Isaiah Chapter 50: Unfaithfulness of Israel to God, Jesus’ Thoughts During His Trial

Mar 3rd, 2010 | By | Category: Isaiah, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Isaiah Chapter 50: Unfaithfulness of Israel to God, Jesus’ Thoughts During His Trial

Isa. 50:1 Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

Why did God ask Israel, “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement?”

Comment: The question was asked because the Israelites had left God and gone to worship other gods or idols.

Reply: Yes, both the ten tribes and the two tribes went astray.

The question was next asked, “To which of my creditors did I sell you?” The verse ends with, “You sold yourselves, and for your transgressions, your mother was put away.” When did the Israelites sell themselves? At this time, only the ten-tribe kingdom had received judgment and been taken into captivity by Assyria, for Isaiah wrote this message more than 100 years before 606 BC. Therefore, Isaiah’s dispensational message was primarily directed to “Judah and Jerusalem” (Isa. 1:1). (Hosea prophesied at the same time but to the ten tribes, who went into Assyrian captivity.)

Comment: God said to Jeremiah in the days of King Josiah: “Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green  tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for allthe causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also” (Jer. 3:6-8).

Reply: Notice, a bill of divorcement was given to Israel, the ten tribes, the northern kingdom. Judah, the two tribes, witnessed this “divorce” but did not heed the warning. Therefore, at the time of Isaiah’s writing in Chapter 50, Judah had not yet been put away with a formal bill of divorcement.

The prophet continued with God telling Judah, “For your transgressions is your mother put away.” Ezekiel 16:1-3,28,29,45,46 furnishes information about Judah’s “mother,” as follows:

“Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

“Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,

“And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite….

“Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied.

“Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith….

Thou art thy mother’s daughter, that loatheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, which loathed their husbands and their children: your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite.

“And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters.”

The covenant was originally made with the whole nation of Israel, but subsequently in their development, the kingdom was divided into ten and two tribes (Ezek. 16:8). Then, in this same chapter of Ezekiel, the “mother” was pictured as having three daughters: (1) Samaria, the ten tribe kingdom, was the oldest; (2) Judah, the two-tribe kingdom, was the middle daughter; and (3) Sodom was the youngest.

Ezekiel 23:2-4 discusses two of the daughters: “There were two women, the daughters of one mother: And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity. And the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah.” Samaria, the older daughter, was called Aholah. Jerusalem (Judah), the younger daughter, was called Aholibah.

In Isaiah’s day but prior to Chapter 50, estrangement began when the northern ten-tribe  kingdom was carried away captive to Assyria. The Lord asked Judah, “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you?” The “mother” was the land of Israel. The people on that land (the ten tribes and the two tribes) were the product of the “mother”; they were underneath the “mother,” which was also the covenant. God had made the covenant with the entire nation, with both houses of Israel (the ten tribes and the two tribes). The ten-tribe kingdom was nominally called “Israel,” which was the name of the whole nation, in contradistinction to Judah, the two tribes. In Isaiah’s day, God divorced, or put away, the ten tribes, the older sister or daughter, whereas Judah’s divorce did not occur until 606 BC, long after Isaiah had died. Isaiah was telling Judah that they should realize the situation. Although they had not been divorced yet, they were drifting away from their covenant relationship because of their sins; a divorce was pending.

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah used different illustrations. The Jeremiah citation did not mention the “mother,” whereas Ezekiel mentioned both the “mother” and her daughters and Isaiah 50:1 spoke of just the “mother.”

Note: This first verse is difficult to understand. Therefore, the comments presented above are incomplete and may not be accurate. In the next week’s study, it was suggested that the fulfillment of the question “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement?” might be along the following line.

“Where is the divorce document? Let us examine it and read the details. I did not put you away. Rather, you put yourselves away through your iniquities.” Therefore, verse 1 would not be talking about the ten-tribe kingdom’s going into captivity or about 606 BC, but about Jesus’ day, or AD 70. In AD 70, the two tribes were put away because of their sins, but all down through history, the Jews have blamed the Gentiles for their sufferings. The Jews think they have been unjustly persecuted, and they fail to see that the Diaspora occurred because of their own iniquities. In the climax in Jacob’s Trouble, however, the Holy Remnant will repent and admit their sins and call on God.

Q: Is this prophecy referring to Jesus’ day?

A: No, it refers to our day, but it is telling that the nation was put in Diaspora and cast away because of sins and transgressions. Even today there is trouble. This prophecy is a separate explanation of why Israel has had such a long period of hard experiences all during the Gospel Age—because they sinned. God was reluctant to punish them but was forced to do so.

Isa. 50:2 Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.

God said, “When I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer?” Neither the nation nor individuals answered or responded when God issued an invitation through His prophet. There are two applications.

1. Jeremiah 3:13,14 states the principle that iniquity must be acknowledged in order for one to be forgiven. “Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” In other words, although Israel went astray into harlotry and other things, God called out to the nation that if even one of a city or two of a family would repent from their backsliding condition, He would forgive and bless them. Jesus also issued an invitation, but how many responded? “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

2. The prophetic application pertains to Jesus’ day and the Diaspora. In AD 70, Israel’s polity was destroyed, and the survivors of both the ten and the two tribes were taken to other lands.

The same is true of AD 135 and throughout the long period of the Gospel Age. Therefore, both houses of Israel had to experience the Diaspora because of their sins and their crucifixion of Jesus. When Jesus came at his First Advent, God was appealing to the lost sheep of Israel, but only a handful of people responded. (The 500 who truly responded out of the multitudes who followed him for the loaves and the fishes and out of 7 or 8 million Jews in the entire nation would be considered as nothing.) Consequently, the nation was cast off from God’s favor.

Here in verse 2, God was pleading, “I have the ability to use great power on your behalf. As Jews, you all celebrate the Passover and the Exodus as a marvelous demonstration of my power, so why do you not answer me?” God even went into the drama and provided an interesting detail—when He dried up the Red Sea to enable the nation to go over dry-shod, a lot of fish died and the stench was very apparent.

Isn’t it strange that despite all of Israel’s experiences and despite all that God has done, hardly anyone really believes in His power? Even when viewing a movie about the Exodus, the people regard the dividing of the Red Sea as just an exciting story. But this event actually happened, and He who wrought such miracles in the past can repeat them in the future. God’s hand is not shortened—He has the POWER to deliver Israel. The Time of Trouble is needed like a spanking to make mankind realize their need for the Redeemer.

Today Israel, as a nation, does not pray together to God as the people did under Ezra, Nehemiah, and King Josiah. No national fast has been declared. As the Israelites reflect on their past history and their being back in their land, the fact that peace still eludes them brings them anguish of spirit. But as a nation, they have not called on God for His forgiveness, help, and explanation.

Isa. 50:3 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.

Verse 3 should be coupled with verse 2. Just as God opened the Red Sea, so He caused a plague of darkness (and “sackcloth”) to come upon Egypt. God has such capabilities; He has used them in the past, and He will use them again in the future. He will repeat this POWER in Jacob’s Trouble: plagues, pestilences, and miracles.

Isa. 50:4 The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

Verses 4-9 refer to Jesus and give his innermost thoughts prior to his crucifixion. Daily in prayer, Jesus sought God’s instruction and help. In fraternizing with fallen human beings, Jesus learned many lessons. He was thankful God taught the meek and humble rather than the wise and learned (Matt. 11:25). As a result of being down here, he understood more fully the depth of the Father’s wisdom.

“That I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” The wisdom of Jesus was superhuman in speaking the seemingly simple parables. He was given “the tongue of the learned” to be able to illustrate deep principles in this manner. He knew how to speak “a word in season” and to give help and comfort to the sin-sick and weary.

“He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” Every morning Jesus prayed to his Father and then waited and listened for guidance and wisdom, and every day he learned more.

Isa. 50:5 The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

Isa. 50:6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

Many demeaning things happened to noble Jesus: obscenities, slanders, spitting, etc. Even the hairs of Jesus’ beard were plucked out by the roots. He yielded to all of these indignities and did not resist, submitting to the Father’s will and wisdom in permitting them. He reasoned, “Since God did not interfere, He wants me to have these experiences.” As his experiences continued, Jesus developed more and more wisdom as to how to deal with fallen humanity.

When the smiters did not listen to Jesus, he gave his back to them. In the Parable of the Vineyard, when the husbandman sent various servants to the people to whom he had let out his vineyard, they killed the servants (Matt. 21:33-44). Then the husbandman sent his son, but they killed him too. In the parable, Jesus was pleading with the nation, but they ended up killing him. This parable illustrates the questions in verse 2: “Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer?”

“I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” Jesus was immovable when spat upon; he did not turn away but kept his composure and let his persecutors do these demeaning things. He was like a lamb dumb before its shearers. “I gave my back to the smiters” shows Jesus’ submission to the scourging.

Remember, Isaiah was prophesying of things that had not yet happened—of things that would occur at the First Advent. Although these prophecies were recorded many years prior to their fulfillment, they were stated in the past tense.

Isa. 50:7 For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.

After using past tense, Isaiah now spoke as if the experience were actually happening to Jesus. It is as if Jesus were actually on his way to the Cross. Trusting that God would help him, he set his face as a flint, knowing he would not be ashamed. He knew he would be vindicated, so he did not rebel against these shocking experiences.

Isa. 50:8 He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.

“He who vindicates me is near” (RSV). Jesus has not yet been vindicated in the eyes of Israel or of the world at large.

Comment: These verses will help the feet members at the very end of the age.

Reply: Imagine being in Jesus’ place with all the responsibilities he had faced as the Logos—he was involved with the making of the Law Covenant, he was on Mount Sinai, he dealt with Moses (God gave Moses the instruction through Jesus), etc. Then all of a sudden, he came down here to die for the human race, but the incidental experiences in connection with that death came as a shock. He would have expressed the thoughts to the Father: “I am willing to die, but are these experiences necessary? Nevertheless, I know that you will soon vindicate me. My justification is near.” Jesus was not rebellious.

Notice how Jesus got courage. After having shocking experiences and setting his face as a flint, he asked, “Who will contend with me?” He got bolder and more determined. In Pilate’s Report, Pilate asked Jesus, “Don’t you know that I have the power to free you?” Jesus replied, “There is nothing you can do. My whole experience is in the hands of God. Can you say to that water, ‘Back up and go up that hill’? No, that water is to flow down the hill. And so I am determined to do God’s will, and you have nothing to say in the matter.”

“He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together.” Why is there a change in pronouns from singular (“me”) to plural (“us”)? Jesus was speaking in verse 7: “For the Lord GOD will help me.” Therefore, Jesus was also speaking at the beginning of verse 8: “He [God] is near that justifieth me [Jesus].” “Let us stand together” is almost a parenthetical statement, for Jesus again spoke at the end of verse 8: “Who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.” The time setting is Jesus’ last hours. Hence this prophecy of Jesus’ innermost thoughts at the time of his crucifixion was written 700 years prior to its fulfillment. Moreover, the prophecy of this chapter in Isaiah is recorded in different tenses: past, present, and future.

In the prophecy, Jesus talked as if his experience at the Cross were currently going on. Then the account says, “Let us [therefore] stand together.” This clause is a prophetic indication or commentary that a class (the whole Church) would have a somewhat similar experience. In other words, “Let us [the Church, therefore] stand together [as Jesus stood alone at the time of his Crucifixion].”

There could even be a further indication, as in the Second Psalm, that what happened to Jesus will happen to the last members of the body of Christ as a class. The Holy Spirit is telling the feet members to take strength, comfort, and consolation in recalling what Jesus had to go through, how he remained steadfast, and the victory he attained. Present tense is used to show what will happen in the future.

What point is being made in the rest of verse 8 and on into verse 9? “Who is mine adversary? let him come near to me [Jesus]. Behold, the Lord GOD will help me.”

Comment: It is as if Jesus were saying, “Who would dare oppose me when God is on my side?”

Reply: God did ultimately vindicate Jesus’ death.

Notice the strength of Jesus’ character leading up to his death. He steeled his nerves against the Adversary. At first in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, but afterward he was strengthened, so that he was calm when he went to his disciples. (He had prayed for assurance that his sacrifice would be acceptable, and he got that assurance.) When his enemies came to apprehend him, he said, “Let these others go. I am the one you want.”

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Satan was not allowed to interfere with Jesus’ prayer. But when Jesus finished his prayer and was strengthened, it was time for him to be led forth to be executed. He spoke with confidence, for what appeared as a dark, bleak situation would ultimately be revealed in light and God would vindicate him.

“Let him [Judas] come near to me.” When Judas came, Jesus said unto him, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48). Jesus submitted to all the circumstances of the experience: to Judas, the mob, Caiaphas, etc. (Satan used various human agents to bring Jesus to the Cross.) However, Jesus was reconciled to what had to take place, and now was the time.

Isa. 50:9 Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.

“Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me?” Jesus was condemned at the trial with the two false witnesses, but this verse assured him that his cause would ultimately be justified. Notice his contrasting experiences. First, his soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death and to the point where he sweat blood and tears. After that, he was strengthened with assurances so that he was calm and kept his composure and senses with his disciples. (“It is me you are after. Let my disciples go.”) He submitted to his apprehenders. In other words, strength was followed by introspection in the Garden of Gethsemane (“Have I been faithful?”). Again he was strengthened, but on the Cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” At his death a short while later, he called out triumphantly, “It is finished!” Just as Jesus had contrasting experiences of strength, followed by momentary weakness, strength, weakness, strength, so that is the experience of the Christian—and especially of the feet members leading up to their death. Jesus had feelings, and so do we. He was not afraid of man, but he had moments of introspection when he wondered if he had been faithful. He was both bold as a lion and meek as a lamb.

Even John the Baptist had mixed feelings and emotions. After boldly preaching repentance to the whole nation and giving a strong message to Herod and Herodias, he experienced some doubts about his reasoning regarding the identification of Messiah. Yet he was the one who had said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The point is that we must be very careful in viewing our brethren and not judge by sight how faithful a person is when discouragement and/or depression occurs. We must look at the examples in Scripture to develop an understanding and to get a proper perspective of judgment. We must realize that a Christian’s walk is not that of a stoic, not always immune to suffering.

“Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.” Not only all of Jesus’ enemies but also all enemies will fade away by the end of the Millennial Age. “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25,26). And what happens after that? There will be no more enemies; all evil will have been eradicated.

As a garment decays with age and is eventually discarded, so those of Jesus’ enemies who are incorrigible, although permitted to stay on the scene for a while, will wax old and eventually go into Second Death. The elimination of evil will be a gradual process throughout the Kingdom. It takes time for a moth to eat a garment; it will take time for the enemies of Christ to be removed permanently. His enemies may seem to prosper, but their days are numbered. Stated another way, the days of the Adversary himself and of adversaries (plural) are numbered.

Isa. 50:10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.

Paraphrased, the question is, “Who among you fears Jehovah and obeys the voice of His servant Jesus?” This verse is addressed to those who reverence God and recognize Jesus as the one sent of God—and thus try to obey Jesus’ voice and follow in his footsteps.

“Who among you walks in darkness and has no light?” (paraphrase). Normally we say that God has called us “out of darkness into his marvellous light” and that He has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (1 Pet. 2:9; Col. 1:13). But the words of the hymn give the proper slant here: “I’d rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light.” This class fear the Lord and trust and obey Him yet walk in darkness. Things looked dark for Jesus at the time of his crucifixion, and they do for the Christian at times too.

“Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.” This advice is given to those who fear (reverence) God, obey the voice of His Son, and walk in darkness during a difficult experience and trial. The instruction is to continue to trust God, to continue steadfast in this trust and hope, to continue to be of good courage.

Isa. 50:11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

This verse refers to a different class, a class who are self-deceived and self-illuminated, as opposed to those who trust God and walk in darkness. This class think they are walking in light, but the light is self-manufactured. (They have “sparklers,” as it were, as on the Fourth of July.) The light they manufacture themselves creates an aura or charisma about them.

“This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” While this class derive a measure of satisfaction, pleasure, and security from their own doings, eventually a day of reckoning, shame, and disappointment will come. The short-lived sparks, which briefly create a spectacular display, popularity, and temporary pleasure for this class in the present life through disobeying God and cultivating their own manufactured light, will result in age-lasting shame. Even if they are forgiven and get life, their shame will be preserved for posterity.

(1976–1981 Study)

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