An inspired vision of Zion, when God shall have fulfilled towards her all his purposes, and clothed her with his glory.
- Try to build up the picture of the glorified Zion as given in this vision. Gather out the references to God and observe carefully the place he occupies in Zion. Has he this central place in your life and in your Christian fellowship?
- Consider how many of the features of beauty and glory in the Zion of this chapter are to be found, in their spiritual counterpart, in a life dwelling in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. See especially verses 2, 5, 7 (last clause), 13 (last clause), 16b, and 17-21; and cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6; 6:16; Eph. 3:14-21.
- Verses 8, 9. The ships coming from the west, with their white sails, looking like a flock of doves.
- Verse 13. ‘The place of my sanctuary’: i.e. the temple called also ‘the place of my feet’.
- Verse 21. ‘For the display of my splendor’: compare ‘he has endowed you with splendor’ (verse 9) and ‘I will adorn my glorious temple’ (verse 7; so also verse 13). Where God is glorified all else is glorified in Him. Cf. 2 Thess. 1:12.
This chapter in its opening verses is an exposure of the sins that separate us from God (verses 1-8). In verses 9-15a the people describes their sorrowful state, and make confession. But they feel that if action on God’s part is to be forever restrained by their sinfulness, the position seems hopeless indeed (see Note 2 on ‘justice’ below). Then in the closing verses of the chapter comes the triumphant divine answer (verses 15b-21). God is not baffled, and when there is no human help he himself comes to the rescue, in judgment upon evil-doers on the one hand, and in redemption for the penitent on the other.
- Verses 1-15. What various sins are mentioned here, and what are the consequences in the personal, social and the spiritual life of the people? With verses 1, 2 cf. 1:15-17; Mic. 3:4.
- What is the motive of God’s intervention as described in verses 15b-21? What is its twofold purpose, and what its worldwide issue? When does St Paul look for this to be fulfilled to Israel (Rom. 11:25-27)? Yet, for us who believe on Jesus Christ, is it not in part fulfilled to us now, and not least verse 21? Cf. John 14: 16, 26.
- Verses 5, 6. The plan and plots of evil-doers working fresh evil, and giving no useful result.
- Verse 9. The word ‘justice’ is used in these verses in two senses: (a) as right done by men (verse 8, 15b), and (b) as divine judgment, exercised on behalf of Israel against her oppressors (verse 9, 11, 14) the people’s lament was that the later was withheld because the former was lacking.
The good tidings of Jehovah’s purpose to bring back the exiles and to restore Jerusalem produced many repercussions among different classes of hearers. In the opening verses of today’s portion the prophet replies to the questionings of two special groups: (1) non-Jews, who had joined themselves to Israel (56:3a, 6-8, and (2) eunuchs, who feared God (56:3b-5). Might they also participate in the promise deliverance? The Lord’s answer is that if they fulfilled the conditions of the covenant, they would be welcome to a full share in its blessings. In 56:9 – 57:14 the prophet rebukes two other groups: the leaders of the community in Jerusalem (56:9-12), and those who were openly practicing idolatry (57:1-14). There follows a striking description of the kind of persons with whom God will dwell, and of his purposes of grace towards his people (57:15-21).
- What were the spiritual conditions on which the Lord would recognize a man, whether a Jew or not, as being one of his own people? See 56:1-8. How does this anticipate the New Testament offer of the gospel to all, and how does it fall short of it? With verse 7, cf. Matt. 21:13; and with verse 8, cf. John 10:16.
- What do these two chapters, and more particularly 57:15-21, teach us about God?
- Consider the sad picture in 56:9 – 57:14 of a community whose leaders were unworthy, and whose members were forsaking the Lord for idols. What warnings for ourselves can be found in it?
- 56:3b-5. In the new community, physical and racial disabilities would be no longer be a ground of exclusion. Cf. Deut. 23:1, 3-8.
- 56:10. ‘Watchmen’: i.e., the leaders of the community, also called ‘shepherds’ (verse 11). They loved ease, gain, and drunken carnivals.
- 57:3. A reference to their idolatrous practices; so also in verses 7, 8.
- 57:11. ‘You went on fearlessly, in faithlessness, giving no thought to me, in your indifference. Is it not so? I said no word, I hid my face from you, and on you went, fearing me not’. (Moffatt).