|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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?
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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).
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