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Isaiah 50:1-4

Isaiah 50:1 Thus says the LORD, “Where is the certificate of divorce By which I have sent your mother away? Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you? Behold, you were sold for your iniquities, And for your transgressions your mother was sent away.

The imagery of divorce is a common one in the prophets. Here the two images of divorce and slavery are coupled together to draw the picture of iniquity and transgression coming back upon the transgressors. Here is chiastic fashion in which the questions are formed:

a: Where is the certificate of divorce?

b: To whom of my creditors did I sell you?

b: You were sold for your iniquities

a: For your transgressions your mother was sent away

The point made is that Judah is following suit after israel in their idolatry and rejection of God. God does not need a certificate of divorce by which to send away his wife – her behavior speaks for itself. The certificate would be an affidavit proving his right for a divorce, He does not need one. See Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Both Jeremiah and Hosea use the theme of divorce to describe God’s displeasure with the behavior of Israel/Judah.

In ancient times, one way that people paid debts that they were unable to meet was to sell children into slavery. This is the bondage that is being spoken of here.

Isaiah 50:2-3
“Why was there no man when I came? When I called, why was there none to answer? Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, I dry up the sea with My rebuke, I make the rivers a wilderness; Their fish stink for lack of water And die of thirst.” 3 I clothe the heavens with blackness And make sackcloth their covering.”

The man referred to here is in need of definition. The Targum translates the word man here as “prophet.” It can also mean “husband.” The Hebrew word is ” ‘iysh {eesh}” which means man, more as an individual than mankind in general. I like the translation “prophet” or as it is put in Deuteronomy 33:1 when referring to Moses: “the man of God.” The sense here being, “Where is the man of God?” Why is there no godly men in the nation which I have chosen? I came and found none. This same sentiment is expressed in 2 Chronicles 36:15-16:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; 16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.

This is the common lot of the prophet of God in Israel (Isaiah 65:2) and the warning throughout the Scriptures: Hosea 4:6; Proverbs 1:24-33. This is the same sort of reception that Jesus encounters and this passage is behind passages like: John 1:11; 5:40; Matthew 22:1-16; 23:13, 37.

The warning here is a continuation of God’s rebuke of Israel for their adulterous foray into idolatry. They have looked to other god’s for salvation, security, guidance and hope. So God questions them: “Is my hand so short that it cannot ransom? Have I no power to deliver?” The surrounding nations are encroaching upon Judah and they are frightened. They do not turn to Yahweh, they turn to Baal and others, so God reminds them of His saving activity in the past

* Dry up the sea with my rebuke
* Make the rivers a wilderness
* Clothe the heavens with blackness

All three of these images bring God’s acts of redemption to mind, specifically, the parting of the Red Sea (see Psalm 106:9 for the common language of “rebuke” and the Red Sea), the parting of the Jordan River and the plague of darkness on the land of Egypt (Exodus 10:12-13). The darkness in the heavens also looks ahead to the crucifixion and the darkness on the land for three hours (Matthew 27:45). This is God’s redemptive activity that is being described here. It is an answer to the two questions raised in verse 2. In essence he is saying: I have redeemed you in the past and you have forgotten.

Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple

Verse 4 begins a new section with a new subject. In verses 1-3 God is speaking and here in verses 4-11 the prophet/Messiah is the subject.

There are three common terms used in the Hebrew Bible for God. “El/elohim” is the common word for God or god/gods. “Adonai” is the word translated in our Bibles as “Lord” or “lord.” “Yahweh” or YHWH” is typically translated LORD (all capitals). In this verse (as well as verses 5, 7, 9) this has caused our translators a challenge. The Hebrew text reads “adonai YHWH” so if they were to be consistent they would have to translate this phrase “Lord LORD” but that is redundant and so they chose to translate it as “Lord GOD.”

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of disciples.
The prophet is one who speaks the words of God. Here he is claiming that divine authority. God is the source of his words. He is a follower or one who is learned. This is reflective of the command of God to Moses who stands as the prototypical prophet, the man of God. So the words of God to Moses are reflected here: The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 “Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (Exodus 4:11). See also Psalm 46:2; Jeremiah 1:9; all of Ezekiel where he repeatedly claims to speak the word of the Lord. Jesus is described in the first chapter of John as the “logos” or the Word of God. John is declaring that Jesus is the message from God, He is the exact representation of His nature. Jesus speaks words that are unmistakably divine and His audience recognizes this “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.”

That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
The words of the prophet are intended to bring strength. The believers who are faithful are wearied by the unbelief of their brothers, the words of the prophet affirm their obedience and faithfulness. This is a wonderful description of the utility of the preacher (lay or professional) – his usage of the word is sustaining. Paul describes it this way: But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation (1 Corinthians 14:3) and 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16 – 17). What a great job description for pastors and anyone else interested in using the word of God in the context of service.

He awakens me morning to morning. God’s providence here is sited as a foundational element in ministry, and life. Here is a critical starting point for all believers. God is the one who is our source of life, and the sustainer of life. He initiates it. He keeps it going. We are not self-generating, we owe our life to God, and he demands it from us. He is the one who awakens me, not my own strength or resolve. i only have breath because He has granted me breath. Herein lies the core of unbelief, and of bad theology. Man taking credit for life, clutching it as his own leads man away from his creator. Believers who attribute to man the ability to choose and generate spiritual life also end in an abyss of faulty theology. God is the giver and granter of life, both physical and spiritual. The psalmist puts it this way: I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me (Psalm 3:5).

He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple. The message of the prophet not only comes from God, the ability to hear and process the message is also a gift from God. God opens the ears of the believer. This is a message we heard early on in the book of Isaiah, see Isaiah 6. This theme is prominent in the ministry of Jesus. He is constantly repeating the phrase: “he who has ears to hear…” The parables of Jesus serve as the double edged sword of belief and unbelief. To the disciples Jesus reveals and explains, to the scribes and Pharisees he hides the message in parables, in case they might hear and repent (See Mark 4:11-12) Both in Mark and John 12 Jesus cites the passage in Isaiah 6. The word of the prophet brings comfort to the faithful and judgment to the disobedient. See Deuteronomy 29:4; Ezekiel 12:2; Matthew 11:15; 13:14; Acts 28:26; Romans 11:8. When Jesus came his message had this double edge. Too many people miss or ignore this dominant thread in the gospels. Jesus brings a hammer to the Jewish leadership who has been unfaithful in their obligation to lead the people to the truth. It was their obligation to acknowledge the ministry of Jesus and to affirm it so that the path of the people to Jesus would be made level – as John the Baptist did. Since they do not endorse Jesus, and to the contrary condemn Him, they become guilty of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and are righteously judged (see Luke 11:37-54, especially verses 49-51).

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