So much is said in Isaiah about the coming glory of Zion. It is called in the opening chapter “the city of righteousness, the faithful city” (v26); in 2:2–4 its destiny is to become the centre of the world’s worship; in 4:2–6 it is cleansed and defended; in 12:1–6 a joyous city; in 24:23, the throne of Yahweh from whence He shall reign with “his ancients gloriously”; in 35:10 the city of the redeemed; in 52:1–2 it is raised from the dust and adorned in beautiful garments; in 62:4 “she” is called Hephzibah and Beulah: “for Yahweh delighteth in thee and thy land shall be married”; and in 66:12–13 she is accorded peace and prosperity and as a mother dandles children upon her knees so she will comfort her children. There are many other pictures of Zion in this prophecy and as is evident from those mentioned, some are literal and others figurative, with Zion or Jerusalem likened to the wife of Yahweh and the mother of His children.

Dual imagery

In the section of Isaiah under consideration in this article the figure changes from Zion being a woman and a wife to a city. Both of these figures are used in the New Testament also for Zion: in Galatians 4:25–31, but particularly in Revelation 21:2, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Linkage with the context

In this section there is linkage with what has already been said in earlier verses in chapter 54 and also with chapter 53. Twice “righteousness” is referred to (54:14, 17) and is associated with the children of Zion, and it is theirs as a result of the Servant’s labours (53:11). The “covenant of peace” pledged to Zion will be enjoyed by the city’s people and is also the consequence of the sufferings of Yahweh’s Servant (54:10,14; 53:5). Also there is reference made to Zion’s sons in verses 1 and 13; again they have come into existence because of the Servant’s labours (53:10,11).

54:11–12 Zion to be rebuilt with lavish magnificence

Verses 11,12 “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stoneswith fair colours [‘ in antimony’ rsv, mlb], and lay thy foundations with sapphires.

And I will make thy windows [battlements niv,  pinnacles rsv, mlb] of agates [rubies niv], and thy gates of carbuncles [sparkling jewels niv], and all  thy borders of pleasant stones.”

From being buffeted and battered like a ship in a storm, Zion is to be comforted and assured. The bride of the Lord is likened to a city built from the foundations upwards to the walls, gates and battlements. No expense is spared in order to beautify and make the city durable.

“I will lay thy stones with fair colours” (Heb pukh,  in antimony rsv). The Hebrew word is pukh, and refers to mascara, an eye-powder used to blacken the edges of the eyelids to enhance the lustre of the eyes. The word here used is rendered “painted” in 2 Kings 9:30 in reference to Jezebel (mrg, “put her eyes in painting”); to apostate Israel (Jer 4:30); and “glistering stones”, or “stones of mascara” (1 Chron 29:2).

Job’s striking dark-eyed daughter was called Keren-Happuch, meaning “a horn of mascara” (Job 42:14).

The stones of Zion are to be set in coloured mortar designed to highlight the beauty of the construction.

In Revelation 21 John’s description of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the bride adorned for her husband, has many verbal allusions to these verses: the description speaks of the gates, the foundations of the city’s walls being “garnished with all manner of precious stones” etc.

The word for “stones” in verses 11 and 12 is ebenim, and is closely related to the word translated “children” twice in verse 13. Stones like sons are used to build a house, a family. In Psalm 127 the cognates of the word for stones are found where the blessing of having sons is recounted, “Except Yahweh build [banah] the house [beth], they labour in vain that build [banah] it … Lo, children [= sons, benim] are an heritage of Yahweh …” (v1,3).

“I will make thy windows [battlements rsv etc]  of agates” Motyer says, “Battlements is ‘suns’, ie  towers catching and reflecting the sun’s light, or  possibly [cp Song 4:4] polished circular shields hung on the walls for decoration and to advertise the city’s inner strength.”

54:13–14 Zion’s sons all instructed by Him shall be established by righteousness and shall enjoy peace and prosperity

Verse 13 “And all thy children [Heb benim, sons]  shall be taught [instructed roth] of Yahweh; and great shall be the peace [prosperity roth, rsv] of thy children [Heb benim, sons rsv].

The first part of this verse, “And all thy children shall be taught of Yahweh”, is quoted by the Lord Jesus in John 6:45 (there is also an allusion in 1 Thess 4:9). Like the Servant himself (50:4), all who claim sonship of God have to be instructed, taught by Him. This is so because the relationship is spiritual and not fleshly, even though man might have been made in the image and likeness of God.

Jesus had cause to cite these words when his claims were disputed by the Jews, for they did not believe. Their attitude bore witness to this truth, that only those whom the Father would call and instruct would come to him and be saved. Their unbelief effectively put them outside the scope of the Lord’s redemptive work (see Editorial). Yahweh’s people have always been set apart by one great fact, that they understand His Word. That is why it is important for us to read the Bible daily and to meditate on its message.

“and great shall be the peace [prosperity] of thy  children [sons] The consequence of instruction  and obedience to the call of Christ is peace and  prosperity: “Therefore being justified [cf v14 ‘In  righteousness shalt thou …’] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:2).

Verse 14 “In righteousness shalt thou be  established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.”

Eliphaz’s question was, “What is man, that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” (Job 15:14). There is in fact a way, a way established by God, the outcome of the work of His Servant. The “righteousness” available is not a human achievement but is the result of God’s work in His Son – Sin was condemned in his perfect obedience to the death of the cross, andon the basis of belief and baptism intohis saving name, righteousness is imputed to sinful man. This is Isaiah’s message for us: “by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify [make righteous] many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (53:11; Rom 3:25–26; 4:1–8). Righteousness is the rock-like foundation on which the city is built. There is no fear that it should be swept away.

Baptism into Christ places a man beyond the reach of fear, and even death itself, the “king of terrors” (Job 18:14). “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? … But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:55,57).

54:15–17 Yahweh purposes peace for Zion. Woe to those who stir up strife! This assurance is guaranteed  by Yahweh as makers and users of weapons are His  workmanship!

Verse 15 “Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather  together against thee shall fall for thy sake.”

rsv “If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you.”

The people of God, His servants, His “city” are secure on their foundation of righteousness. To this is added the creatorial might and sovereignty of Yahweh (v16). No assault on His sons would be sanctioned by Him and must therefore fail. In the days of their flesh, there were enemies and persecutions for Christ’s sake. But once immortalised they will be impregnable, beyond the reach of the powers of darkness.

Verse 16 “Behold, I have created [bara] the smith  that bloweth coals in the fire, and that bringeth  forth an instrument [weapon rsv] for his work;  and I have created [bara] the waster to destroy.”

Notice how this verse is enfolded in the verb “to create” (Heb bara). It is one of the great statements in the Bible emphasizing God’s sovereignty over all that He as Creator has made. How puny and laughable are the efforts of man to expunge His existence and attribute the inscrutable wonders of Creation to chance! Divorcing the Creator from His Creation will not work! There is no greater lie: and those who deny His creatorial power are “without excuse” (Rom 1:18–20), and are destined to “lie down in sorrow” (Isa 50:11).

Yahweh’s absolute sovereignty covers the manufacturer (the smith, blacksmith niv), the produce (weapon niv, rsv), and the intent of the user to destroy. They are all within His grasp, accounted for by His power as Creator.

Verse 17 “No weapon that is formed against thee  shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise  against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of Yahweh,  and their righteousness is of me, saith Yahweh.”

Yahweh’s people will be secure from any accusation at law that might come against them. Sins forgiven, His servants stand justified in Christ and safe beyond the machinations of enemies and detractors: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth” (Rom 8:33; Isa 50:8–9). Loud and powerful voices have been raised against His people in days gone by, but with the Lord’s advent and Kingdom they will overcome, be justified and reap the reward of eternal life.

“This is the heritage of the servants of Yahweh”

All the blessings recounted in this chapter that  apply to Zion, the wife of Yahweh, and the city of  God, now belong to the “servants of the Lord”.  Until now, the term servant has only been used in  the singular, of His obedient Son. Now and from  henceforth it is used in the plural. The saving work  of the Servant has created many servants!

“… their righteousness is of me, saith Yahweh”

Their redemption is wholly a work of Yahweh. They have been redeemed as a result of His plan: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them …” (2 Cor 5:19). By faith in the gospel of Christ righteousness has been imputed to these servants. All their righteousness was as filthy rags but, as the bride of Christ, to her will be granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for fine linen is the righteousness of saints (Rev 19:8). May we all “obtain mercy in that day” of account and be constituents of that multitudinous, glorified bride of the Son of God.