The Comfort Only a Mother Can Provide — Isaiah 66:7-14

The final chapters of Isaiah have reflected the alternating emphasis of God’s judgment upon His enemies and His ultimate comfort and blessing for the reborn nation of Israel in the last days.  Our section for today is one of comfort and blessing – giving hope for the ultimate future of the nation.  God takes such pains to emphasize that He will surely accomplish what seems so unlikely – it is sad to see how many believers have discarded any hope in God’s future program for the nation of Israel.  Yes, it is unheard of; Yes, it seems impossible; But God has pledged to come through on all of His promises for His elect nation.

When we look at the suffering and pressure in our present circumstances, we can become down in the mouth and forget God’s glorious end game strategy for us.  That is why Peter instructs believers to focus on their heavenly inheritance and live with eternity in view:

1 Peter 1:3-9

Constable: The mood now reverts back to hope (cf. 65:17-25). In contrast to all the bereavement and deprivation that Jerusalem had experienced and would yet experience (cf. 26:16-18; 37:3; 51:18-20), the ultimate future of the city and its inhabitants remained bright.

Mother Day’s passage comes early this year:

Parunak:  There are two things that a mother does for her children.  This paragraph crowns the metaphor by describing Jerusalem as the mother of her people. It has two halves, corresponding to two facets of the maternal relation: giving birth (vv. 7-9), and sustaining her offspring (vv. 10-13). Each ends (vv. 9, 12-13) with a statement attributed to the Lord.

JOY IN GOD’S KINGDOM ON EARTH — 

REBORN JERUSALEM WILL PROVIDE AMPLE SUSTENANCE TO GOD’S PEOPLE

I.  (:7-9) THE MIRACULOUS REBIRTH OF ISRAEL — THE ROLE OF THE MOTHER IN CHILDBIRTH — THE FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY BY THE LORD

A.  (:7-8a) Sudden, Painless Rebirth of the Nation = Miraculous Act of God

    “Before she travailed, she brought forth;

            Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy.         

            Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?

            Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?

Parunak: like the riddle Samson gave; unprecedented; who has ever heard of such a thing?  Then he gives the interpretation

Normally the process of birth is associated with the varying period of preceding suffering of the labor pains – varying in length and intensity – but always it seems long and excruciating – especially when you don’t have the benefit of modern medicine

Here you have a unique situation by contrast — so it is unheard of

Picture of nation of Israel as the wife of GodIsaiah 54:1-11 – again the promise of future fertility of the nation – God will not set Israel aside permanently – no matter how destitute she looks; Is. 49:14-15

You have here both the birth of a boy and the birth of a nation

  • Could be a reference both to the Incarnation of the long-awiated-for Messiah and then the rebirth of the nation
  • 12:1-2

MacArthur: Being clothed with the sun speaks of the glory, dignity, and exalted status of Israel, the people of promise who will be saved and given a kingdom.  The picture of the moon under her feet possibly describes God’s covenant relationship with Israel, since new moons were associated with worship (1 Ch 23:31; 2Ch 2:4; 8:13; Ezr 3:5; Ps 81:3).  The 12 stars represent the 12 tribes of Israel.

God does not start something and leave it unfinished.

It will happen quickly when it happens

Motyer: When the Lord brings glory to his people, it will be as sudden as the judgment on his enemies (4a) and as complete (6d).  The questions are a pointed mockery of the sceptics of verse 5ef.

Oswalt: an allusion to Gen. 3:16. According to that passage, pain in childbirth is a concomitant of the Fall.  Isaiah is looking to a world where the effects of the Fall have been done away with, and its dead hand can no more reach out to blight even the moment of new life’s breaking into the world.

Beall: The nation would be reborn so quickly that the normal period of pregnancy would not be observed; instead, she would be born quickly and painlessly, in one day. Furthermore, this rebirth was certain: God would not bring the nation to the point of birth and then not follow through with the delivery (v 9).

B.  (:8b-9) Certainty of the Rebirth of the Nation – Faithfulness and Sovereignty of God

   “As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.

            ‘Shall I bring to the point of birth, and not give delivery?’ says the LORD.

            ‘Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?’ says your God.

Wiersbe: Political Israel was born on May 14, 1948, but ‘the new Israel’ will be ‘born in a day’ when they believe on Jesus Christ.

Parunak: Pronoun built into the verb; if you include the pronoun in addition, it is for emphasis.  Now the Lord explains this sudden restoration. It is a sign of his personal involvement and commitment. “I” is the separate pronoun in both cases, thus emphatic, though difficult to translate directly. “I myself, and no other, am the one bringing this child to the birth. How could it be otherwise than successful and glorious?”

v. 8 is sometimes quoted of the events of May 1948 with the declaration of independence, the birth of the modern state of Israel. While the establishment of Israel was rapid, it was hardly the work of a day; after the war that broke out with the withdrawal of the British, the first armistice (with Egypt) took over 9 months, the last one (with Syria) over 14 months, and there was no formal peace agreement for decades. The history of the modern state is hardly without travail and without pain. Like all the events of history, the restoration of Israel is the work of the Lord. But it is not the restoration that Isaiah describes here. This restoration awaits the Lord’s return. (Zech. 14)

Motyer: The verse, then, expresses two truths.  First, the illustration of a process well advanced but not brought to completion (9ab) shows that the Lord does not proceed so far with his purposes only to abandon them before they are fulfilled.  Secondly, the illustration of something begun and frustrated before it can even move towards fulfilment (9cd) shows that the Lord does not begin what he does not propose to finish.

Oswalt: One of the principal objections to promises such as these is obviously that they are impossible.  If Israel should ever go into captivity, it can never emerge again.  If Judah is under the boot of foreign empires, then its religion is doomed to be swallowed up in syncretism.  If the Messiah is an ordinary-looking man, the son of a human mother, there is no hope that his message can survive.  If the faith is held hostage to a corrupt institutionalism, it can never break free from that stranglehold.  And so on.  But the prophet declares that the fulfillment of this promise, and all those others like it, does not depend on human power or “normal” circumstances.

II.  (:10-13) THE MATERNAL SUSTAINING PROVIDED BY ISRAEL — THE ROLE OF THE MOTHER IN NURSING AND NURTURING — THE COMFORT OF THE LORD AS JERUSALEM PROSPERS IN PEACE AND JOY

A.  (:10-11) God’s Goal for His People: Contented Satisfaction and Delight

  1. (:10)  Abundant Joy

Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her;

Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her,

Parunak: This description can include Gentiles as well as Jews; the Jerusalem I love is not the capital of a rebellious state; mourn for her difficulties; love her; pray for her

Oswalt: The mourning was twofold: first because of the destroyed and ruinous condition that resulted from the nations being called in to trample God’s vineyard (cf. 5:5-6; 49:19), then because of Israel’s inability to do righteousness (57:18; 59:9-15a).  But God has one who has promised to give joy in place of mourning (60:20; 61:2-3; 65:18-19).  Not only will Jerusalem be restored as a great and glorious city, but even more importantly, God will come in the power of his Spirit and put his words in the mouth of his people (59:21) so that they will follow his leadership (63:11) and stop grieving him (63:10).

  1. (:11)  Abundant Sustenance

That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts,

That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.

Parunak: picture is of a child who is upset and mother takes the child to her breast and comforts the child

B.  (:12-13) 3 Amazing Promises of God’s Care and Provision

For thus says the LORD,

  1. Divine Blessing

Behold, I extend peace to her like a river,

And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

Constable: The Lord would extend peace (Heb. shalom) to Israel as a constantly flowing river. He would bring glory from the nations to her, glory that she had sought in the wrong ways in the past, and Israel would enjoy preferential treatment from Him.

Oswalt: Finally, all of Zion’s broken pieces will be put back together in the form that God envisioned from the first (cf. 32:15-18).

Parunak: 2 bodies of water here; 2 different Hebrew words; a river is continually flowing year-round and rather steadily; River Jordan fits this; the other term (stream) is closer to a flooding wadi = a riverbed that is dry most of the year; when a thunderstorm comes it turns into a flashflood; do not pitch your tent there; the wealth of the Gentiles comes like an overwhelming flood and then you shall suck – you will be nourished (there is the break in the Hebrew)

  1. Intimate Nurturing

And you shall be nursed,

you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees.

Ongoing nurturing and sustenance and care in the last half here

  1. Maternal Comforting

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you;

And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Beall:Comfort” has been a predominate theme of Isaiah since chapter 40 (40:1; 49:13; 51:3(2x), 11, 12, 19; 52:9; 54:11; 57:6; and 61:2), but it reaches its zenith here, being mentioned three times in a single verse. As Oswalt states, “the arm of the Lord has been revealed; sin and its attendant sorrow and shame have been defeated; death has been met and vanquished; mourning is ended forevermore. Comfort indeed!” (2:679).

Motyer: The comfort offered is threefold: in its quality, which is maternal (13a); in its source and agent, the Lord (13b); and in its location, Jerusalem (13c).

III.   (:14)  THE MANIFEST PROSPERITY OF GOD’S PEOPLE

Then you shall see this,

Jerusalem restored and nurturing her children

Motyer: This verse matches 5-6.  The mockery of those who dismissed the future glory as something they would never see is countered by the affirmative promise, “and you will see” with which this verse opens.

A.  (:14a) Prosperity Experienced

  1. Overwhelming Joy

and your heart shall be glad,

  1. Abundant Health and Prosperity

And your bones shall flourish like the new grass;

Parunak: common Hebrew idiom; Examples of usage: Prov. 17:22 a broken spirit dries the bones: used by Job and David as well; Ps. 32; Jeremiah lamenting over fall of Jerusalem in Lamentations; you will feel good all the way down to your bones

  1. Power and Favor of God

And the hand of the LORD shall be made known to His servants,

Constable: The result would be that God’s people would see His supernatural work, would rejoice in it, and would receive strength from observing it. His servants, the godly among His people, would appreciate that God Himself had revived Israel. But He would punish His enemies.

Beall: The response of the Lord’s people will be rejoicing (v 14), as the hand of the Lord (Messianic reference similar to the “arm” of the Lord?) will be known to His true servants; but the Lord’s zealous indignation to his enemies.

B.  (:14b) Prosperity Contrasted

But He shall be indignant toward His enemies.

Alternating themes – God will not be overlooking the rebellion of His enemies;
Transition to this theme of judgment in the next section

Parunak: God will faithfully care for his servants, but he will bring fiery wrath upon those who oppose him. This warning is amplified in the next paragraph, which focuses on the false worshippers.

Oswalt: The day is coming when the distinction between the servants and the enemies of God will be unmistakable.  God’s hand of blessing and power will be evident in the blessed condition of his servants, and his outstretched hand of anger will fall on his enemies.

CONCLUSION:

Comfort is coming says the God of all comfort.  Long for the rebirth of Israel and the sustenance that will provide to all of God’s people in His kingdom of Peace and Joy on the earth.