7 Listen to me, you who know righteousness,
people who have my teaching in their heart;
you must not fear the reproach of men,
or be terrified because of their abuse.
8 For a moth will eat them like garments;
a moth will devour them like wool,
but my righteousness will be forever,
and my salvation for ⌊generation after generation⌋.
Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Is 51:7–8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
7. Hearken to me. Because wicked men, when they enjoy prosperity, laugh at our faith, and ridicule our distresses and afflictions, on this account the Prophet exhorts believers to patience, that they may not dread their reproaches or be dismayed by their slanders. The reason assigned is, that their prosperity shall not be of long duration. Whatever may be their insolent boasting, they are already pronounced (verse 8) to be the food of moths and worms; while God holds in his hand the salvation of believers, from which they appear to be thrown to the greatest possible distance. Here we ought again to observe the repetition of the word Hearken. This is now the third time that the Lord demands a “hearing;” because, when we tremble with anxiety on account of our distresses, it is with the greatest difficulty that we rely on his promises, and therefore we need to be often roused and stimulated, till we have conquered every difficulty.
Ye that know righteousness. Here he does not address unbelievers, but those who “know righteousness;” because, though they do not intentionally reject the word of God, yet they often shut the door against his “righteousness,” so that it does not reach them, when, under the influence of adversity, they shut their ears and almost despair. In order therefore that they may receive the promises, and that they may admit consolation, the Prophet stirs up and arouses them.
A people in whose heart is my law. We must attend to the train of thought. First, he describes what kind of people the Lord wishes to have, namely, “those who know righteousness;” and next he explains what is the nature of this knowledge, that is, when the people have “the law” fixed and deeply rooted in their hearts. Without the word of the Lord there can be no “righteousness.” No laws of men, however well framed, will lead us to true righteousness, of which they may indeed give us a feeble idea, but which they never can justly describe. At the same time, he shews in what manner we ought to make progress in the law of the Lord; namely, by embracing it with the heart; for the seat of the law is not in the brain, but in the heart, that, being imbued with heavenly doctrine, we may be altogether renewed.
8. But my righteousness shall continually endure. Because the believing servants of God must endure many reproaches and slanders from the enemies of the word, the Prophet exhorts and encourages them to bear it courageously. It frequently happens that we are more deeply moved by the contumely and insults of men than by fire and sword; but we ought to reckon it praise and glory to be the object of their contempt and abhorrence. True valour springs from this consideration, that, although the world reject us as “filth and offscourings,” (1 Cor. 4:13,) God holds us in estimation; because we maintain the same cause with himself. Let us with Moses, therefore, “prefer the reproach of Christ to the treasures of the Egyptians.” (Heb. 11:26.) Let us rejoice with the Apostles, who “departed from the council glad and joyful, because they were accounted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:41.)
And my salvation for ever and ever. Because the death of wicked men would yield to us small consolation, if we were not saved, he shews what will be our condition, namely, that we shall never be left destitute of “God’s righteousness and salvation.” But the comparison may appear to be inappropriate, when he contrasts the destruction of the wicked with his righteousness. Far more clearly and suitably it might have been thus expressed: “though the reprobate indulge in mirth, yet they shall speedily perish; but believers, though they appear to be dead, shall live.” Again, because he makes no mention of us, and commends only the eternity of God’s righteousness, it may be objected, that to us who are almost overwhelmed this is of no avail. But by these words the Prophet instructs us, that in our afflictions we ought to seek consolation from the thought, that our health and salvation are, as it were, shut up in God; for, so long as men trust or rely on themselves, they cannot cherish any good hope that does not speedily decay; and therefore we ought to turn our hearts to God, whose “mercy endureth from everlasting to everlasting on them that fear him,” as David says, “and his righteousness to children’s children.” (Psalm 103:17.)
Because salvation is founded on the goodness of God, Isaiah reminds us of it, that men may be reduced to nothing, and that confidence may be placed in God alone. The meaning may be thus summed up, “Salvation is in God, that by it he may preserve, not himself, but us; righteousness is in God, that he may display it for our defence and preservation.” Accordingly, from the eternity of God’s “salvation and righteousness” we ought to infer that the servants of God cannot possibly perish; which agrees with the passage quoted a little before from David, “Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. The children of thy servants shall dwell, and their posterity shall be established for ever.” (Psalm 102:27, 28.) Thus we see how he applies this eternity to the children of God, who do not subsist in themselves, but in God, and have the foundation of their salvation in him.
7–8 These verses open with a call identical in substance, though not in language, with v. 1. Here, as in vv. 4–5, there is a close link between righteousness and the law of God, for the law publishes God’s right way for people. The heart is where God’s law should be (cf. Dt 30:14), and, of course, the new covenant pledges that it will be written there (Jer 31:31–34). The prophet assumes that the righteous in the land will experience antagonism from the wicked, which can be copiously illustrated from the Psalter and finds its ultimate illustration in human antagonism to the Christ-Servant of God. Like the visible universe (v. 8; cf. v. 6), the wicked will perish. The only abiding realities in God’s new order are his own righteousness and salvation. Verse 8b repeats this assurance from v. 6.
7–8 The call to listen in the third strophe combines something of the calls from each of the previous two. On the one hand the people are described as those who have a concern for ethical righteousness in the light of God’s revealed instruction (tôrâ). But they do not merely seek for this (v. 1)—they “know” it. God’s instruction is in their heart. Truly, these are God’s people (v. 4). As John the Baptist was to say many years later, God could raise up children of Abraham from the stones (Matt. 3:9); the issue is not genetics but obedience (for the same point, see Isa. 56:3–5). know and in their hearts are apt parallels, because the knowledge of which the Bible speaks is rarely an abstract knowledge, but rather a knowledge born of personal experience and behavior. So also, to take something to heart is not merely to feel warmly about that thing, but to act out that to which one is personally, deeply committed. Thus these are persons who have, in modern parlance, “internalized” the teachings of Scripture, persons for whom the whole of their lives is shaped by a glad determination to live out the life of God.34
As 50:10 made plain, such persons, fearing God and listening to his Servant, will certainly find themselves at odds with a fallen world. The reproach and the revilings of the world are stated not as possibilities but as givens. It cannot be otherwise. To those who have rejected God’s light, the biblical understanding of life is not just foolishness—it is evil (5:20–21). But given that fact, how are believers to cope with it? In one sense, this is what this entire segment has been about. When faced with the evil of the world, the seeming delay in the fulfillment of God’s promises, and the mockery and hatred of a sinful world, believers should remember the evidence of God’s faithfulness in history (vv. 1–3). They should recognize that God is not some local deity who is but a projection from creation; rather, he is the Creator, whose promises of salvation will outlast the cosmos (vv. 4–6), and they should know that those who reproach and revile them, like all that has not partaken of the permanence of God, are doomed to the slow destruction from which none who have made this world their God can ever escape.
Not only is the language here that of 50:9 (and 51:6), but so is the idea. Those who revile the Servant and accuse him of wrongdoing condemn themselves to a slow and certain destruction. Those who listen to (obey) the Servant may stand in the same relation to those who reproach them. By obeying him, they have come to partake of that righteousness which will be forever, and of that salvation which will be to every generation. dismayed (Heb. tēḥāttû) is the same root that was translated “rendered ineffectual” at the end of v. 6. The sense is of being neutralized, powerless. The believer need not be neutralized by the opposition of the passing world. Those who have made it and its gods ultimate have chosen the way of time: the moth and the insect. Those who have made God and his Servant ultimate have chosen the way of permanence, certainty, and joy.
51:7–8 / The third exhortation to listen introduces a third description of the audience. They are people who know tsedeq, people who recognize Yahweh’s saving intention, who know what is right. They are people who have received the revelation of Yahweh’s purpose, or law. Once again, the fact that Yahweh has to bid them to listen hints at a certain irony in the description, and the exhortation that follows underlines the irony. These people who know about that purpose and claim to believe in it are actually as fearful as other peoples (again, cf. 41:1–7). So the passage comes to a climax with a reminder of the exhortation not to be afraid, and of the reasons for confidence (cf. 41:8–16). As the reminder of Yahweh’s worldwide concern (vv. 4–6) takes up the concern of the testimony in 49:1–6, so this reminder of the possibility of standing firm under pressure also takes up the testimony in 50:4–9. The prophet has proved it is possible. The same theological considerations, the same promises, make it possible for them to stand firm as well. The argument from the future, the promise of what will be, complements the argument from the past found in verses 1–3.
Ver. 7.—Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness. The highest grade of faithfulness is here addressed—not those who “seek” (ver. 1), but those who have found—who “know righteousness,” and have the “law” of God in their “hearts.” Such persons may still be liable to one weakness—they may “fear the reproach of men.” The prophet exhorts them to put aside this fear, remembering (1) the nothingness of humanity, and (2) the eternity and imperishableness of God’s judgments.
Ver. 8.—The moth shall eat them (comp. ch. 50:9). If men themselves never wholly pass away (see the comment on ver. 6), yet it is otherwise with their judgments. These perish absolutely, disappear, and are utterly forgotten.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 4, pp. 72–74). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 790). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66 (pp. 338–339). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Goldingay, J. (2012). Isaiah. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (p. 294). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1910). Isaiah (Vol. 2, p. 260). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.