Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
I. Consider God's command to His people, "Awake, awake." (1) Certain objects of vision are important to the Church of God, and that these may be kept in view, God saith, "Awake, awake." The objects which I would name are ever-existent and ever-present spiritual objects—God, our one Father; the Son of God, our only Saviour; and the Comforter, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son. (2) Certain sources of supply and fountains of pleasure and means of help are important to the Church of God, and that these may be possessed and enjoyed and used, God saith, "Awake, awake." (3) There is good and godly work to be done by Zion; therefore God saith, "Awake, awake." There are two objects in the sphere of our present thought, towards which the Church of God requires to be faithful, and therefore wakeful. (a) Her own endowments, and (b) her opportunities. (4) There are battles which Zion is called to fight, and victories to be won which Zion alone can win; therefore God bids Zion awake.
II. Having interpreted the voice, let us note some of its features and characteristics. (1) The voice that would awaken us is divine. (2) The voice that would awaken us is powerful and full of majesty—a voice, therefore, that stirs and that strengthens, while it stirs him who listens to it. (3) The voice that would awaken us has in it a tone of reproach. The cry, "Awake, awake," corrects and rebukes, while it stimulates and exhorts. (4) This voice is a gracious voice. It is the voice of Him who has called His people to be His people, and who will not cast off His people; it is a voice that woos and wins, while it stimulates and arouses. (5) The voice that cries "Awake, awake," is the voice of Zion's God. He who calls Zion His own, and possesses her as a bridegroom his bride, calls, "Awake, awake."
S. Martin, Rain upon the Mown Grass, p. 85.
Isaiah 52:1I. The word "strength" represents those properties and qualities which are developed in endurance and in action, also a very high degree of active force and enduring power. The strength of any community is primarily in the individuals who constitute it; so that the strength of the Church of God is not entirely, but first of all, in the separate members of that body. (1) The strength of Zion is the strength of human nature. (2) The strength of Zion is also the power of every religious principle. (3) There is strength in all life, and Zion lives with the rich and full and eternal life of God within her. (4) The strength of Zion is the power of certain agencies and influences. The Church has power in her testimony to truth, in her intercession before God, and in her character as the leaven of society and the salt of the nations.
II. God saith, "Put on thy strength, O Zion." If a man puts out his strength, he puts on strength; he appears clothed with strength, as with a garment. The text assumes that Zion's strength is not put out. The terms in which she is addressed prove this. "Awake, awake, O Zion." In sleep all the members of the body put on weakness. Now God is not satisfied with this, and He cries, "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion."
III. Notice some reasons why God should thus speak to His Church. (1) God bids Zion put on her strength for self-manifestation. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Strong winds make themselves heard. Strong sunshine makes itself felt. Strong life shows itself, whether in the animal or vegetable kingdom. And the Church, to be heard and seen and felt and known, must be strong. (2) God bids Zion put on her strength that He may be glorified. A redeemed man is a new creation and a Divine workmanship. On the principle involved in the words, "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise," Zion is required to put on her strength. (3) God requires Zion to put out her strength for the sake of her own well-being. If the powers of the Church be inactive, they will decline. Unmanifested religious life, whether in the person or the community, soon subsides. (4) Zion is required to put on her strength in order to meet the claims of a sinful and suffering world. Zion's mission demands Zion's strength. (5) God directs Zion to put on her strength, because strength has been given her to put on. Whatever God makes us be, He would have us appear to be. Whatever God endows us with, He would have us use and employ. (6) Is not this putting on of strength as essential to Zion's peace and joy as to her outward prosperity? The Church of the living God can only have rest and be joyful as she does put on strength. Sleep is not always sweet. There is a kind of sleep that is most uneasy, and the misery of idleness and inactivity is proverbial.
S. Martin, Rain upon the Mown Grass, p. 98.
Isaiah 52:1Men can rouse themselves to action. There is more power in man than he may be aware of, and he should inquire what objects and pursuits are worthy of his enthusiastic devotion.
I. No object which bears upon this world only is worthy of the supreme energy of man.
II. Spiritual objects are alone worthy of the supreme energy of man. (1) They are akin to his own nature. (2) They touch every point of his being. (3) They prepare him for the solemnity and service of the future.
III. The fact that spiritual objects alone are worthy of the supreme energy of man should impel to decisive action. (1) "Put on thy strength"—for the time is short. (2) "Put on thy strength"—for the enemy is on the alert. (3) "Put on thy strength"—for the Master is worthy.
Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 67 (see also Pulpit Notes, p. 81).
References: Isaiah 52:1.—J. C. Harrison, Penny Pulpit, No. 526; A. F. Barfield, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 319; W. Burrows, Ibid., vol. xi., p. 172; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 33, vol. x., p. 181.
Isaiah 52:7I. In their first sense these words form a part of that great series of encouragement and consolation in which the prophet promises to Israel redemption from captivity and return from exile, and assures the chosen people of God that, though for a time deserted and forsaken, they shall yet be restored to the land given to their fathers, and the worship of God once more established on the heights of Mount Zion. But the prophet, while thus describing in thrilling language the deliverance of his countrymen from bondage, rises to the contemplation of promises which far transcend the greatness of the most glorious earthly kingdom, and passes from the thought of Israel after the flesh to the eternal spiritual Israel, "whose people shall be all righteous, and inherit the land for ever"—the Church of God.
II. The Apostle Paul appropriates and intensifies the aspirations of the prophet; he shows how the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Assyria typified and prefigured the deliverance of all men—whether belonging to the earthly Israel or not, whether born in the east or the west, in the north or the south—from the yet more bitter slavery of sin; and that if a blessing from God followed the feet of the herald who proclaimed the temporal restoration of Zion and the glad tidings of political peace and liberty, far deeper and truer would be the blessing which would attend the footsteps of those who preached the good tidings of spiritual liberty and the peace of God which passeth all understanding.
G. E. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 21.
Reference: Isaiah 52:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 185.
I. The news of the Gospel is news of a victory over sin—news of a victory over death—news of a reconciliation with our God and Father, against whom we had been lured by our enemy, Sin, to be guilty of treachery and rebellion. Jesus has not put an end to the war as yet; but He has put it on quite a new footing. Sin is still abiding in the world, notwithstanding the victories of Jesus, just as a remnant of the Canaanites was left on the borders of the promised land, notwithstanding the victories of Joshua. Those Canaanites, the Bible tells us, were left to try the children of Israel, and to teach them war (Jdg 3:1-2); and it is perhaps for a like reason that sin is still left on earth, in order that we may be put to the test to prove whether we choose to obey God or no, and that we may be trained to our duties as Christ's soldiers by a course of hard service against God's enemies.
II. Before Christ's coming, for the great bulk of mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, the battle against sin was quite hopeless. Sin was waxing every day stronger and spreading wider; goodness, on the other hand, was growing rarer and rarer. Man felt himself to be overmatched by sin; indeed, he could scarcely lift up his hand against it. But all this is now changed, and most blessedly, for the better. We are no longer the weaker side. Christ has provided armour of proof for us, has sent His Spirit to strengthen us while we are standing, and has given us His cross to catch hold of when we are falling. He has proclaimed that we are at peace with God, that we may fight with a better heart. He has promised and assured us of a glorious triumph for every one who will fight his best. Such is the news which Jesus has brought us. Whereas before men could not cope with sin, we may now be sure of overcoming it. Whereas men before shuddered at the thought of death as the dark and dismal end of all things, we have now been taught to look upon it as the gate of a more glorious life. Whereas men before felt that they were at enmity with God, and therefore could not love Him or take pleasure in Him, they now know that He is ready to receive them into favour, and will treat them as sons, if they will only behave to Him as such.
A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 135;
Isaiah 52:12I. Consider the essentially symbolic character of the captivities and deliverances of the Jewish people. The history of Israel is the Divine key to the history of man. In that history there were two great captivities and two great deliverances. The people were born in the one captivity—it was the dark accident of nature; the other they earned by sin. These represent our natural bondage, and the self-earned serfdom of the soul. There is one Deliverer and one deliverance from both. The method of His deliverance was the same out of both captivities—a glorious manifestation of the might of the redeeming arm of God.
II. We have the image here of the great deliverance which is freely offered in the Gospel. It furnishes (1) the key to our protracted discipline. God will not have us "go out with haste, nor go forth by flight." These long wanderings, this patient waiting, is a store of power and wisdom, whose worth you will never estimate till your footsteps press the borders of your Canaan. (2) "The Lord will go before you." He has gone before us (a) in bearing to the uttermost the penalty of sin; (b) in breaking the power of evil; (c) in the way of the wilderness, through life's protracted discipline, to glory.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 419.
References: Isaiah 52:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 230, vol. xxx., No. 1793; S. A. Tipple, Old Testament Outlines, p. 215. Isaiah 52:13-15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1231; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xxii., p. 211. Isaiah 52:14.—T. B. Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 142. Isaiah 53:1.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 55; R. Milman, The Love of the Atonement, pp.8, 17. Isaiah 53:1-12.—C. Clemance, To the Light through the Cross, p. 3.
Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.
For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.
Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.
Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.
Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.
For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.
Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.