Isaiah speaks the words of this scripture to Israelite captives in Babylon to keep them from wimping out on a return to the Promised Land. He was making reference to earlier events that occurred after their ancestors were led out into the desert away from slavery in Egypt (you know, the story of Moses and all that). Anyway, in that thirsty land God provided water to sustain them until they arrived to a land flowing with milk and honey. The point is that if God provided for them in the past then he would do so again at this time of release from Babylonian captivity and return to the land of Israel - so don't get scared and wimp out here!
This is Israelite history… and Christian metaphor. Isaiah speaks of the past and prophecies about the future savior (and no... he was certainly not referring to BARACK OBAMA). Jesus Christ is the rock of our salvation that was smote and from him comes living water that sustains us in the spiritual desert.
Here are the scriptures about the two events that Isaiah was making reference to:
Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink. “So
Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.
Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water
gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
And they thirsted not when He led them through the deserts: He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: He clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out. There is no peace, saith the Lord unto the wicked.
And if you have any doubt about whether or not the Isaiah passage refers to Christ, consider the passage in its entirety, without the chapter and verse divisions that scholars later put in scripture. Continuing Isaiah provides more prophetic words about the Messiah whose coming was hidden. Through himself, Isaiah points to the Messiah that would come about 700 years later. The second part of the following verses are sometimes entitled “The Servant, the Light to the Gentiles”. It is this part that I will talk about in great detail.
Isaiah 48:21 - 49:2
And they thirsted not when He led them through the deserts: He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: He clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out. There is no peace, saith the Lord unto the wicked.Listen, O coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar! The Lord has called Me from the womb; From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name. And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me, and made Me a polished shaft; in His quiver He has hidden Me. And He said to me, “You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
We are talking about an arrow here, a special arrow. The wood that those guys had for making arrows was rough and knotty - they did not have our modern day choices for wood or equipment found in a wood shop. Back then an archer in this part of the world would select an arrow and make it his best by straightening and smoothing it with oil and a hard object like a stone. To polish an arrow was a long and delicate work. When finished this was his special arrow, to be used when the shot mattered most. This arrow has been… anointed with oil. Messiah means anointed one.
Genesis 3:15 records that God “called” for this special arrow when speaking to Satan about the seed of Eve - "...he shall crush thy head...". God called for a hero to be born that would crush evil. This “womb” and “matrix of my mother” began with Eve. So, humanity would provide the wood for this special arrow. At the time of the Great Flood the metaphorical wood was on Noah’s ark, but it was not in the timbers of the ark – it was in the blood of the people on that boat! Specifically, it was in a certain son of Noah named Shem. From him came Abraham, father of the Israelites. The metaphorical wood for making the arrow had been gathered into the Israelites. And the metaphorical wood of that people was anointed with oil and worked over by the hand of God – like in the making of a polished arrow. The oil was the Spirit of God. The hard object was… the world. Then God concentrated his work in the tribe of Judah and later in the bloodline of King David. So, it took a long time before God “made me a polished shaft” - and it was ready at the point of Mary.
In the “shadow of his hand” God had “hid” the work. The polished shaft was being made and hidden in God’s “quiver” - which was the nation of Israel. God had other arrows before Jesus: Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, the Prophets, etc. But the polished shaft, the anointed one, was the Messiah.
Hey, you skipped something!
Yeah, that part that reads "made my mouth like a sharp sword" has not been talked about yet. Just like the making of a polished arrow, the making of a sharp sword is a long and delicate process. At the point of Christ, indeed his mouth had been "made" like a sharp sword. But we must realize that the things Christ said had been MADE sharp by the things God said before, down through time. The word of God was spoken long before he took on human form with a mouth. To say that this part of the scripture just relates to the things that Christ said does not tell the whole story. There is so much more. I would have to post the entire Bible to detail all the things that made the mouth of Christ like a sharp sword. But I will not do that because I think you... get the point.
Finally, the part about "My servant, O Israel" verifies the things that are written here and ties it all together - Israel served God by bringing forth the Messiah.