Isaiah 51:1
Listen to me, you that follow after righteousness, you that seek the LORD: look to the rock from where you are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from where you are dig.
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Hearken unto me - That is, to the God of their fathers, who now addresses them. They are regarded as in exile and bondage, and as desponding in regard to their prospects. In this situation, God, or perhaps more properly the Messiah (compare the notes at Isaiah 1), is introduced as addressing them with the assurances of deliverance.

Ye that follow after righteousness - This is addressed evidently to those who sought to be righteous, and who truly feared the Lord. There was a portion of the nation that continued faithful to Yahweh. They still loved and worshipped him in exile, and they were anxiously looking for deliverance and for a return to their own land.

Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn - To Abraham the founder of the nation. The figure is taken from the act of quarrying stone for the purposes of building; and the essential idea here is, that God had formed the nation from the beginning, as a mason constructs a building; that he had, so to speak, taken the materials rough and unhewn from the very quarry; that he had shaped, and fitted them, and moulded them into an edifice. The idea is not that their origin was dishonorable or obscure. It is not that Abraham was not an honored ancestor, or that they should be ashamed of the founder of their nation. But the idea is, that God had had the entire moulding of the nation; that he had taken Abraham and Sarah from a distant land, and bad formed them into a great people and nation for his own purpose. The argument is, that he who had done this was able to raise them up from captivity, and make them again a great people. Probably allusion is made to this passage by the Saviour in Matthew 3:9, where he says, 'For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.'

The hole of the pit - The word rendered 'hole' means such an excavation as men make who are taking stones from a quarry. It expresses substantially the same idea as the previous member of the verse. This language is sometimes addressed to Christians, with a view to produce humility by reminding them that they have been taken by God from a state of sin, and raised up, as it were, from a deep and dark pit of pollution. But this is not the sense of the passage, nor will it bear such an application. It may be used to denote that God has taken them, as stone is taken from the quarry; that he found them in their natural state as unhewn blocks of marble are; that he has moulded and formed them by his own agency, and fitted them into his spiritual temple; and that they owe all the beauty and grace of their Christian deportment to him; that this is an argument to prove that he who had done so much for them as to transform them, so to speak, from rough and unsightly blocks to polished stones, fitted for his spiritual temple on earth, is able to keep them still, and to fit them for his temple above. Such is the argument in the passage before us; and such a use of it is, of course, perfectly legitimate and fair.

Ye that follow after righteousness - The people who, feeling the want of salvation, seek the Lord in order to be justified.

The rock - Abraham.

The hole of the pit - Sarah; as explained in Isaiah 51:2.

Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness,.... After having declared the doom of the wicked, and those that trust to their own righteousness, the Lord returns to them that fear him, whom he describes as such that "follow after righteousness"; not the righteousness of the law, it is the character of carnal Israel to follow after that; nor is that attainable in the way it is pursued by such; nor is there any justification by it; nor is following that consistent with seeking the Lord, in the next clause: but the righteousness of Christ is meant; not his essential righteousness as God; nor the righteousness of his office as Mediator; but that which consists of his active and passive obedience; of which he is the author and giver, and is in him as its subject: this is what is commonly called imputed righteousness, an evangelical one, the righteousness of faith, and is justifying: "following after" this supposes a want of one; a sense of that want; a view of this as out of themselves, and in another; a love and liking of it, and a vehement desire for it; and what determines to an eager pursuit of it are its perfection, suitableness, and use: now such persons are called to hearken to the Lord; to the Word of the Lord, as the Targum; to Christ, to his Gospel, and to his ordinances, particularly to what is after said:

ye that seek the Lord: the Lord Christ, for life and salvation; for righteousness and strength; for more grace from him; a greater knowledge of him, and of doctrine from him, as the Targum; and more communion with him; that seek his honour and glory in the world, and to be for ever with him; who seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; that seek him where he may be found, affectionately and sincerely, carefully, diligently, constantly, and for everything they want:

look unto the rock whence ye are hewn; which is in the next verse interpreted of Abraham; so called, not so much for the strength of his faith, as for his old age; when he looked like a hard dry rock, from whom no issue could be expected; and yet from hence a large number of stones were hewn, or a race of men sprung:

and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged; that is, to Sarah, who was for a long time barren, whose womb was shut up, but afterwards opened; and from whom, as from a cistern, (to which a wife is sometimes compared, Proverbs 5:15) flowed the waters of Judah, Isaiah 48:1 or the Jewish nation. Jerom thinks Christ is meant by both, the Rock of ages, in whom is everlasting strength; to whom men are to look for salvation, righteousness, and strength; and out of whose pierced side flowed blood and water: and in this sense he is followed by Cocceius, who interprets the rock of Christ, the Rock of salvation; out of whose side flowed the church, as out of the hole of a pit or cistern.

Hearken to me, {a} ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look to the {b} rock from which ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which ye were dug.

(a) He comforts the Church, that they would not be discouraged for their small number.

(b) That is, to Abraham, of whom you were begotten, and to Sarah of whom we were born.

CHAPTER 51

Isa 51:1-23. Encouragement to the Faithful Remnant of Israel to Trust in God for Deliverance, Both from Their Long Babylonian Exile, and from Their Present Dispersion.

1. me—the God of your fathers.

ye … follow after righteousness—the godly portion of the nation; Isa 51:7 shows this (Pr 15:9; 1Ti 6:11). "Ye follow righteousness," seek it therefore from Me, who "bring it near," and that a righteousness "not about to be abolished" (Isa 51:6, 7); look to Abraham, your father (Isa 51:2), as a sample of how righteousness before Me is to be obtained; I, the same God who blessed him, will bless you at last (Isa 51:3); therefore trust in Me, and fear not man's opposition (Isa 51:7, 8, 12, 13). The mistake of the Jews, heretofore, has been, not in that they "followed after righteousness," but in that they followed it "by the works of the law," instead of "by faith," as Abraham did (Ro 9:31, 32; 10:3, 4; 4:2-5).

hole of … pit—The idea is not, as it is often quoted, the inculcation of humility, by reminding men of the fallen state from which they have been taken, but that as Abraham, the quarry, as it were (compare Isa 48:1), whence their nation was hewn, had been called out of a strange land to the inheritance of Canaan, and blessed by God, the same God is able to deliver and restore them also (compare Mt 3:9).

His calling is to save, not to destroy; and for this calling he has Jehovah as a teacher, and to Him he has submitted himself in docile susceptibility and immoveable obedience. Isaiah 50:5 "The Lord Jehovah hath opened mine ear; and I, I was not rebellious, and did not turn back." He put him into a position inwardly to discern His will, that he might become the mediator of divine revelation; and he did not set himself against this calling (mârâh, according to its radical meaning stringere, to make one's self rigid against any one, ἀντιτείνειν), and did not draw back from obeying the call, which, as he well knew, would not bring him earthly honour and gain, but rather shame and ill-treatment. Ever since he had taken the path of his calling, he had not drawn timidly back from the sufferings with which it was connected, but had rather cheerfully taken them upon him. V.6 "I offered my back to smiters, and my cheeks to them that pluck off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting." He offered his back to such as smote it, his cheeks to such as plucked out the hair of his beard (mârat as in Nehemiah 13:25). He did not hide his face, to cover it up from actual insults, or from being spit upon (on kelimmōth with rōq, smiting on the cheek, κολαφίζειν, strokes with rods, ῥαπίζειν, blows upon the head, τύπτειν εἰς τὴν κεφαλήν with ἐμπτύειν, compare Matthew 26:67; Matthew 27:30; John 18:22). The way of his calling leads through a shameful condition of humiliation. What was typified in Job (see Isaiah 30:10; Isaiah 17:6), and prefigured typically and prophetically in the Psalms of David (see Psalm 22:7; Psalm 69:8), finds in him its perfect antitypical fulfilment. 51:1-3 It is good for those privileged by the new birth, to consider that they were shapen in sin. This should cause low thoughts of ourselves, and high thoughts of Divine grace. It is the greatest comfort to be made serviceable to the glory of God. The more holiness men have, and the more good they do, the more gladness they have. Let us seriously reflect upon our guilt. To do so will tend to keep the heart humble, and the conscience awake and tender. They make Christ more precious to the soul, and give strength to our attempts and prayers for others.Verses 1-8. - AN ADDRESS TO FAITHFUL ISRAEL, SUGGESTING TOPICS OF COMFORT. The address consists of three nearly equal strophes or stanzas, each commencing with a call, Shim'u elai, "Hearken unto me," or Haqshibu elai, "Attend to me." The prophet appears to be the speaker, and to address himself to the more faithful portion of the people. Verse 1. - Ye that follow after righteousness; i.e. "ye that endeavour to lead righteous lives" (comp. ver. 7). Ye that seek the Lord. And do not "seek after idols," as too many of the exiles did (Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 41:7; Isaiah 44:9-20; Isaiah 46:5-8, etc.). Look unto the rock... the hole; i.e. look back at your past history, especially at the early beginnings of it. Consider from what a slight and poor commencement - an aged man and a barren woman (ver. 2) - ye were raised up to be God's people, a numerous nation, a multitude like the sand of the sea. How came this result about? Was it not simply by the blessing of God?

hearken

Isaiah 51:4,7 Listen to me, my people; and give ear to me, O my nation: for a law …

Isaiah 46:3,4 Listen to me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house …

Isaiah 48:12 Listen to me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, …

Isaiah 55:2,3 Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor …

ye that follow

Isaiah 51:7 Listen to me, you that know righteousness, the people in whose heart …

Psalm 94:15 But judgment shall return to righteousness: and all the upright in …

Proverbs 15:9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but he loves …

Proverbs 21:21 He that follows after righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, …

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: …

Matthew 6:33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and …

Romans 9:30-32 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after …

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and …

Philippians 3:13 Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing …

1 Timothy 6:11 But you, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, …

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, …

Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall …

ye that seek

Isaiah 45:19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said …

Isaiah 55:6 Seek you the LORD while he may be found, call you on him while he is near:

Psalm 24:6 This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek your face, …

Psalm 105:3,4 Glory you in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD…

Amos 5:6 Seek the LORD, and you shall live; lest he break out like fire in …

Zephaniah 2:3 Seek you the LORD, all you meek of the earth, which have worked his …

look

Genesis 17:15-17 And God said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call …

Ephesians 2:11,12 Why remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh…

51:1 Look - Consider the state of Abraham and Sarah, from whom all of you sprang.
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