Devotional Commentary on Isaiah 51


Isaiah is easier to read if you are an Adventist. This chapter has many panels put together, which is typical of Isaiah’s style. Isaiah may have even written them not continuously but in different time-zones.

M. L. Andreasen in 1928 summarized the chapter as: “The contrast between mortal man and his Maker is clearly brought out in this lesson. Man is like a garment which the moths eat, like a gnat that dies, like wool which the worms eat, like grass which is burned. 'There is very little place in those terms for the doctrine of natural immortality. On the other hand, God's salvation is everlasting, and His righteousness, that is, His character, His law, shall not be abolished.”


Nearly every panel starts with an address of the Lord to His remnant “Listen to me you who pursue righteousness” (v. 1) which is similar in the second panel “Pay attention to Me O My people” (v. 4a); the same in “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness” (v. 7a); equal to “say to Zion, you are My people” (v. 16); and “please hear this you afflicted [which is not the evil but ‘God Who contends for His people’] (v. 21a and 22b).


The subject of the whole chapter is nothing but the identity of God and His personal involvement with an afflicted remnant. Possession is a key word since they belong to Him. There is no room for an absentee God in this hostile world.


In the center of the chapter the remnant sings an eschatological song to the Lord to remind everyone what is going to happen in the future “so the ransomed of the Lord will return . . .and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (v. 11a and 11e).


The afflicted remnant is called upon in the first panel by the Lord that they should investigate their history of origin. Almost do we think the origin is with Abraham “look to the rock from which you were hewn” (v. 1c) and “Look to Abraham and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain” (v. 2a-b) when Isaiah went back to Adam and Eve in the restoration promise “and her wilderness He will make like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord” (v. 3c-d). This is not the restoration of physical ethnic Israel of history but the eschatological restoration of spiritual Israel “who seek the Lord” (v. 1b).


M. L. Andreasen said in 1928 in his Sabbath School Quarterly page 29: “It is well, sometimes, to look back on our own personal history and consider where we would be, and what we would be, had not God found us. Looking back on these things would probably make us more humble and more thankful.” He added that Abraham was called alone, he was blessed and his family was increased.


On verse 3 M. L. Andreasen said in 1928 page 29 in his Sabbath School Quarterly that it is not historical but eschatological: This refers definitely to the new earth state. Like Eden, like the garden of the Lord. There we shall know even as also we are known. There the loves and sympathies that God has planted in the soul will find truest and sweetest exercise. Ellen White, Education, pp. 306, 307.

Delitzsch in his Vol II 1890 emphasize that heaven will not be void of humans and void of joy: “Nor is this future paradise devoid of human beings; joy and gladness are found.


J. Mortyer said in 1993 page 404 about “like Eden” that it is not just a poetic descriptive term but an actual state minus sin: “Like Eden is not simply a figure of beauty and plenty but also one of the absence of the divine curse consequent upon sin.”


In panel two the Lord is addressing again the remnant about the Investigative Judgment and Executive Judgment. He says that in the Investigative Judgment which started in 1844 according to Daniel 8:14 calculated with a year-day principle, “a Law will go forth from Me and I will set My justice [a court scene term] for a light of the peoples”.

When M. L. Andreasen saw this, he knew it was eschatological but he added: “A somewhat unusual construction” = “I will make my Judgment to rest”.

It is the setting or seating action of the court scene of Daniel 7 for the people of God or believing ones. Light is positive and not negative. This is not executive judgment since it is a light. It favors the believing ones. Andreasen felt, in consultation of the Cambridge Bible, that it refers to true religion that will be to the people a light. In my reading Christ will shine on humans behalf and whereas there are dark spots on their unbelieving lives, the shiny Highpriest and Advocate in heaven will cover or atone for the darkness to disappear and His light to shine on their behalf in the court of heaven since 1844.


Daniel 7:22 says that the Son of Man will pass “judgment in favor of the saints of the Highest One” talking about this same 1844 and onward event. It is followed with the reward or verdict of the Investigative Judgment which is “My righteousness is near [His Second Coming but also the Latter Rain final cry] My salvation has gone forth” [the Latter Rain completed in the prophetic charts of the Lord] (v. 5a) and the result is “the coastlands [outside physical Israel] will wait for Me and My arm will wait expectantly” (v. 5c-d). It is the eschatological “harvest” of the Latter Rain that Joel also knew about (Joel 2:28 replayed as a harvest ingathering due to the Latter Rain Holy Spirit outpouring in the End Times in 3:12-17).


Delitzsch came to verses 4-5 and applied it to Israel and not to the heathen as the Syriac translation did (Delitzsch Vol. II 1890 page 260. But then as his argument came to a close, he went the full circle and suggest that verse 5 is talking about the remnant of the heathen that listens to God, escapes judgment and are also saved. “Hence, when it is said of the isles, that they hope for Jehovah and wait for His arm, what is meant is the remnant of the heathen nations which longs for salvation and is ready to receive it, which survives the judgment, and actually shares in the salvation.


M. L. Andreasen also understood verse 5 to be eschatological in 1928 in his Sabbath School Quarterly page 29: “This verse may rightly, as does the preceding one, have reference to the last days.”


J. Mortyer (1993) page 406 is a preterist who wants to apply verse 5 with the Idealism model [every age the same model, recurring themes etc.]. “In what sense does the world so wait in hope? In every age there are those, like Cornelius [Acts 10], who grasp with eager desire after greater light, but at the deeper level such a longing for something better, a truly human life, is implicit and inarticulate in the groanings and travailings under which people live out their lives….”


The Resurrection will have the remnant “lift up your eyes to the sky” and the trip to heaven will have the faithful resurrected ones “then look to the earth beneath” (v. 6a-b). The “earth will wear out like a garment” as the Remnant is taken by angels to heaven, “and the inhabitants will die in like manner” which is clear that the remnant is no longer on earth and part of these evil remainder inhabitants on earth (v. 6e). It is “My salvation shall be forever” so that it is no longer in history. It is not the Babylonian or Assyrian Exile restoration here. It is forever and eternity started and Resurrection is passed and the Remnant as Zion moved to the heavenly New Jerusalem.


M. L. Andreasen said in 1928 in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah on page 29 on verse 6 that humans changes the Word of God and make things opposite to what God says: “This verse brings to view the contrast between the things that shall perish and the things that shall remain. The world has this reversed. That which God says shall vanish, men say will stand forever. That which God says shall not be abolished, men professedly believe to be abolished.


Delitzsh interpreted in Vol. II 1890 page 262 verse 6 as eschatological with the destruction of the earth and heaven at the Second Coming and the subsequent renovation of it through a new creation: “That heaven and earth do not perish without rising again in renovated form, is a thought that naturally suggests itself, and is expressly declared in ver. 16 : also lxv. 17, lxvi. 22.



In the third panel the Lord speaks directly to the faithful wheat in the Remnant, the good harvest, “you who know righteousness a people in whose heart is My law” (v. 7a-b) which is Paul’s theology in Romans and other letters and also Jeremiah promise cited by Paul in the New Testament. Righteous people, in God’s terms, have the Law of God in their hearts. It is the gospel of the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament is exactly the same. Even afflicted the remnant of history should not be afraid since “moth will eat them like a garment” [the evil and afflicting ones] (v. 8a). It is again eschatological for “My righteousness shall be forever” (v. 8c). It is not just romantically or metaphorically in the mind or psychology of Isaiah. It is God speaking and reality. Preterists wish to apply everything to Isaiah and his times and cancel or tone down the promises of God from “forever” to “longer duration in present time”. It is to rewrite Isaiah.


M. L. Andreasen said in his 1928 Sabbath School Quarterly on page 30 citing Ellen White that: “Through Satan's temptations the whole human race have become transgressors of God's law; but by the sacrifice of His Son a way is opened whereby they may return to God. Through the grace of Christ they may be enabled to render obedience to the Father's law. Thus in every age, from the midst of apostasy and rebellion, God gathers out a people that are true to Hima people in whose heart is His law.‘ ” Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 338.


Delitzsh echoed remarkably the same idea as Ellen White here in Vol. II 1890 page 263: “The exhortation is addressed to those who know by experience regarding righteousness as the gift of grace, and as involving a transaction in conformity with the scheme of salvation as well as in relation to the people who hear in their heart the law of God as the standard and moving principle of their life,the Church which not merely maintains the law as a letter outside, but keeps it as a living power within.When Delitzsch slide off preterism he is into the historicism of Ellen White and Adventists. It is very beautiful to see.



In the next panel which is a center piece of the chapter, the afflicted remnant is singing an eschatology song to remind themselves of God’s eschatological promises: He is the powerful Creator God (v. 9) Who did miraculous things “for the redeemed to cross over” (v. 10). The redeemed remnant “will return” (v. 11a).


M. L. Andreasen discussed in 1928 in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah the term Rahab in verse 9 and said that it is symbolically a term for Egypt. It is a term also used for the adversaries of God, he said. The way he argued is that Rahab is Egypt, Pharaoh Thutmosis III was killed in 1450 in the Red Sea as God’s adversary. The dragon is also Egypt. Satan is also the dragon. Rahab is a term for all the adversaries of God. Verse. 10 Andreasen saw in the context of the crossing of the Red Sea. Delitzsch described in Vol. II 1890 page 264 Rahab the same as Andreasen here.


They will come with shouting to Zion but not physical geographical Israel or Palestine but Heavenly Zion which is the New Jerusalem or the Mountain of God (v. 11b). The joy is not historical joy but “everlasting joy on their heads” (v. 11c). Eternity started and history stopped. The Exile, the Restoration in history is not in view here at all. “And sorrow and sighing will flee away”. It cannot be the return in 457 BCE with Ezra since a lot of sighing came afterwards with Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 BCE and the Romans in 70 CE and more.


M. L. Andreasen also thought that the Exodus motif is just used as backdrop for the actual eschatological seen. “as Israel deliverance from Egypt, will suggest the greater deliverance that shall soon come to God’s people” [deliverance after 1928 when he wrote this, thus eschatological].


Delitzsch in Vol. II 1890 page 264 has the future in mind based on lessons from the past: “From the past there is drawn a conclusion bearing on what is to be expected: the look into the future is cleared and strengthened by the look into the past (and thus will the ransomed ones of Jehovah return, delivered from the present oppression as their forefathers were from that of Egypt).”


Following this reminder song of the remnant is God’s ID panel in which He wants to know the ID of the remnant and explains that of His own. God addresses the weeds in the Remnant and in the Investigative Judgment it can be said that “you have forgotten the Lord your Maker” (v. 13a). He is Creator and the remnant do not need to fear oppressors in the Time of Trouble (v. 13d-f).


The Lord then makes future predictions regarding the afflicted remnant’s condition: “from the mountain the deceased’ grave [Egyptian loanword sc meaning “mummy or deceased” probably a reference to the tomb or grave of the deceased] will be opened” (v. 14a) and it continues with a synonymous meaning in the second part confirming our translation “and will not die in the dungeon” (v. 14b). It is Resurrection since his bread will not be lacking (v. 14c). The Creator God is the Lifegiver “and I have put My words in your mouth” which is the giving of God’s revelation to the remnant with the task for God “to establish the heavens” to “found the [new earth after the millennium and destruction of hell or extermination of all evil] earth and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people’” (v. 16).


Delitzsch was aware of the purpose of Isaiah and could see the eschatological outline the prophet in his Vol. II 1890 of Isaiah page 267 for verses 12-15: “The promise, for the fulfilment of which the absolute power of Jehovah is pledged, and to which everything else must yield, [as outlined according to Delitzsch in verses 12-15] now [in verse 16] rises to an eschatological height.” He continued to say: …it is not Israel that says this to Israel, but Jehovah says it to Israel. The planter, founder, spealver is Jehovah. It is God's own work to which Israel is instrumentally subservient, by means of the words put in the mouth of the nation, viz. the new creation of the world and the restoration of Israel itself to favour,both, the latter as well as the former, being royal prerogatives of God: the reference is to actual facts connected with the last times (268).



The Little Horn of Daniel 8:11 personifying Satan’s actions threw down the place (mekon) of His sanctuary and the Little Horn flung truth to the ground. It is the opposite of the task of the Remnant. During the Time of Trouble the “cup of His anger” will be operative (v. 17) and the remnant needs to arise and there is no one to take the remnant by the hand for navigation (v. 18).


M. L. Andreasen in 1928 on verse 17 thought the verse is preteristically pointing to the exile under Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, Andreasen expounded verses 18-20 also in the light of Neb’s attack in 586 BCE. Delitzsch also preferred to stick to preterism just like Andreasen here on the last verses from 17ff. to the end.


Destruction and famine has befallen the remnant (v. 19). The sons of the weeds in the remnant lies “at the head of every street” (v. 20). The weeds are “drunk but not with wine” (v. 21). God is known to “contend for His people” (v. 22b).


M. L. Andreasen said in 1928 in his Sabbath School Quarterly on page 31 about verse 22b that it can be none other than Christ. Christ our Advocate or Christ our High Priest in the heavenly Investigative Judgment is the security of His people. Just before the Door of Mercy closes, Christ will stop contending for His people, Daniel 7 with “judge in favor of the saints” or 1 Peter 4:17 that Judgment must start at the House of God. They all talked the same language. The author in the Pesher Habakkuk at Qumran had the same scenario in mind.


It is the last time they drink the chalice of His anger “will never drink it again” (v. 22e). That is why it is eschatology here and not present-day history for Isaiah (contra Andreasen here). The anger cup will be placed in the hands of those who persecute the remnant during the Time of Trouble (v. 23a) “I will put it into the hand of your tormentors”.


Dear God

We learn in this chapter that you care for the faithful remnant in the Time of Trouble. You promise to turn the tide for the evil at the end of this period. We also want to be part of your faithful remnant and enjoy your protection. Amen.