Our passage for study is a prayer for Zion and contains a fore-shadowing of glorious fulfillment. In prophecy, Jerusalem was often called Zion. Zion was originally the name of the hill on which the citadel stood, or even possibly the name of the fortress itself. In the face of the disintegration of both the Northern and Southern kingdoms, Jerusalem faced ruin. So, Isaiah sets out to tell his fellow countrymen of a time when Zion would be great again - blessed and at peace. During the time of the restoration of Israel, many Jews returned from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem. Yet, clearly the fulfillment of Isaiah's words is something beyond what was a limited restoration of national life. The glory of Zion finds its fulfillment, not in political power, but in the birth of Jesus; he is faithful Israel and upon him God's blessings are bestowed. Jesus, representing the people of God, fulfills Isaiah's prophecy, such that he is "the Holy people", "redeemed", "sought after", the "city no longer deserted."
v6-7. The Lord has appointed spokesmen, "watchmen", to call out to him on behalf of Jerusalem. We are unsure who these "watchmen" are. They may be heavenly beings sent to protect Jerusalem in times of danger - an invisible guard around Zion. They may be the prophets who speak out for God's people. They may also be all those who pray for Zion. They will call out until the Lord establishes Zion in glory and makes her a praise throughout the earth.
v8-9. The Lord promises to never again allow marauders to plunder his people; He will protect them from the enemy, from the invader. In the coming day the people of Zion will enjoy the bounty of the land and celebrate this blessing in the presence of the Lord.
v10. Given that the Lord is about to bless Zion, the prophet calls on the inhabitants to prepare for the incoming of the exiles. The lost ones, the Jews of the dispersion, and the Gentile throng, will soon come to Zion. So, the inhabitants must go outside and get the entry-road prepared, banking up and clearing the entrance causeway, preparing a highway, a straight way, for the lost to come in; they must raise a standard for the exiles to flock to.
v11-12. 11a is possibly part of v10, the Lord's proclamation calling on the lost to return to Zion - the call of the gospel. If this is the case, then 11b-12 is an exhortation by the prophet for a general proclamation to be made to Jerusalem. They must proclaim that the Messiah, the "Saviour". is about to come to the people of God. In that day they will be called a "Holy People, the Redeemed... the Sought After." They will no longer be a deserted people. Zion will then be called "the City No Longer Deserted."
In our family album there is a photograph of a little old lady sitting in a rocking chair, her hair white and thin and pulled back into a bun. The scene is the front verandah of a small weatherboard cottage and gathered about is her family. It could be any family; it could be any Christmas day. So there they stand with knowing faces evidencing the passing of time.
I am told she is my great grandmother. I never really knew her, although I do remember being taken to visit her in her dying days. I did know my grandmother. She was ninety-nine years old when she died. Her hair was white too, and do you know she looked exactly the same as the lady in the photograph. Every Christmas we would stand behind her for a family photograph. One day I may be sitting where she sat, if I live that long.
I can remember when she would ride on the running board of dad's 39 Ford as we drove away form her little home. She was once a baby in the arms of that lady in the photograph, but in the end her skin was wrinkled and her eyes dimmed - flesh of my flesh.
The folly of life is to wither and die. What do you mean to me child of Bethlehem? Why do you come to me today to remind me of my mortality? Each Christmas I grow older and for some reason we must record it for posterity. Children are born and old ones pass away and fading photographs remind us of the quickening years. Was it not yesterday when I was the child in the photo?
In Jesus we are a "city no longer deserted", no longer a fading photograph. If we invite him he will take his place in the family photograph this Christmas; an unseen hand gently enfolding; a living presence denying the evidence of passing time. For God so loved the World that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The Messiah, Zion and the remnant of Israel, can all carry the title "the City No Longer Deserted." Explain why.