Reading Time: 5 Minutes
I asked Rudy Ross to outline four ways Hebrew people have traditionally interpreted the Bible. Each of these correspond to four divisions of the Book of Isaiah. Please listen to our discussion on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Tomorrow’s video will begin our discussion of Isaiah 54. In today’s blog article I will limit my thoughts to spiritual and emotional barrenness and how God will change what is barren to be blessed.
A Barren People
Isaiah identified Israel to be that of the plight of a barren woman.
Sing, O barren one who did not bear;
burst into song and shout,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate woman will be more
than the children of her that is married, says the Lord. (Isaiah 54.1)
The spiritual emptiness of God’s people was revealed throughout the first 39 chapters of Isaiah. A few examples of their prideful rebellion will remind us of their impoverished spiritual condition.
Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib;
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.
Ah, sinful nation,
people laden with iniquity,
offspring who do evil,
children who deal corruptly,
who have forsaken the Lord,
who have despised the Holy One of Israel,
who are utterly estranged!
— Their spiritual life was as barren as a desert. The people understood less of God than do farm animals of their masters.
— The poverty of their relationship with God was revealed by the fact that their inner life of sin overcome them light a weight.
— They were barren because they had forsaken the Lord, thought lightly of him (despised), and were utterly distant (estranged) from him.
Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not defend the orphan,
and the widow’s cause does not come before them.
— Leaders who identify more with rebels and thieves than they do with God showed the emptiness of the nation’s spiritual life.
— The vacuousness of the inner life was revealed when self-interest dominated relationships instead of love and compassion.
— How they treated vulnerable people revealed the strength of their relationship with God. Their relationship did not lead to a just treatment of orphans and widows.
Their land is filled with silver and gold,
and there is no end to their treasures;
their land is filled with horses,
and there is no end to their chariots.
Their land is filled with idols;
they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their own fingers have made.
— Prosperity abounded in Israel, but so did the worship of man-made substitutes for God.
It is very troubling to live in a nation that is spiritually barren and empty because of rebellion and pride.
Isaiah 53 told the story of the Suffering Servant, who died for nations of rebels and sinners. With compelling language Isaiah 54 describes the effect of the Servant’s work.
Good news! The barren can sing, because God is at work in the world.
Paul’s Message About Barrenness
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians explains why God can command the barren to sing for joy.
His message begins with what sin does to humans.
— Ephesians 2.1 – You were dead through the trespasses and sins.
Like Isaiah, Paul clarified the meaning of sin as disobedience, rebellion and loyalty to God’s enemy.
— Ephesians 2.2 – In which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.
Spiritual barrenness is common to all persons. Humans willingly serve their passions and physical senses, producing spiritual death.
— Ephesians 2.3 – All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
As we study Isaiah 54, we will see that God’s love and grace overcomes our rebellion and inner barrenness.
— Ephesians 2.4-6 – But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ –
By grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Barren is a tragic word. Spiritual death is a greater problem than barrenness. The good news is that God has made us alive with his Son, Jesus Christ.
Out of grace God transforms us from the state of spiritual death and raises us to a position of service with Jesus.
Isaiah rightly ascribed praise and glory to God, who acts for the sake of his name. Likewise, Paul highlights God’s gracious activity on our behalf.
— Ephesians 2.7 – So that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Seven hundred years before Christ, Isaiah pointed to God’s gracious activity for humans. Paul echoed the message of God grace.
— Ephesians 2.8-10 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
God has so fashioned his activity with people that abundant blessing is substituted for barrenness. All that is required is the surrender of our lives to God’s love and grace.
As we live with God, he will give us the presence and power of the Spirit to live in a love relationship with him. That relationship will transform us from barren to blessed.
About This Blog
Please join Rudy Ross and me on YouTube today as we discuss four ways that Hebrews interpret the Bible. This will be an excellent introduction to the last section of Isaiah.
I am indebted to John Oswalt for his insights. His two-volume commentary on Isaiah is very insightful.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.