Isaiah 51 starts, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness …” (verse 1). “Give attention to me my people … give ear to me …” (verse 4). How many respond to God’s appeal? This chapter takes a long range view, forward to our time. “My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge … for my arm they wait” (verse 5). In chapter 33:2 the prophet’s prayer was, “… we wait for you. Be our arm every morning”. Our thoughts go to John’s Gospel and the quotation from Isaiah, the unbelief Jesus encountered “so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’” (12:38). Jesus is the “arm” of God.
God’s word, as we see in Isaiah, sometimes uses the word ‘heavens’ to indicate rulers and ‘earth’ to indicate those ruled over. With that understanding we see verse 6 as a graphic prophecy that will climax in our world now, it is a message for today. “Lift your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner.” But the verse ends, “but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed”.
The chapter started “Listen to me” and now it occurs again, significantly; “Listen to me you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law, fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings” (verse 7). How few are listening? How ready are others to utter “revilings” about those who sincerely believe God’s word – and show that belief in what they say and the way they live.
But what wonders of eternity await those who listen! Verse 11 says they will “come to Zion with singing and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads, and they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away”. “Listen to me.” Are you really listening? Are you reacting in the right way to what you hear? Chapter 11 in Revelation describes the trouble the saints will experience – and the fate of “everyone whose name has not been written … in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain … Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (verses 9,11). Are you listening? Those who genuinely listen and develop real faith will endure.