The Scriptorium

Look to Abraham

Look back and remember, look ahead and believe.

Good News!: Isaiah 51.1-52.12 (1)

Pray Psalm 143.5, 6.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
I spread out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You like a thirsty land.

Read Isaiah 51.1-3.


1. To whom does God point His people? Why?

2. God tells His people to look back, then to look forward. What’s the connection?

If you say you are seeking the Lord, and if you want to live righteously, then you have to look back to Abraham, and the promises God made to him (vv. 1, 2).

Why? With Abraham (Abram) God first put His covenant into definite terms. He made six extraordinary promises to Abram in Genesis 12.1-3, and all the subsequent history of Israel from Abram to Isaiah has been a record of God’s faithfulness. What God says He will do, He does. And even when His people do not listen to Him, He cannot fail to keep His own Word. The people who will not listen to their God will suffer the discipline promised in God’s covenant, as the people of Isaiah’s day would. But the promises and blessings God has made continue, even to the followers of Christ today (cf. Rom. 4.13-17).

The better we understand those promises, and the more consistent we are in living toward them, the more we will realize the blessings God has for us in all His Word. Just as God blessed Abraham with a numerous people and kings to rule them, God will keep all His Word, and those who trust Him will be blessed (Is. 9.6, 7; Dan. 7.13, 14).

So when God promises to comfort His people and to return them to His goodness and gladness (v. 3), the people of God must believe Him, and not go moping and whining and despairing to Babylon, but with their eyes on the promised salvation of the Lord, accepting His discipline with joy, and continuing to seek His promises by obeying all His Word.

And that holds true for all the people of God today.

1. Meditate on Genesis 12.1-3. How would you explain each of the six promises God offers here?

2. What does it mean to “live toward” those promises? What would it have meant for the people of Israel, facing captivity in Babylon? What does it mean for you? 

3. How would you summarize, in terms relevant to your own experience, the salvation God promises His people in verse 3? Is this the salvation you experience? Explain.

He is leaving aside the unbelievers here in order to address those who have believed: it is to them that he gives the name of enamored with God and with righteousness. He comforts them because they are few in number and invites them to turn their eyes toward their ancestors: he reminds them of Abraham and Sarah and the many thousands of descendants who came from them. This is similar to the term expressed in the divine Gospels: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It is the same here. Theodoret of Cyr (393-566 AD), Commentary on Isaiah 16.51.1

Lord, hold out Your promises before me today, and help me to live toward them as I…

Pray Psalm 143.
As you pray, think back on all that God has done for you, and all that He promises yet to do. Make your requests to God and renew your commitment to Him for this day.

Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 143 (Divinum Mysterium: Of the Father’s Love Begotten)
Hear my earnest prayer, O Lord!  Give ear to my pleas for grace!
In Your faithfulness and righteousness, look upon me with Your face!
Enter not to judgment with Your servant, Lord, with Your loving servant, Lord:
None can stand before Your Word.

See, the enemy pursued my soul; he has crushed and cast me down.
He has made me sit in darkness, Lord, like those dead and in the ground.
Thus my spirit faints within me, Lord, faints within my weary soul,
And my heart is no more whole.

I recall the days of old; on Your works I meditate – 
all the wonders of Your mighty hand, works both small, O Lord, and great.
Lord, my thirsty soul cries out to You! To You, Lord, I reach my hand
In a dry and weary land.

Answer quickly, O my Lord!  Do not hide from me Your face!
For my spirit fails and I am like those who do not know Your grace.
In the morning let me hear Your steadfast love; Lord I trust You, show my way!
I lift up my soul and pray!

Rescue me from all my enemies!  Lord, I refuge seek in You.
Let me know Your will, O Lord my God; make me know what I must do.
Let Your Spirit lead me on to level ground; save my life!  Preserve my soul!
Rescue, Lord, and make me whole!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore