Isaiah 51: 1-2, 7, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham. . .When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many. . . Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have my law in your hearts: Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults.”
Exegesis and Application
There is much in this brief passage which is intended to encourage Christians in the midst of an unbelieving and hostile culture or occupation. This passage is for those who “pursue righteousness,” “know what is right” and have God’s “law” in their hearts (cf, Is. 50:10, “who among you fears the LORD”).
There are three points which I want to note:
1) Christians are cut from rock.
2) Christians are a minority but will be numerous enough to accomplish God’s will
3) Christians, as a minority, will face hostility but they must remember their heritage.
First, let’s look at the “rock” formation of Christian life. The “rock” imagery is explained in part in verse 2 as being descendents from Abraham, the rock of our faith. However, it must be more than that because there are clearer ways of expressing family heritage. While we are sons and daughters of the great Abraham and should therefore take courage and comfort in our family heritage, the “rock” imagery connotes all the characteristics of “hewn rock”: hard, tough, impermeable, grounded, foundational. Indeed, a complaint against the liars in Jeremiah 5:3 is that “their faces are harder than stone and they refused to repent” (cf, Zech. 7:12). Righteousness must be as stubborn as sin. It is our family heritage to be immovably faithful to the God of Abraham. Peter calls Christians “living stones” (1 Peter 2:4-8), and he should know since Jesus called him the “rock” foundation for the New Testament Church (Matt. 16:18). Most wonderfully, Jesus is called a “stone” (Ps. 188:22; Matt. 21:42; Eph. 2:20). This stone-like heritage of the Christian calls for cultural formation and stability which is worth further commentary in another blog.
Second, while God’s people are a minority they should not despair because God will increase their numbers to accomplish His will. Abraham was all alone and old when God promised Abram to increase his number, something that was hard for Abraham (and Sarai) to believe. But they did and a great nation was created (Genesis 15). So it may be with Christians in today’s post-Christian culture. While we don’t have the clear promise of a believing population explosion, we do have the promise from God that we will not be alone in His world (Hosea 1:10; Ez. 36:8-12; Zech. 8:4-8).
Third, Christians will face “reproach” and “insults” in society and the workplace but they must not be terrified by these verbal attacks. These verbal attacks are not probable but guaranteed. That is the language of the prophet here but it also makes perfect sense. Those who have rejected God will consider those who haven’t rejected God as evil (Is. 5:20-21). Furthermore, Peter tells us that unbelievers will abuse Christians as strangers if they don’t follow them into the “flood of dissipation” which characterizes their lives (1 Peter 4:4). So Isaiah is telling Christians to “man up” and deal with society’s hostility because they are going to get it whether they like it or not.
Christian journalists should prepare themselves not only professionally but also spiritually for the fight of their lives as they enter the fray of reporting and writing for a post-Christian culture. They must be equipped as competent professionals knowing how to do the job but also armed to be the rock of offense to a watching newsroom and society (Is. 8:14).