Israel must put her hope in God so that she can see through the pitch darkness of the Great Tribulation. After Jerusalem has drunk from the cup of God's wrath, the cup will be removed from her hand and put instead into the hands of her tormentors.
Jesus teaches Israel how to see in the dark
In chapter 50, Jesus, speaking prophetically as the servant, explains how he was able to face his tormentors and endure extreme suffering, confident that God was with him and would ultimately vindicate him. He then spoke about how to walk through pitch darkness, trusting only in God, and he warned about the danger of seeking artificial light. Here in chapter 51, we see that during the Great Tribulation Israel will drink from the cup of God's wrath (v17). Jesus, who drank from the cup of God's wrath at Calvary, teaches Israel how to walk through this time of great darkness in the end-times.

The true light they must walk by is the certain hope of God's justice and vindication, which will be a light to the nations (v4). Hope is the expectation of a good future, and is closely intertwined with faith, as Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. For by it the people of old received God's commendation". Faith and hope enable the believer to see in the dark, and end-time Israel must learn this ability. As in Hebrews 11, hope for the future is based upon God's faithfulness in the past, together with what his word says about the future. So in verses 1 to 2, Jesus tells Israel to look back to the rock from which they were chiseled (Abraham) and to the quarry from which they were dug (Sarah). Just as God was faithful to Abraham and Sarah in the past, so he will be faithful to Israel in the future. In verses 3 to 5, Jesus promises that God will deliver and vindicate Israel, restoring her from a state of ruin and desert to a state of abundant blessing like the Garden of Eden. Happiness and joy will be restored to her (v3). God's justice and deliverance of Israel will be a light, not just to Israel, but to the nations (v5). The coastlands (which represent distant lands) will wait patiently for 'the arm of the Lord', which is the revelation of God's mighty power. In verse 6, the temporal nature of this world, which will one day be destroyed, is contrasted with the eternal nature of God's salvation. Israel must view earthly events from this eternal perspective. In verse 7, Jesus addresses those who know what is right and who (literally) have God's law in their hearts (see NET notes), that is all believers. We must not be afraid of insults and abuse (v7). Our abusers will end up like woollen clothes that are devoured by moths and are thrown away. But our salvation will last forever (v8).

In verse 9, the 'arm of the Lord' symbolises God's military might, and is here personified. Jesus calls it to awaken as in antiquity. 'The Proud One' is a translation of Rahab, the chaos monster that God crushed when he created the world, according to Canaanite creation mythology. Rahab is also a symbolic name for Egypt. The sea monster symbolically represents Satan. So the Red Sea crossing in verse 10 is portrayed as God's defeat of Satan's attempt to destroy Israel through Pharaoh, his proud one. The implication is that in the end-times, the arm of the Lord will defeat Satan's attempt to destroy Israel through the Antichrist, Satan's end-time proud one. The question in verse 10, "Did you not make a path through the depths of the sea, so those delivered from bondage could cross over?" is kind of a pun. You expect the sea monster to follow a path through the depths of the sea. But God outsmarted the sea monster and turned Satan's attempt to destroy Israel into Israel's greatest victory over her enemies. The arm of the Lord is going to be awakened to destroy the Antichrist and his armies.

Verse 11 portrays Israel's victorious return to Jerusalem after Jesus defeats the Antichrist. They will be overwhelmed with happiness and joy. Their grief and suffering will disappear. In verses 12 to 13, Jesus is the one who consoles Israel, and he challenges her not to be afraid of mortal man, nor to forget the Lord, her creator. They are not to tremble at the anger of the oppressor (the Antichrist). He will be short-lived as grass. In verse 14, Jesus assures Israel that she will indeed be delivered from the Antichrist, and not be left to die in prison. In verse 15, Jesus affirms that he is the Lord their God. He is the one who churns up the sea - in other words, he is the one who defeated Pharaoh. He is the Lord of heaven's armies, and he will do it again.

The cup of the Lord's wrath
In verse 16, the end of the Great Tribulation is in view. God commissions Jesus as his spokesman to announce to Zion that she has fully drunk from the cup of God's wrath (v17). Now it is time for the cup to be removed from Israel's hand and to be put instead into the hands of her tormentors, for them to drink (v23). During the Great Tribulation, God's wrath against Israel is administered by Antichrist who wishes to destroy Israel. But because Antichrist curses Israel, so in turn must he be cursed by God, in accordance with the promise of Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (NIV).

One implication of Israel having to drink from a cup of intoxicating wine (v17) is that during the Great Tribulation she will lack understanding of what is really going on - she will be intoxicated and left in a stupor (v20). Similarly, Revelation 17 portrays the rulers of the end-time world being intoxicated by the wine of the Great Prostitute, which most likely symbolises Saudi Arabia's oil. Nations lack understanding and perception of what is really going on, because their addiction to oil clouds their judgment. But at the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus will call Israel to wake up (v17) and sober up. Everything will suddenly become clear. Likewise, when Mystery Babylon falls (Revelation 18), the nations will also sober up and see things clearly.

Verses 18 to 20 reveal some of the horrors that Jerusalem will experience during the Great Tribulation, including both military destruction, oppression and famine. We know from Zechariah 14:2 that when Antichrist conquers Jerusalem, half the city will go into exile and half will remain. Jesus will divide the Mount of Olives to provide an escape route for the half that flees the city, and according to Revelation 12:6, they will escape to a desert location where they will be taken care of for the rest of the Great Tribulation. These verses in Isaiah 51 (along with Isaiah 29:1-4) seem to describe the plight of the half that remain as prisoners in Jerusalem, where Antichrist sets up the abomination that causes desolation (Daniel 9:27).

Verse 18 describes a picture of abandonment, and it is likely that these Jewish prisoners in Jerusalem will fulfil Psalm 22:1 "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Jesus, the servant, fulfilled this on the cross so that we (and Israel the servant) might not have to. But because Israel continues to reject Jesus as her Messiah, she must fulfil this herself a second time.

God allows end-time Israel to experience terrible suffering during the Great Tribulation, but his purpose is to save Israel through it. As it says in Jeremiah 30:7 "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it" (KJV).
Places: Zion, Jerusalem, Israel, Garden of Eden
Symbols: Cup of intoxicating wine of judgment, Arm of the Lord, Rahab, Sea monster
Tags: The light of hope, Cup of judgment, Great Tribulation, Jesus delivers Israel, Prisoners in Jerusalem, Famine in Jerusalem, End-time exodus, Red Sea crossing, Israel feels abandoned, Antichrist as the oppressor, Antichrist as the Proud One, Antichrist as Pharaoh, Arm of the Lord awakes, Jerusalem liberated, Cup of intoxicating wine of judgment, Israel drinks wine of judgment, Overwhelming joy
There is Hope for the Future
1 “Listen to me, you who pursue godliness, who seek the Lord! Look at the rock from which you were chiseled, at the quarry from which you were dug!
2 Look at Abraham, your father, and Sarah, who gave you birth. When I summoned him, he was a lone individual, but I blessed him and gave him numerous descendants.
3 Certainly the Lord will console Zion; he will console all her ruins. He will make her wilderness like Eden, her arid rift valley like the Garden of the Lord. Happiness and joy will be restored to her, thanksgiving and the sound of music.
4 Pay attention to me, my people! Listen to me, my people! For I will issue a decree, I will make my justice a light to the nations.
5 I am ready to vindicate, I am ready to deliver, I will establish justice among the nations. The coastlands wait patiently for me; they wait in anticipation for the revelation of my power.
6 Look up at the sky! Look at the earth below! For the sky will dissipate like smoke, and the earth will wear out like clothes; its residents will die like gnats. But the deliverance I give is permanent; the vindication I provide will not disappear.
7 Listen to me, you who know what is right, you people who are aware of my law! Don’t be afraid of the insults of men; don’t be discouraged because of their abuse!
8 For a moth will eat away at them like clothes; a clothes moth will devour them like wool. But the vindication I provide will be permanent; the deliverance I give will last.”
9 Wake up! Wake up! Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the Lord! Wake up as in former times, as in antiquity! Did you not smash the Proud One? Did you not wound the sea monster?
10 Did you not dry up the sea, the waters of the great deep? Did you not make a path through the depths of the sea, so those delivered from bondage could cross over?
11 Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return; they will enter Zion with a happy shout. Unending joy will crown them, happiness and joy will overwhelm them; grief and suffering will disappear.
12 “I, I am the one who consoles you. Why are you afraid of mortal men, of mere human beings who are as short-lived as grass?
13 Why do you forget the Lord, who made you, who stretched out the sky and founded the earth? Why do you constantly tremble all day long at the anger of the oppressor, when he makes plans to destroy? Where is the anger of the oppressor?
14 The one who suffers will soon be released; he will not die in prison, he will not go hungry.
15 I am the Lord your God, who churns up the sea so that its waves surge. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

Zion’s Time to Celebrate
16 I commission you as my spokesman; I cover you with the palm of my hand, to establish the sky and to found the earth, to say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”
17 Wake up! Wake up! Get up, O Jerusalem! You drank from the cup the Lord passed to you, which was full of his anger! You drained dry the goblet full of intoxicating wine.
18 There was no one to lead her among all the children she bore; there was no one to take her by the hand among all the children she raised.
19 These double disasters confronted you. But who feels sorry for you? Destruction and devastation, famine and sword. But who consoles you?
20 Your children faint; they lie at the head of every street like an antelope in a snare. They are left in a stupor by the Lord’s anger, by the battle cry of your God.
21 So listen to this, oppressed one, who is drunk, but not from wine!
22 This is what your Sovereign Lord, even your God who judges his people says: “Look, I have removed from your hand the cup of intoxicating wine, the goblet full of my anger. You will no longer have to drink it.
23 I will put it into the hand of your tormentors who said to you, ‘Lie down, so we can walk over you.’ You made your back like the ground, and like the street for those who walked over you.”