Isaiah 51:9
Awaken, awaken, put on strength, O arm of the LORD. Wake up as in days past, as in generations of long ago. Was it not You who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced through the dragon?
The Awakening of ZionAlexander MaclarenIsaiah 51:9
A Sure Criterion of Character, EtcW. Clarkson Isaiah 51:7, 8, 12,13
Fear, and Fear NotR. Tuck Isaiah 51:7, 12, 13
Christ the Arm of GodN. Schenck, D.D.Isaiah 51:9-10
Prayer for National ProsperityJ. Witherspoon, D.D.Isaiah 51:9-10
The Arm of the Lord InvokedJ. Parsons.Isaiah 51:9-10
The Awaking of ZionA. Maclaren, D.D.Isaiah 51:9-10
The Church S Cry and the Divine AnswerA. Rowland, LL. B.Isaiah 51:9-10
The Force in ReserveW. Clarkson Isaiah 51:9, 10
Thy Strength! My StrengthJ. H. Jowett, M.A.Isaiah 51:9-10
The Arm of JehovahE. Johnson Isaiah 51:9-11
Either the people call on Jehovah, or he is concerned as calling on himself to awake and rouse up his might for the defence of his people as in the days of old,

I. THE ARM OF JEHOVAH AS SYMBOLIC OF HIS POWER. It is the symbol of spiritual power opposed to that of darkness, death, the under-world, He is said to have "smitten Rahab, and wounded the dragon." Commonly this has been understood of Egypt, but the reference seems to be more general. It was in ancient thought, generally, the property of a god to be the slayer of monsters, who all of them represent hellish influences. It is spiritual power opposed to worldly violence. He had dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, and made therein a way for the released to pass over. Egypt was the dark historic memory of the people. Its king might well be compared with the fiendish monster of darkness (Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2; Psalm 34:13, 14). And so the passage of the Red Sea was the standing symbol of deliverance, of redemption (see Psalm 105). And in our own hymns and sacred allusions Egypt stands for the bondage of sin, the captivity of the mind to sense, to the devil. And the passing over the Red Sea may be fitly symbolic of salvation by grace, of regeneration or conversion. The argument is from the past to the future. The God who had overcome all obstacles in the way of their deliverance from Egypt was able to overcome all obstacles in the way of their deliverance from Babylon. He might be expected again to manifest his mercy, and save the nation from oppression. And so, in general, the argument holds good for the Church and for the individual: "Because thou hast been my Refuge, under the shadow of thy wings I will put my trust." The principle is ever applicable. All God's past interpositions on behalf of his people constitute an argument that he will continue to regard them.


1. The ransomed of Jehovah shall return. The power that lies in the word "redeemed," "ransomed! All the notions of love, sacrifice, purchase, that are connected with it! The assurance that flows from the realization of such a state! God will not desert; he cannot lose those whom he has made by so many ties his own.

2. The joy of the return. "The custom of singing on a journey is still common in the East. It relieves the tediousness of a journey over extended plains, and stirs the camels to greater speed. So the long tedium of the way from Babylon shall be cheered by songs expressive of gladness and praise." "We are travelling home to God. We are under the guidance of a good Pastor, who goes before, who knows his sheep; of a Leader of salvation who has released his people, and will crown his work el' redemption by glorification.

Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry." We are on the way to new releases and fresh redemptions from ill. - J.

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord.
(with Isaiah 52:1 (a)): — Both these verses are, I think, to be regarded as spoken by one voice, that of the Servant of the Lord. In the one, as Priest and Intercessor, He lifts the prayers of earth to heaven in His own holy hands — and in the other, as Messenger and Word of God, He brings the answer and command of heaven to earth on His own authoritative lips — thus setting forth the deep mystery of His person and double office as mediator between man and God. But even if we set aside that thought the correspondence and relation of the two passages remain the same. In any case they are intentionally parallel in form and connected in substance. The latter is the answer to the former. The cry of Zion is responded to by the call of God. The awaking of the arm of the Lord is followed by the awaking of the Church. He puts on strength in clothing us with His might, which becomes ours.

I. We have here a common principle underlying both the clauses, namely, THE OCCURRENCE IN THE CHURCH'S HISTORY OF SUCCESSIVE PERIODS OF ENERGY AND OF LANGUOR. It is freely admitted that such alternation is not the highest ideal of growth, either in the individual or in the community. Our Lord's own parables set forth a more excellent way — the way of uninterrupted increase. So might our growth be, if the mysterious life in the seed met no checks. But, as a matter of fact, the Church has not thus grown. Rather, at the best, its emblem is to be looked for, not in corn but in the forest tree — the very rings in whose trunk tell of recurring seasons when the sap has risen at the call of spring, and sunk again before the frowns of winter. In our own hearts we have known such times. And we have seen a like palsy smite whole regions and ages of the Church of God. Where is the joyful buoyancy and expansive power with which the Gospel burst into the world? If, then, there be such recurring seasons of languor, they must either go on deepening till sleep becomes death, or they must be broken by a new outburst of vigorous life. And it is by such times that the Kingdom of Christ always has grown. Its history has been one of successive impulses gradually exhausted, as by friction and gravity, and mercifully repeated just at the moment when it was ceasing to advance and had begun to slide downwards.

II. THE TWOFOLD EXPLANATION OF THESE VARIATIONS. That bold metaphor of God sleeping and waking is often found in Scripture, and generally expresses the contrast between the long years of patient forbearance, during which evil things and evil men go on their rebellious road unchecked but by Love, and the dread moment when some throne of iniquity is smitten to the dust. Such is the original application of the expression here. But the contrast may fairly be widened beyond that specific form of it, and taken to express any apparent variations in the forth-putting of His power. We may, then, see here implied the cause of these alternations on its Divine side, and then, in the corresponding verse addressed to the Church, the cause on the human side.

1. As to the former. We have to distinguish between the power, and what Paul calls "the might of the power." The one is final, constant, unchangeable. It does not necessarily follow that the other is. The rate of operation, so to speak, and the amount of energy actually brought into play may vary, though the force remains the same.

2. Our second text tells us that if God's arm seems to slumber, and really does so, it is because Zion sleeps. He works through us; and we have the solemn and awful power of checking the might which would flow through us.

III. THE BEGINNING OF ALL AWAKING IS THE CHURCH'S EARNEST CRY TO GOD. It is with us as with infants, the first sign of whose awaking is a cry. For every such stirring of quickened religious life must needs have in it bitter penitence and pain at the discovery flashed upon us of the wretched deadness of our past. Nor is Zion s cry to God only the beginning and sign of all true awaking; it is also the condition and indispensable precursor of all perfecting of recovery from spiritual languor. Look at the passionate earnestness of it — and see to it that our drowsy prayers be like it. Look at the grand confidence with which it founds itself on the past, recounting the mighty deeds of ancient days, and looking back, not for despair, but for joyful confidence on the generations of old; and let our faint-hearted faith be quickened by the example, to expect great things of God.

IV. THE ANSWERING CALL FROM GOD TO ZION. Our truest prayers are but the echo of God's promises. God's best answers are the echo of our prayers. As in two mirrors set opposite to each other, the same image is repeated over and over again, the reflection of a reflection, so here, within the prayer, gleams an earlier promise, within the answer is mirrored the prayer. And in that reverberation, and giving back to us of our petition transformed into a command, we are not to see a dismissal of it as if we had misapprehended our true want. The very opposite interpretation is the true one. The prayer of Zion is heard and answered. God awakes, and clothes Himself with might. Then, as some warrior king, himself roused from sleep and girded with flashing steel, bids the clarion sound through the grey twilight to summon the prostrate ranks that lie round his tent, so the sign of God's awaking and the first act of His conquering might is this trumpet call — "The night is far spent, the day is at hand" — "put off the works of darkness," the night gear that was fit for slumber — "and put on the armour of light," the mail of purity that gleams and glitters even in the dim dawn. Nor is it to be forgotten that this, like all God s commands, carries in its heart a promise. But the main point which I would insist on is the practical discipline which this Divine summons requires from us.

1. The chief means of quickened life and strength is deepened communion with Christ.

2. This summons calls us to the faithful use of the power which, on condition of that communion, we have. So, let us confidently look for times of blessing, penitently acknowledge that our own faithlessness has hindered the arm of the Lord, earnestly beseech Him to come in His rejoicing strength, and, drawing ever fresh power from constant communion with our dear Lord, use it to its last drop for Him.

(A. Maclaren, D.D.)

(with Isaiah 52:1): —

I. THE CHURCH'S CALL ON GOD. "Awake, awake, O arm of the Lord."

1. The figure used here is simple enough. The "arm" is a natural symbol of power, for it is through it that we execute our purpose. If it is benumbed, insensitive, and motionless, we say that it is asleep; but when it is stretched out for action it is awake. And what the prophet pleads for is that some display of Divine power might be granted, such as had once been seen in Egypt, when "Rahab" (the fierce and boastful power of heathenism) had been broken in pieces and "the dragon" (or rather the crocodile, the recognized symbol of Egypt) had been sorely wounded. Now, the uses to which we put our arm may, any of them, suggest the actions to which we would summon our God in earnest prayer. The arm of the warrior bears the shield which protects his own body and those of weak and wounded friends lying at his feet; and we want such overshadowing protection against the fiery darts of the wicked. The arm is naturally outstretched to point the way to one who is ignorant and bewildered, and when we are perplexed as to doctrine or duty, we find it is not a vain thing to pray: "Teach me Thy way, O Lord." What is needed now, as of old, is the realization and the manifestation of the presence of God in the Person of Christ, His Son; so that now there may come about a true revival of religion, a living, unshakable belief that God is amongst His people of a truth. If only He reveals Himself in and through His Church, sin will be conquered and the world redeemed.

2. The necessity for this prayer arises from the fact that the work which lies before us as Christian Churches cannot be done by human power.

II. GOD'S CALL UPON THE CHURCH. "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion," etc.. God never does for His people what they can do for themselves.

1. The Church is called upon to arouse from slumber — and whether it is the result of despondency, or of indolence, sleep must be shaken off.

2. The Church is also to endue herself with strength, to resume courage, and renew effort with a fresh sense of her responsibility.

3. But let us be thankful that there is room in God's heart for quieter service. They who fail to put on strength, can at least put on the. "beautiful garments" of holiness; and although these should endue the most active worker, they can transform into a saintly witness the solitary sufferer.

4. The Church is summoned here to consecrate herself anew to God. She is represented as a female captive in degrading servitude, whose hour of deliverance has come, and who is to shake herself free from the bands which have held her, and rejoice in new found liberty. It is not only sin which holds the Church in bondage, but sometimes formalism and ceremonialism, and we must beware, lest, with our love for order, we become thereby crippled and hindered. Let us be ready to make any change of mode or organization, to cast off any prejudices, if they prevent successful whole-hearted service for our God, and let us regard this as a time for renewed consecration to Him, to whom we owe ourselves, our time, our all.

(A. Rowland, LL. B.)


II. THE OBJECTS WHICH THIS INVOCATION INVOLVES. "Awake, awake," etc. It is an earnest application on the part of the prophet, that God would come forth as He had done in former periods. We may refer to a number of great events, of which the people of old could scarcely form an idea. We remember what God did in the fulness of time when He sent His Son into the world to restore mankind. We remember what He did on the hill of Calvary. We remember what He did when He "raised Him up from the dead, and set Him on His own right hand, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church." We remember what He did on the Pentecostal day, when He sent down His Holy Spirit. After allusion has thus been made to the former displays of the Divine power, there is an evident contrast as to what was the state of things in the prophet's day. There seemed to be a suspension of this energy; the heritage of God was wasted, His truth was insulted, His worship was slighted, His requirements were contemned. And what is it we want? We want His power to accompany the preaching of the Word. It must be remembered that there is no manifestation of the Divine power so glorious as that which is seen in the extension of the Gospel, and its power on the souls of men.


1. Consider the care of God over the Church in past ages of the world.

2. From the character of God as the hearer and answerer of prayer.

3. From the nature of the promises recorded in the sacred pages.

(J. Parsons.)

I. THE IMPORT OF THIS PRAYER. "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!" In general such a petition as this suggests to us that our prayers for Divine interposition and deliverance from public calamities should be supremely directed to the glory of God. A just regard to the glory of God in our prayers implies the two following things:

1. That we expect deliverance from God alone, desire that it may be attended with such circumstances as His hand and power may be seen in it, and are willing to acknowledge Him as the supreme and only Author of it.

2. We ought also to pray for a dispensation of His grace and mercy that a revival of religion may accompany temporal relief.

(1)We have no warrant to ask the last of these without the first.

(2)We have no reason to expect that it will be separately bestowed.

(3)If it should, in any degree, it would not he a blessing but a curse.

II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRAYER. "Awake as in the ancient days, as in the generations of old," etc. The prophet animates his faith, and encourages his own dependence, and that of others, upon the promises of God, by celebrating the greatness of His power, as manifested in former memorable deliverances granted to His chosen people. Consider the effect of such a view upon the mind, and its influence in prayer.

1. It satisfies us of the power of God, and His ability to save.

2. The same view serves to ascertain us of the mercy of God, and His readiness to help us in distress.

III. APPLY THE TRUTHS on this subject to our own present situation as to public affairs. Let us remember that we serve an unchangeable God.

(J. Witherspoon, D.D.)

Christ is here called the arm of the Lord. The arm of the Lord means God in action. The grand purposes of redemption, conceived in eternity, were dead thought, if lawful so to speak, in the mind of God, until they were revealed in Christ, the executor of the thoughts of the Godhead. Christ was ever called the Logos, the expression of Divinity. When the hand is spoken of in the Bible, it means the exact working of God in nature, providence and grace. The arm is that which sends the hand into action. "The outstretched arm" is the far-reaching power of God. By the right hand or arm of God we are to understand a more special and dazzling display of God's power. In all instances the hand or arm of God means Christ. The prophet appeals to the past, "Awake, as in the ancient days," etc. In the context he looks to the future and catches glimpses of the glory of the Advent, and he cries, It is the arm of God! The text is an invocation for Christ to come in the Advent. This arm of God is the revelation —


II. OF HIS SAVING POWER. It is an arm that can reach everywhere. There is no height so high or depth so deep as to be beyond its reach to save.

III. A UNIVERSAL REVELATION OF GOD. It means the revealing of God in creation, in providence, in redemption, in the family in the closet, in the soul, in death, at the judgment, in eternity, where it will secure the eternal triumph of those whose faith will then merge into sight. Conclusion:

1. What are your relations to this arm of God? Has it been to you only an object of wonder as the bow in the clouds, or has it been an arm bared to the shoulder, entwined about you, filled with a vitality which it imparted to you as it defended and lifted you?

2. Have you thought what this arm hath wrought for you? How it suffered itself to De shorn of its strength that you might be strong!

3. Have you not thought of the final triumph of that arm?

(N. Schenck, D.D.)

(with Isaiah 52:1): —

1. Everything seemed to have gone against the exile. Life had no longer for him a programme, but only a retrospect; no longer a radiant hope, but only a fading reminiscence; no longer an alluring vision, but only a distinguished history. Here he lay in captivity; the songs of Zion had fled from his lips, and his mouth was filled with wailing and complaint. "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me." "Where is He that brought us up out of the sea with the Shepherd of His flock? Where is He that put His Holy Spirit within us?" And now and again the exile half-turned himself in angry, hopeless cry, "Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the heavens, that Thou,, wouldst come down!" And again he relapsed into the low and cheerlees moan: "My Lord hath forgotten me." And yet again he pierced the heaven with his searching supplication: "Awake, awake, put on Thy strength, O arm of the Lord, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old.

2. What will be the Lord's reply to the cry of the exile? Here it is: "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion!" The Divine response is a sharp retort. "It is not thy God who sleepeth! It is thou thyself who art wrapt about in a sluggish and consuming indolence! Thou art crying out for more strength; but what of the strength thou hast? Thy trumpet is silent, and thine armour is rusting upon the walls! Thou art like a vagrant asking for help, when thou hast a full purse hidden between the covers of an idle bed! Thou art pleading for reinforcements, and thy soldiers are on the couch! Thy prayer is the supplication of a man who is not doing his best! Clothe thyself in thy present powers, consecrate thine all to the purpose of thy prayer, and stand forth in battle array." I need not say that there is nothing in the Lord s response which disparages the ministry of prayer. It does, however, tend to put prayer in its right place, and to give a true apprehension of its purpose and ministry. Prayer is not a talisman, to be used as an easy substitute for our activity and vigilance. Prayer is a ministry in which our own powers can be quickened into more vigorous and healthy service. God has given us certain endowments. Certain talents are part of our original equipment. We are possessed of powers of judgment, of initiative, of sympathy; and the primary implication of all successful prayer is that these powers are willingly placed upon the altar of sacrifice. Any prayer is idle when these powers are indolent. We too frequently pray to be carried like logs, and it is the Lord's will that we should contend like men! The principle is this — our "strength" must back our supplications. Is the backing always present?(1) Take the matter of our personal salvation. Every one is conscious how immature he is in the Divine life. we know how dim is our spiritual discernment. We know how few and infrequent are our brilliant conquests, and how many and common are our shameful defeats. And again and again we supplicate the Almighty: "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!" Is it possible that the response of the Lord, may be the retort of the olden days: "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion"? We are so prone to divide the old psalmist's counsel, and to pay heed to one part and to ignore the other. "Bring unto the Lord glory!" And so we do! We bring our glorias, our doxologies, our hymns, and our anthems, and we do well, but it is a maimed and lifeless offering if, with the glory, we do not bring our strength. "Bring unto the Lord glory and strength!" It is in this lacking of strength in our personal religion that we are so woefully deficient. We need to bring to our religion more strength of common-sense — more inventiveness, more fertility of ideas, more purpose, more steady and methodical persistence. And we need to bring a more commanding strength of will. So many of us would like to be saints without becoming soldiers, and the desire can never be attained. Let me tell you a story. Two little "girls" in the same class, one at the top and, the other at the bottom. The one at the bottom consults the one at the top. "How is it that you are always at the top of the class?" "Oh, I ask Jesus to help me!" "Then I will do the same," said the undistinguished member, and she forthwith put the counsel into practice. Next day their relative positions were unaltered, one at the top, and the other at the bottom. The consultation is renewed. "I thought you said that Jesus would help me, and here I am at the bottom again!" "Well, so He will, but how long did you work?" "Oh, I never opened a book!"(2) Take the matter of the salvation of the home. We have interceded for our little ones at the throne of grace. Are we putting our "strength" into the salvation of the home? I do not know a better pattern of a home than Charles Kingsley's, but he brought his strength to its creation. It was a home whose moral atmosphere was like the air on Alpine heights, home in which, in all perplexities, the only referendum was the Lord Himself, a home all of whose ministries were clothed in grace and beauty. I shall never forget hearing a long conversation between two men, one of whom had inquired of the other the size of his family. "I have ten," he said. "What a responsibility!" replied the other. To which there came at once the glad response: "And what a privilege, for they are all workers on the side of God."(3) There is the matter of social redemption. How often have we prayed for the city: "Awake, awake, lint on strength, O arm of the Lord!" And still, I think, there comes the Divine retort, "Put on thy strength, O Zion!" We abuse the privilege of prayer when we make it a minister of personal evasion and neglect. That is my message. There is no true prayer without a full consecration.

(J. H. Jowett, M.A.)

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