“Try and suck all the sweetness that you can out of this chapter while we read it. The personal application of a promise to the heart by the Holy Spirit is that which is wanted. The honey in Jonathan’s wood never enlightened his eyes until he dipped the point of his rod into it and tasted it. Try and do the same. This chapter is the wood wherein every bough doth drip with virgin honey. Sip: taste, and be satisfied.” (Spurgeon)
A. The Lord speaks to Israel as His wife.
1. (1-3) Israel will be restored like a barren woman who bears many children.
“Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.”
a. Sing, O barren, you who have not borne: In ancient Israel, the barren woman carried an enormous load of shame and disgrace. Here, the Lord likens captive Israel to a barren woman who can now sing - because now more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman.
i. The Babylonian exile and captivity meant more than oppression for Israel; it meant shame, disgrace, and humiliation. God promises a glorious release from not only the exile and captivity, but also from the shame, disgrace, and humiliation.
ii. This passage is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:27, in reference to the miraculous “birth” of those under the New Covenant. Paul also probably intended the phrase more are the children to also indicate that the children of the New Covenant would outnumber the children of the Old Covenant.
b. Enlarge the place of your tent: The curse and shame of barrenness would be so completely broken, and Israel would be so fruitful, that they would have to expand their living space. This would be of particular comfort to the returning Babylonian exiles, who felt themselves small in number and weak. This promise would strengthen them.
2. (4-6) Israel will be restored like a widow who is rescued from her reproach.
“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth. For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,” says your God.
a. And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore: Just as God compared the disgrace of Israel to the shame of barrenness, now He compares their humiliation to the reproach of widowhood. Here, the Lord promises rescue from Israel’s shame.
i. “Shame . . . disgrace . . . humiliated represent three synonymous Hebrew verbs sharing the fundamental idea of disappointed hopes, the embarrassment of expecting - even publicly announcing - one thing and then reaping another.” (Motyer)
b. For your Maker is your husband: Though Israel might have been regarded as forsaken as a widow, the Lord promises to stand in the place of her husband.
i. Through the centuries, many a hurting woman has taken this promise for herself. Forsaken by a husband, or forsaken of a husband, they have found beautiful comfort in the promise that God would be a husband to them, when all others forsook them. The principle is true; God will supply and meet our emotional needs, and rescue us from our disgrace and shame, when others forsaken us.
c. The Lord of hosts is His name: To comfort and strengthen His people, God reminds them of how glorious of a Savior He is. He is their Maker, He is the Lord of hosts, He is their Redeemer, He is the Holy One of Israel, and He is called the God of the whole earth. Not only does God supply a husband, but a great one - Himself!
i. The promise that the Lord will meet our needs when others forsake us does not leave us to a place of “second best.” The Lord God can be a greater husband than any man can be. This is something for every single woman to remember; and something no married woman should forget. An earthly husband can never fulfill every need that the great Heavenly Husband can.
3. (7-8) God explains His restoration of Israel.
“For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. 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.
a. For a mere moment I have forsaken you: God never really forsook Israel; yet He recognizes that they felt forsaken. God says, “for a mere moment I allowed you to feel that I have forsaken you.”
b. But with great mercies I will gather you: The forsaken is in the present tense; the great mercies are in the future tense. But they are real, and give Israel cause to set their hope and trust in the Lord, though they feel forsaken at the moment.
c. I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you: The contrast is between the moment of feeling forsaken and the everlasting nature of the kindness that will come. When we feel tried and forsaken, we should recognize that it is just for a moment, and the everlasting blessing will certainly come.
B. Comfort and assurance to restored Israel.
1. (9-10) A promise to never forsake Israel.
“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. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
a. For this is like the waters of Noah to Me: Just as God promised that the flood waters of Noah’s day would not cover the earth forever, so will His anger recede from Israel.
b. For the mountains shall depart . . . but My kindness shall not depart from you: Flood waters recede, and mountains do not. But even if the mountains shall depart, even if the hills be removed, the kindness of the Lord to His people will never depart. The kindness of the Lord is more certain than the mountains and the hills, and His covenant of peace is more sure.
2. (11-17) Promises of prosperity, peace, and protection.
“O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me. Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake. Behold, I have created the blacksmith who blows the coals in the fire, who brings forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the spoiler to destroy. 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.
a. To you afflicted one, tossed with tempest and not comforted: God cares about the afflicted one. He cares about the one tossed with tempest. He cares about the one who is not comforted. When someone is in this place - afflicted, tossed, and not comforted - it is easy for them to believe God doesn’t care. But He does, and He gives precious promises to give strength.
b. Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems . . . sapphires . . . rubies . . . crystal: God will lavish riches upon the hurting and afflicted. When someone feels afflicted, tossed, and not comforted, they feel poor, no matter how much money they have in the bank. God promises to make the afflicted truly rich.
c. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children: When we are afflicted, tossed, and not comforted, we feel bad not just for ourselves, but also for our children. God gives precious assurance not only for us, but also quiets our fears for our children.
d. In righteousness you shall be established . . . you shall not fear . . . whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake: God promises those who are afflicted, tossed, and not comforted will find protection and security in Him.
e. The sovereign God - who created the blacksmith, who created the spoiler to destroy - also has the power to protect. He can promise that no weapon formed against you shall prosper. Whatever weapon is raised against God’s people is destined to be destroyed itself. God will ultimately even protect His people from criticism; indeed, every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.
i. The Lord will not allow the weapon formed against His servants to prosper. Sometimes this means the Lord takes the weapon out of the hand of the enemy of His servants. Sometimes it means that God allows the weapon to strike, but brings a greater good out of it than the pain of the immediate blow. In allowing this, God will not allow the weapon to prosper, but transforms the violent sword into a trowel for building His kingdom.
ii. The tongue which rises against you can really hurt. “Satan leaves no stone unturned against the Church of God. He uses not simply the hand; but, what is oftener a sharper weapon, the tongue. We can bear a blow, sometimes, but we cannot endure an insult. There is a great power in the tongue. We can rise from a blow which smote us to the ground; but we cannot so easily recover from slander, that lays the character low.” (Spurgeon) Yet, we can trust in the Lord’s triumph. “The more accusers, the more acquittals; the more slander, the more honor; so the enemy may slander us as much as he pleases.” (Spurgeon)
ii. This is not a blanket promise for any churchgoer. The Lord specifically says, this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. Are you a servant of the Lord? Then you can rest easy in His promised protection. The Lord also says that this is a promise for those whose righteousness is from Me - from the Lord Himself - and not from themselves. When a person understands that their righteousness is really from the Lord, they are much more comfortable in letting the Lord protect their righteousness.
© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission