The Book of Isaiah
GOD HAS NOT DIVORCED ISRAEL
Text: ISAIAH 50
1. A number of years ago I was talking to a Christian who believed that it was permissible for Christians to divorce and remarry.
2. I quoted for him Malachi 2:15 and 16, “Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away.”
3. He responded by saying that God Himself divorced Israel. I have heard this argument before and I do believe this is a misunderstanding of Scripture.
4. In Isaiah 49:15 and 16, God says to Israel, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”
5. This is not the language of divorce!
6. The apostle Paul says in Romans 11:2, “God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.”
7. The people of Israel thought that God had abandoned them to exile (49:24—26). God had to explain to them that this was not a divorce, but a separation. The Bible teaches that Israel has been set aside.
8. There is a difference between separation and divorce. There have been times I have had to advise women to separate from their wicked husbands, but I have never advised them to file for divorce.
9. Sometimes when a godly woman separates from a wicked husband, he will come to his senses and get right with God. Separation leaves the door open for reconciliation. Divorce slams the door shut.
10. Sometimes it is the godly husband who has been badly mistreated by an ungodly wife. This is what we see here in the book of Isaiah (and it is the theme of the book of Hosea also).
11. In the OT, Israel represents the wayward and rebellious wife of Jehovah.
12. In the NT, the church is pictured as the bride of Christ. The apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 11:2, “For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
I. GOD EXPLAINS THE REASON FOR THE SEPARATION
1. Chapter 50 begins with the LORD demanding “the bill of your mother’s divorcement whom I have put away” (50:1).
2. Notice the words, “put away.” But Malachi 2:16 says God hates “putting away.” God would never do something He says is hateful and wrong.
3. Our Lord said in Matthew 19:8, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”
4. In other words, in the beginning God intended one man and one woman to marry and stay together. But Israel abused God’s institution of marriage, and men began divorcing their wives and marrying multiple wives.
5. Therefore, in order to protect the wives, God established guidelines. But our Lord said this was only because of “the hardness of your hearts” (Matt. 19:8).
6. “But from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8).
7. The reference to the law of Moses is Deuteronomy 24:1—4.
8. Jeremiah 3:8 does say that “backsliding Israel committed adultery” and God “had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce.”
9. However Jer. 3:14 says, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” This tells us that the separation is temporary and that it was always God’s intention to bring Israel back.
10. In any event, the emphasis in Isaiah 50 (and all throughout the book of Jeremiah) is that Israel caused the separation by her backsliding – “your iniquities…your transgressions” (50:1b).
11. God still considered Himself Israel’s husband (Isa. 54:5; 62:5).
12. God called but they would not answer (50:2). It was Israel’s unbelief that caused the separation.
II. GOD SENT HIS SON TO SAVE THEM – AND US (50:4ff).
1. Isaiah 50:10 refers to the LORD’S “servant.” There are four “Servant songs” in the book of Isaiah.
2. We have already studied two of them (cf. 42:1-4; 49:1-6). The fourth is the beloved 52:13-53:12.
3. This “servant” (Jesus) has been given “the tongue of the learned” (50:4). Our Lord said in John 7:16, “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me.”
4. Verse 5 refers to our Lord’s perfect obedience.
5. In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).
6. Our Lord said in John 8:29, “And He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.”
7. Our Lord said in John 15:10, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.”
8. Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
9. Referring to Psalm 40:8, Hebrews 10:7 says, “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do Thy will, O God.”
10. Hebrews 5:8 says, “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.”
11. Hebrews 5:8 says Christ “learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” The sufferings of Christ are referred to here in Isaiah 50:6. I remember years ago reading an odd tract against beards, and the author claimed that Christ did not have a beard, just a few little hairs that were plucked off!
12. By the way, plucking off a man’s beard was a supreme insult in the ancient Biblical world. In II Samuel 10:4 we read that the king of Ammon “took David’s servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away.”
13. Then the next verse says, “the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return” (II Sam. 10:5).
14. Isaiah 50:6 was fulfilled at the cross. Matthew 26:67 says, “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands.”
15. Matthew 27:30 says, “And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.”
16. Mark 14:65 says, “And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.”
17. Our Lord Himself had predicted all of this. He said to His disciples in Luke 18:31-33, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again.”
18. It is a terrible insult to spit in a man’s face. Job said, “They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my face” (Job 30:10).
19. But to actually spit in the face of the sinless Son of God!?
20. Isaiah 50:6 says, “I gave my back to the smiters.” Matthew 27:26 says our Lord was scourged.
21. When we consider our Lord’s humanity, we should consider Luke 4:14, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit.” Christ Himself said in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”
22. If the perfect, sinless Son of God needed the Spirit of God upon Him, how much more do we? Isaiah 50:7-9 reminds us of our Lord’s dependence upon God the Father.
23. If our Lord needed to depend upon God the Father, how much more do we? The Hebrew name for “LORD God” is “Jehovah Adonai,” and this means “Sovereign LORD.”
24. We must trust God in everything. We must obey God in everything (cf. Isa. 50:10b).
25. The “darkness” in Isaiah 50:10 does not refer to the darkness of sin, but the darkness of testing. Sometimes believers face moments of gloom and despondency. It is then that we must trust God even more.
III. THOSE WHO REJECT GOD’S SON ARE HEADING FOR DESTRUCTION (50:11).
1. Those who reject Christ are heading for a certain destruction (50:11).
2. Wicked sinners do not realize that fooling with sin is like kindling a fire (50:11). Isaiah 9:18 says, “For wickedness burneth as the fire.”
3. It can come to no good – only sorrow and judgment (50:11b).
4. Jeremiah 3:25 says, “We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.”
1. The Christian can lie down knowing that if he were to die he would be with the Lord in heaven.
2. Augustus M. Toplady put it this way:
3. But the unbeliever has no such hope. He “lies down in sorrow” and then slips off into the fires of hell.