Covenant Reformed News
August 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 16
The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (3)
In the last two issues of the News and in this issue and the next, we are considering this glorious prophecy of Isaiah: “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” (51:1-3).
In last month’s News, we drew attention to the word “alone” in Isaiah 51:2: “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” In order to understand the significance of the little word “alone,” let us consider the life of Abraham as recorded in Genesis 11-25, in connection with God’s covenant with the patriarch and his seed.
Abraham was an idolater in Ur of the Chaldees (Josh. 24:2). There were many idolaters in that city, but Isaiah 51:2 states that God “called him alone.” “But what about Terah, Abraham’s father?” someone might object. Abraham was the one who was principally called (Acts 7:2-3) and his father merely accompanied him. Terah never even reached the promised land, for he died in Haran (Gen. 11:32). “But what about Lot, Abraham’s nephew?” Though he made it to Canaan, Lot left Abraham (Gen. 13; 19).
God promised Abraham that He would multiply his seed, so that they would be as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the sand on the beach. Jehovah would make of Abraham a great and mighty nation, and all of the families of the earth would be blessed in him.
There was just one problem! Abraham was an old man—too old to beget children—and Sarah was an old woman—too old to bear children.
Yet whom did God call out of Ur? Just one man—not many men—and that when he and his wife were past having children. As Romans 4:19 puts it, “his own body [was] now dead” (as regards having children) and there was also the barrier of “the deadness of Sara’s womb.”
The rest of the Abrahamic narrative develops this theme. Time and time again, God repeats His promise to Abraham of a vast number of children as his descendents. We read of Abraham’s unbelieving and sinful arrangement with Hagar and the birth of Ishmael, with all the grief that caused (Gen. 16). Finally, Abraham and Sarah have a boy! She was 90 and he was 100. They called their son, Isaac, which means laughter!
Even then, God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, in order to test and purify the old man’s faith (Gen. 22). Later, Abraham’s servant goes to great lengths to obtain a godly bride for Isaac, lest he marry a pagan girl from Canaan (Gen. 24).
Let us now think of this narrative and subsequent history in terms of numbers. Abraham and Sarah are first introduced as two dry sticks, as you might say. After many years and various wrong turns, the chosen son, Isaac, is born, of whom God said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Rom. 9:7; Gen. 21:12; Heb. 11:18). Later, elect and beloved Jacob is born to Isaac and Rebekah, along with his twin, reprobate Esau, whom God hated (Rom. 9:13). Jacob has twelve sons. When they marry and have children, his family numbers seventy. At the time of the exodus from Egypt, Israel consists of more than two million. In the reigns of David and Solomon, Abraham’s descendents are even more numerous.
Now we can understand the text: “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (Isa. 51:1). That is, consider your origin, consider your origin historically, consider your origin historically in Abraham and Sarah: “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you” (2).
Now think about the three verbs in the remainder of verse 2: “for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” God “called” Abraham with the effectual call to salvation in Jesus Christ in the promised land. Jehovah “blessed” him with covenant blessings according to His covenant promises. The Almighty “increased” Abraham so that that one man’s seed grew to seventy and even to millions. This is a wonder of grace! The whole inspired narrative underscores repeatedly and in vivid ways the amazing truth that God alone did it and not man, to whom this was impossible.
Thus the message to Isaiah’s readers, heart-broken over the smouldering ashes of Jerusalem, is that God has multiplied His people from very small beginnings before. He can do it again and He will do it again!
Those who believe this promise are the true children of Abraham (for they follow in their father’s footsteps) and chips off the old block, so to speak, for God “is able of ... stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matt. 3:9). Just like us believing Gentiles!
This then is the connection between verses 1 and 2 of Isaiah 51: “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn” (1), that is, “Look unto Abraham your father” (2). This is not in conflict with looking to the living God in Jesus Christ, as we are commanded to do in Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else,” for six chapters later we are also exhorted, “Look unto Abraham your father” (51:2).
The call to look at Abraham does not mean that he is the object of our faith, as if we are saved by believing in the patriarch. Rather, we look at Abraham to see what God did for him in Jesus Christ. This is a standing lesson to the church, for just as Abraham was once numerically small, so God blesses His church by increasing her.
Next time, we will conclude our study of Isaiah 51:1-3 by looking more closely at the beautiful promise of verse 3 and how the whole passage is fulfilled.
Rev. Angus Stewart
- Volume: 15
- Issue: 16
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