The Joy of Zion
1 Awake, awake!
Clothe yourself in strength, O Zion.
Put on your glorious garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city.
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
will no longer enter you.
2 Shake off the dust from yourself and rise up
O captive Jerusalem.
Remove the chains from your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.
3 For thus says the Lord:
You were sold for nothing
and you will be redeemed without money.
4 Then the Lord God continues:
Long ago my people went down to Egypt
and settled there as aliens;
the Assyrians also oppressed them without cause.
5 Therefore, says the Lord,
what should now be done?
My people have been carried off without cause;
their rulers boast triumphantly,
and my name is constantly reviled
throughout the day, declares the Lord.
6 Therefore, on that day,
my people will know my name
and understand that it is I who say:
Here I am!
7 How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who bears good news and proclaims glad tidings,
announcing salvation and saying to Zion,
“Your God is king.”
8 Listen! Your watchmen raise a cry
and together they shout for joy,
for with their own eyes they clearly behold
the return of the Lord to Zion.
9 Burst forth together with songs of joy,
you ruins of Jerusalem.
For the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations.
All the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.
11 Depart, depart! Leave that place behind!
Touch nothing that is unclean.
Go forth from its midst and purify yourselves,
you who carry the vessels of the Lord.[a]
12 But you need not rush forth in haste,
nor should you take flight like fugitives.
For the Lord will go before you,
and your rear guard will be the God of Israel.
Humiliation and Triumph of the Lord’s Servant[b]
13 Behold, my servant will prosper;
he will be exalted and raised to great heights.
14 Just as many people recoiled at the sight of him—
he was so disfigured
that he no longer appeared to be human—
15 so will he startle many nations,
and kings will be speechless before him.
For they will see what they had not been told,
and they will contemplate
what they had not previously heard.
- Isaiah 52:11 Cyrus restored the sacred vessels of the temple, “the vessels of the house of the Lord” (Ezr 1:7-11).
- Isaiah 52:13 The song turns into a kind of dialogue in which two divine oracles frame the reflections of people astounded by what happens to the Servant.
But who is this suffering Servant? We have already seen his mysterious face in three other poetic compositions (Isa 42:1-7; 49:19a; 50:4-11). We think spontaneously of a wise man or a prophet, a man of God who disagrees with his compatriots on their very ideas of God’s plan. For the Servant, the success of God’s plan means something quite different from political success. But the people could not tolerate this criticism of their all too human hopes. The prophet was mistreated and condemned to death (Isa 53:7-8).
But the Servant is also Israel, whose destiny the prophet embodies. The chosen people, contaminated by pagan forms of worship, was almost eradicated by the Exile. But it carries out its mission as a people that bears witness to God who chose it and is bringing it back to life; in the radiance of its resurrection, pagans will be able to recognize that the Lord of Israel is the living God who loves his people without ever changing his mind, the Savior of the human race.
The experience of the suffering Just One, whether prophet or people of God, highlights the fundamental law governing the history of salvation and every spiritual life: the power of God is manifested in human weakness. What a paradox: the Servant succeeds where Cyrus failed, because salvation comes not from battles but from martyrdom!