Covenant Reformed News
July 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 15
The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (2)
Rev. Angus Stewart, Covenant PRC, Ballymena, N.Ireland
“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody” (Isa. 51:1-3). This is the Word of God that we are studying in the News.
Those who are addressed in Isaiah 51:1-3 are described not only as those “that follow after righteousness,” as we saw in the last issue, but also as those “that seek the Lord” (1). They seek the Lord exclusively—no idols! They seek the Lord by faith alone, in the Messiah. They seek the Lord in His Word, in prayer and in His church. They seek the Lord with all their hearts, continually, sincerely, earnestly. They seek the Lord for all their salvation and peace.
This is what the Lord says to such people: “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord” (1). Jehovah is saying, in effect, “Listen to Me, for you alone are the ones who are troubled by the desolation and fewness of the church, and you alone will be comforted by what I say to you in My Word. The ungodly, who lack faith, will not be consoled by My promises, but you who seek Me and My glory and righteousness will be.” This is true, beloved, not only back then when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, but also for us now who are grieved for the weakness and smallness of the true church in our day.
Isaiah begins to pour in the comfort by taking them to a quarry, of all places: “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (1)! I say “quarry” because this verse speaks of a “pit” or, more precisely, “the hole of the pit” from which comes a “rock” which is “hewn.” A “pit” that contains “rock” which is “hewn” is called a quarry.
But you understand that this is not a literal, physical quarry, for the text says, “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (1). People are not manually chiselled from a flinty rock dug from a quarry on the side of a hill.
So what is this picture getting at? Origin! Let us say that you see a stone bust of an important person or an obelisk made of smooth marble. Where did these materials come from? What is their origin? A rock, a rock from a pit or quarry.
The phrase is almost proverbial in English: “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (1). “Look back to where you came from! Consider your origins! This will help you, O My people,” says the Almighty.
So what was the origin of Israel? We are not here referring to their sinful and shameful beginnings. Ezekiel 16:3-5 describes that graphically: “Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite. And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.”
Titus 3:3 is a portrait of us before our conversion to Christ: “For we ourselves also were sometimes [i.e., once or formerly] foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Ephesians 2 described us as “dead in trespasses and sins” (1), walking after the ungodly world and Satan (2), and “fulfilling the desires” and “lusts” “of the flesh and of the mind” (3).
We are not here speaking either of the origin of Israel in Jehovah’s eternal decree, whereby He elected Israel in Jesus Christ before the world began, and loved and pitied her in His sovereign grace (Deut. 7:6-7; Ps. 135:4-6).
The origin of Israel here is her origin in history (not in her original sin or eternal election). Where did it all start? What was the quarry from which she was hewn in history? Abraham and Sarah! “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you” (Isa. 51:2). “O, My afflicted people, you should go back to Genesis,” says the Lord, “back to Genesis 11-25, back to Genesis for the genesis (or beginning) of Israel in father Abraham to comfort you in your present distress.”
But what is the key thing said about Abraham here? Remember that the Abrahamic narrative is lengthy—some 15 chapters. It contains many important points or lessons.
What is the one crucial aspect that unlocks this Word of God in Isaiah 51? Is it justification: “[Abraham] believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6)? This is vital: vital for the whole gospel and vital for the Reformation. The Apostle Paul elaborates on this truth, especially in Romans 4 and Galatians 3. However, it is not the idea here.
What about circumcision? It was given to Abraham and his seed in Genesis 17, explained theologically in Romans 4 and Colossians 2, and replaced by baptism in the New Testament era (Belgic Confession 34). But the connection between Abraham and circumcision is not the idea in Isaiah 51.
Our text does not even highlight Abraham’s faithfulness, as an example to us, or his life of pilgrimage, important though this is (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16).
Read Isaiah 51:2 very carefully: “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” There is one word that is crucial here. Do you know what it is? It is the little word “alone.” But this will have to wait for explanation in the next issue of the News.
- Volume: 15
- Issue: 15
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851