This chapter is a natural progression from the grand theme of the suffering servant in chapter 53. What follows Christ’s resurrection is a spiritual reconcilation that includes the population of God’s chosen people the Israelites. Even as God opens the doors of salvation to all people, He cannot and will not forsake His beloved nation.
The theme of God and Israel as husband and wife is strong in this chapter and serves many purposes. Although neither “Zion” nor “Jerusalem” is named between Isaiah chapters 52 and 59, it is evident that the symbolic wife of God described in this chapter is Zion/Jerusalem, or God’s chosen people Israel.
Verses 1-3: A Growing Nation
Israel is at first a barren mother because their status before God has been unholy as the nation followed pagan customs and engaged in idol worship. The tone quickly turns however, because although Israel has been recently childless, they are still “wedded” to God, who will bless them with many children.
The imagery of an expanding tent is both historically congruous and poetically efficient. Historically, the audience would have been familiar with tents and their characteristics. Poetically, the imagery of expanding a tent works well because the supports are specified and the need is coming. The cords and stakes that support this tent are rooted to the power of God, while the people themselves are in charge of expanding the actual tent and curtains. The image of pregnant Israel, giving birth to the countless saved under the law of grace, leads us to understand that need for a larger tent. Jesus is the door to this tent of free people: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved … ” John 10:9
A final note on this section can perhaps be best understood through a New Testament passage in Galatians. In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul describes the two covenants to the Christians at Galatia. The old law imparted a spirit of bondage on the people, but the new law introduces a spirit of freedom through grace. The new law is possible only with the blood of Christ. Now that God has opened salvation for all, His protection and grace expand to meet the need: “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband.” Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.” Galatians 4:21-31
Although that passage can be difficult, it distinguishes the old law and the new law based on Abraham’s seed through Isaac being the spiritual seed through which all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” Genesis 17:7
Verses 4-8: Shame No More
These verses help us to understand that the salvation discussed in this chapter is primarily of a spiritual nature. Israel is told not to fear or be disgraced because they are created by God. We remember from previous chapters how God described the sorry state of Israel and how they were neglected and forsaken. But now, God says that they will not be ashamed anymore and that they will forget their shame and reproach. That description and those turns of phrase describe an environment of forgiveness rather than judgment. And that forgiveness is only possible through the sacrifice of Jesus.
God was angry and in judgement, but with redemption through Christ, He has established Himself as the husband of Israel and has had mercy: “With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the LORD, your Redeemer.” Isaiah 54:8
Verses 9-17: Promises Kept
God cannot forsake Israel because He made promises to them that He would never forsake them. He recalls the promise he made in the aftermath of the great flood: “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.” Isaiah 54:9
In Ezekiel, there is similar wording from God that He will not desert them: “And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel 39:29
Israel had been neglected by God, and given to other nations as slaves, but God now is telling them that they will be adorned and dressed as a beautiful bride. The city of Jerusalem will be decorated with sapphires, rubies, crystals and other precious stones, representive of being adorned with favor and the brilliance of God’s glory. The children of this union will be taught righteousness by God and they will have no need to fear outside threats. Just like God created the blacksmith and the spoiler, He controls weaponry and its’ ability to destroy. God will ensure that Israel is protected, both spiritually and physically, from outside threats. He is pouring great blessings and righteousness onto Israel and the world. With the blood of Christ, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17
To conclude this chapter, let us zoom out to gain an understanding of the expanse of God’s plan and His power.
When God made the promise that all nations world be blessed through his seed, no one could have known that it meant Jesus and spiritual salvation.
When God made the promise to Noah, no one could have guessed that God would associate that promise with Israel’s safety.
When Isaiah was inspired by God, the things in this book that were recorded would have been a mystery….
But all along this was God’s plan. Jesus is the answer: “and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Ephesians 3:9-11