation’s deliverance from Captivity, but the ultimate fulfillment is when the Redeemer comes to Zion and the nation is born anew (59:20).
It will also be a restoration to fruitfulness when the nation will increase and need more space (54:1b–3). The nation had been diminished because of the Babylonian invasion, but God would help them multiply again. At the end of this age, only a believing remnant will enter into the kingdom; but the Lord will enlarge the nation abundantly. Israel may feel like a barren woman, unable to have children; but she will increase to the glory of God. God will do for her what He did for Sarah and Abraham (49:18–21; 51:1–3). The tents will need to be enlarged, and the desolate cities will be inhabited again!
Paul quoted Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27 and applied the spiritual principle to the church: Even as God blessed Sarah and the Jewish remnant with children, so He would bless the church, though she is only a small company in the world. Paul was not equating Israel with the church or suggesting that the Old Testament promises to the Jews are now fulfilled in the church. If we claim the Old Testament Jewish prophecies for the church, then we must claim all of them, the judgments as well as the blessings; and most people do not want to do that!
Israel’s restoration to her land will also mean confidence (Isa. 54:4–10). Isaiah gives another one of his “fear not” promises (41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8; 51:7; 54:14) and explains why there was no need for the nation to be afraid. To begin with, their sins were forgiven (v. 4). Why should they fear the future when God had wiped out the sins of the past? (43:25; 44:22) Yes, the people had sinned greatly against their God; but He forgave them, and this meant a new beginning (40:1–5). They could forget the shame of their sins as a young nation, as recorded in Judges and 1 Samuel, as well as the reproach of their “widowhood” in the Babylonian Captivity.
Another reason for confidence is the steadfast love of the Lord (54:5–6). Jehovah is their Maker and would not destroy the people He created for His glory. He is their Redeemer and cannot sell them into the hands of the enemy. He is their Husband and will not break His covenant promises. As an unfaithful wife, Israel had forsaken her Husband; but He had not permanently abandoned her. He only gave her opportunity to see what it was like to live in a land where people worshiped false gods. God would call her back and woo her to Himself (Hosea 2:14–23), and she would no longer be “a wife deserted” (Isa. 54:6, NIV). She felt forsaken (49:14), but God did not give her up.
A third reason for confidence is the dependable promise of God (54:7–10). God had to show His anger at their sin; but now the chastening was over, and they were returning to their land. (On God’s anger, see 9:12, 17, and 21.) “With great mercies will I gather thee,” He promised. “With everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee.”
Whenever we rebel against God and refuse to listen to His warnings, He must chasten us; and He does it in love (Heb. 12:1–11). Our Father cannot permit His children to sin and get away with it. But the purpose of His chastening is to bring us to repentance and enable us to produce “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (v. 11). When God “spanks” His erring children, He may hurt them; but He never harms them. It is always for our good and His glory.
God kept His promise concerning the Flood (Gen. 9:11–17), and He will keep His promises to His people Israel. They can depend on His love, His covenant, and His mercy.
Not only will the captives be set free and the nation restored, but also the city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt (Isa. 54:11–17). If the language here seems extravagant, keep in mind that the prophet sees both an immediate fulfillment and an ultimate fulfillment (Rev. 21:18–21). The remnant rebuilt the temple and the city under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, Ezra the scribe, Nehemiah the wall-builder, and the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah. But the restored Jerusalem was nothing like what Isaiah describes here! For that beautiful city, we must wait till the return of the Lord and the establishing of His kingdom. Then every citizen of Jerusalem will know the Lord (Isa. 54:13), and the city will be free from terror and war (v. 14).
Our Lord quoted the first part of verse 13 in John 6:45. When you read the context, beginning at verse 34, you see that Jesus was speaking about people coming to the Father. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (v. 37, NKJV) does not mean that the Father forces sinners to be saved. People come to Him because they are “taught of God,” and the Spirit draws them through the Word. Personal evangelism won’t be needed in the New Jerusalem, for all the citizens will know the Lord.