Isaiah 51 v17-23

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The Lord Takes Away the Cup of His Wrath

According to the 2022 US National Survey on Drug Use and Health NSDUH, 61.2 million people ages 12 and older (21.7% in this age group) reported binge drinking in the past month. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08%. This typically happens if a woman has four or more drinks, or a man has five or more drinks, within about 2 hours. Naturally, the person who consumes this much will be greatly impaired and will face both short term and long-term effects. The Lord compares the effects of his wrath over sin to the effects experienced by those who abuse alcohol. This section contains an extended metaphor depicting Jerusalem as a woman drunk from the cup of the Lord’s wrath.

51:17 The city of Jerusalem is depicted as a drunk woman who has drained every last drop she could get from the Lord’s wrath.  Review the history of ancient Israel leading up to Isaiah’s time to discuss how Jerusalem became a glutton for punishment.

  • They drank deeply from the cup of the Lord’s wrath.  It was the punishment and discipline of the Lord on them when Assyria and later Babylon came to conquer them.  They refused and refused to listen to the prophets sent to them over and over. They refused to take a lesson when Assyria came. They would not repent until they swaggered under the pains of the consequences of their sins.

Read John 3:19-20 and Ephesians 2:1-3 to see why this world is filled with sinners who are gluttons for punishment and keep on sinning even though they will suffer for it.

  • Eph 2:1-3 You were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2in which you formerly walked when you followed the ways of this present world. You were following the ruler of the domain of the air, the spirit now at work in the people who disobey. 3Formerly, we all lived among them in the passions of our sinful flesh, as we carried out the desires of the sinful flesh and its thoughts. Like all the others, we were by nature objects of God’s wrath.
  • John 3:19-20 This is the basis for the judgment: The light has come into the world, yet people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. 20In fact, everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, or else his deeds would be exposed.

51:18-20 When someone is habitually drunk friends or family must bear the load and take care of their basic needs. Describe the spiritual condition of the “family life” of Jerusalem in Isaiah’s time. Who is there to help pull things together?

  • Isaiah says that the children of Jerusalem are also all staggering and drunk from God’s wrath. This is a bleak picture for the people of Judah and Jerusalem.
  • Note, this is why God sends his gospel through his prophets and apostles, he still sends it today through mission work with evangelist, pastors and teachers.

51:21-23 The Lord has an important message for helpless Jerusalem. She is drunk with the wrath of the Lord. But he is going to turn around the situation himself. Find where these verses teach that salvation is by grace alone and through faith alone.

  • God announces something for Jerusalem to hear and believe (faith)
  • He announces that she is drunk from the cup of the Lord’s wrath, but he is taking it away from her (grace).
  • The rescue of a person who got drunk is a distinct picture of God’s rescue for helpless sinners.

Look ahead and read Isaiah 59:10-16 to get a preview of God’s view of his broken, helpless people.

  • The people are like those who stumble and grope in the dark… the Lord looked and saw that there was no one who could intervene… so his own arm worked salvation.

How is the promise “you will never drink it again” fulfilled in Christ?

  • They would wake from their stupor to find God turned his wrath unto their enemies.
  • The wonderful promise of never facing God’s wrath is fulfilled as Christ takes the wrath of God once for all and he forever has forgiven our sins and puts our enemies away.

Review Isaiah 51:17-23

This section uses a metaphor of drunkenness to depict God’s wrath over sin.  How might you use it to help someone who is struggling with the guilt of literal drunkenness?

  • It contains law, a warning for those staggering in their sin when the face the consequences.
  • But it also contains gospel, God has mercy on the people of Jerusalem and promises himself to take away their suffering and turn in on the real enemy (the devil and the unbelieving world.)

Compare this section with Isaiah 63:1-6 and Revelation 19:11-15 to see how it reaches final fulfillment in Christ.

  • Judgment day will be a day in which the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah, treads the winepress of God’s wrath on all his enemies.

Review Isaiah 51

God recounts and alludes to two major events in the history of the people of Israel as evidence that he is certain to carry out his future promises for them.  Review each one. Add what the New Testament church can look back upon as evidence of his powerful and faithful working for his Church.

  • God made Abraham who was so old into the father of a great nation and blessed him and his descendants.
  • God destroyed “Rahab” that great sea monster, namely, the nation of Egypt, and drowned it in the sea.
  • The NT church was promised that Christ would rise, and he did.  The NT church was told that it would face persecution and yet would continue to grow to all the ends of the earth. And it did by God’s grace.

Find the sections and phrases which describe the permanent aspect of the new creation.

  • 51:6 But my salvation will remain forever, and my righteousness will never be abolished
  • 51:8 But my righteousness will remain forever, and my salvation will last for all generations.
  • 51:11 Then those ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with a joyful shout, and everlasting joy will crown their heads. Happiness and joy will overtake them. Sorrow and sighing will flee away.
  • 51: 22 Never again will you drink from it (the cup of the Lord’s wrath)

A turnaround is described as taking place in this chapter.  In what ways will the tables be turned when God’s salvation comes?

  • The people who oppressed will no longer oppress; God will turn his wrath on them.  Those who rule will find this world comes to an end and God’s promised rest will never end.

This chapter began with a brief reminder of what made the people of Israel so exceptional 51:1-2. Their origins were miraculous.  Briefly recount what makes your nation, your family, or your local Christian congregation so exceptional in its formation and origin, but then explain how much greater and how much more exceptional it is for you to be part of God’s Church.