Sing, O barren, you that did not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you that did not travail with child…
The prophecy of this chapter follows naturally on, and is a continuation of, that in the fifty-third. The former foretells "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." The latter speaks of the Church, the foundations of which the Saviour died to lay, the superstructure of which He lives to build.
I. WE HAVE A PICTURE OF THE CHURCH IN HER SADNESS. The figures used by the prophet, while easy enough to apply generally, present some points of difficulty when we attempt the detail.
1. At the first glance of the opening verses of the chapter we see that the figures are drawn from the very closest tie that nature knows, even that of the marriage relationship. This figure, so frequently used in the Old Testament, is based on a profound truth. The truth on which it is based is this: that as both male and female are incomplete without each other, so the happiness of God is incomplete without the love of the creature whom He has made to love Him, and the happiness of man is incomplete without an object above him in which his love can rest. Such a figure served a holy educating purpose to Israel, and ought still to do so to us. In one direction it shows us how holy and tender is the relationship between man and God, and how loving is the heart of God towards man; in another direction it lifts up the sacred tie of marriage into a higher and Diviner light, and lets us see it in the light of the Divine idea, as not only a union of bodies but also of spirits, in a tie which can never be broken without a rupture of the laws of God!
2. Another truth lying at the foundation of the chapter is this, that the Church, in God's eye, is seen at a glance, through all the vicissitudes of her chequered career, till her completion in the fulness of time. That Church, chosen in Christ "before the foundation of the world, in Him is one. He sees that Church passing, through gloom to glory! And truly, sad enough is the picture of the Church s sorrow which is presented here. She is like one whose husband has forsaken her. She is barren, desolate, rejected, contemned; and is consequently sad, afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted. The chief question is, at what period was God s Church like this, and what Church was ever in such gloom?
(1) The Hebrew Church was primarily intended. Her bondage in Egypt was "the shame of her youth, her captivity in Babylon was" the reproach of her widowhood."(2) The figures would apply, to some extent, to that idea!, Gentile Church which the Saviour saw in vision when He said, "Other sheep I have, etc., including all those in the east and west and north and south who were yearning after God, but to whom the Lord had not yet revealed His love, and who were not yet brought to rest in the Infinite heart of God.
(3) The description will apply also to the whole Church of God now: which, during the transition period through which we are now passing, while the great problem of sin and its treatment is being worked out, is often in shade, often mourning the paucity of those who join her ranks, often the object of the world s ridicule and scorn!
(4) The passage will befit also the individual believer, in whose chequered experience of sorrow, temptation and care all the varied phases of the troubles of the Church are presented in miniature.
II. WE HAVE A SECOND PICTURE AS BRIGHT AS THE FIRST IS DARK. The second is given on account of the gloom of the first, for the special purpose of cheering the saints of God, throughout the period of shade. In the picture given with this view, an entirely different set of figures is made use of; even such as belong to the erection of a building. And there are, scattered throughout this chapter, no fewer than nine main features which go to make up the outline of this beauty and glory which, in spite of present gloom, the prophet sees far ahead. Regarding the Church of the future, then, under the figure of a building, let us observe —
1. God Himself is the Founder of it. The foundation is Jesus Christ.
2. Men from every nation under heaven will gather within it. "The God of the whole earth shall He be called." The restrictions of the past shall be done away.
3. Righteousness shall he its basis (ver. 14).
4. Close and endearing relationship with God will be its privilege (ver. 5). "Thy Maker is thine Husband." He who formed by the hand of His power, will make Himself known to you in the tenderest love.
5. Light will be its heritage. "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord" (ver. 13).
6. Peace will be its possession. "Great shall be the peace of thy children" (ver. 13).
7. Beauty will be its adornment. "Behold I will set thy stones in stibium" (ver. 11). Stibium was a peculiar dye with which the Hebrew women tinged the eyelashes, in order that, being surrounded with this tinge, the beauty of the eye might flash forth more brightly. So the stones with which this building of God was to be erected, were to be set, as it were, in cement of so rich a dye as to set forth their lustre in richer beauty. And thy battlements of rubies, thy gates of flashing gems, and all thy borders of precious stones." Thus the mineral world is made to yield its meed of illustration; its choicest gems are used as symbolic of the glory and beauty of the Church. Why? Because all beauty and glory of jasper, amethyst, ruby, sapphire, and pearl, when so set that their radiance gleams out most brilliantly, are but a reflection of that higher spiritual beauty of Him who created all.
8. Divine protection will be its safeguard (vers. 14, 15). "Thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. Behold, they (thine enemies) shall surely gather together, but not by Me (not by My consent): whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake" (rather, shall fall upon thee). "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall he broken." Adverse weapons shall be blunted. Adverse tongues shall be condemned — both by the force of powerful argument, and by the mightier demonstration of a holy life (ver. 16). "I have created the waster to destroy," the same power which builds the Church, has created all her foes; hence the inference is inevitable, God will not suffer those who arc opposed to Him to use their power so as to destroy that part of His work which He values most.
9. Perpetuity shall be its everlasting law (vers. 7-10). This is expressed in various forms of antithesis. Everything is wrapped up in this ninefold glory!
(C. Clemance, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.
WEB: "Sing, barren, you who didn't bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife," says Yahweh.