Isaiah part 36, The Redemption of Israel (42:18-44:23), part 2Posted: Fri. Mar, 19 2021
It has been two months since our last article on Isaiah. The church flood had a lot to do with this delay, but I’m happy to get back on track. Perhaps the break was a needed vacation, as this amazing, in depth, and large book can seem overwhelming. We will finish it, and we will find it to be particularly pertinent to our present experience of living in an eroding nation. All kingdoms erode from within, and Isaiah presents Jesus as our King (chapters 1-37). All leaders of these nations promise deliverance to better times, and Isaiah presents Jesus as our only Savior (chapters 38-55). And it can sometimes seem like evil people are going to triumph and get away with it all; that good is doomed to be conquered, and Isaiah presents Jesus as the one Conqueror (chapters 56-66).
In our current work in the Book of the Servant (Savior) we have found consolation to both the world and to Israel after the sometimes terrifying and other times depressing oracles in the Book of the King which concerned the history of nations; their sin, and their judgment. Interspersed among these oracles were precious promises to Israel and the nations of deliverance or salvation by the hand of the grace of God. Now the Servant of Yavah enters Isaiah’s stage, humble and meek, sent to save because He would delight the Father in total obedience. It is a wonderful mystery (now resolved in the New Testament) that the sheep would wander far off the path of righteousness, but it is not the sheep, rather, their perfect and all powerful Shepherd would Himself be “cut off” (DAN 9:26) and smitten by God’s sword (ZEC 13:7).
God consoled the world and Israel in 40:1-42:17, ending that section with the first presentation of His Servant (42:1-9); the first Servant Song.
To know the Lord must deliver His people is a deeper truth than knowing that he will do so. In this section, like we summarized in part 1 (last blog) the national and spiritual redemption is presented.
Look again at Israel’s sin
Who gave Jacob up for spoil, and Israel to plunderers?
Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned,
And in whose ways they were not willing to walk,
And whose law they did not obey?
When difficult times arise, most people ask why and seldom ask who. Vs. 24 “Who gave Jacob up for spoil?” People most often look for factors of circumstance rather than the fact that they are always dealing with a Who. There is a what, but it is the answer to the status of our relationship with the Who. Sin, not following, not obeying is what ends us in circumstances that we cannot bear. The solution is simple. The prophet will present it in this section. “Return to Me.” (ISA 44:22)
In 42:18-25, God would discipline Israel for her apostasy. Israel was blind and deaf and disobedient to a perfect law. And then immediately after, the Lord comforts them. He has redeemed them. He would do so through the Servant in 42:1-4 who will faithfully bring forth justice.
Look further, “I have redeemed you.”
“The doctrine taught [in chapter 43] is that their segregation from the rest of men, as a peculiar people, was an act of sovereignty, independent of all merit in themselves, and not even intended for their benefit exclusively, but for the accomplishment of God’s gracious purposes respecting men in general.” [J. A. Alexander, The Later Prophecies of Isaiah]
ISA 43:1, 3, 5
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
3 For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior
5 Do not fear, for I am with you;”
There is more to things than we can see. We see good people and bad, but we know that all have sinned. We read of good kings like David and terrible ones like Ahab, and still we know that all of them have sinned. We know the kingdom of Israel began at Sinai just months after being freed from the clutches of Egypt, failed to do what God called them to do and they perished. Yet, we also know that Israel will be saved. There are the believers in Israel, the very good, the less good, and the bad. How many, we haven’t a clue. In the manner of Nicodemus, we ask, “How can these things be?” There is more to life, history, and the future than we can define, count, or see. God confounds the ablest theologians who seek to define everything revealed. God is in the midst of it all doing marvelous and gracious things. No man deserves anything from Him, yet many men will be saved and made sons of glory. Salvation is by grace and through faith. It is not of works. And still, we cannot count the saved, or determine who they are or might be. We can know of ourselves, our own faith, and perhaps a few others whom we come to know well, but other than them, we can only marvel at the supernatural grace and power of God.
Then, God brags, “Who else could have done this?”
Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes,
And the deaf, even though they have ears.
9 All the nations have gathered together
In order that the peoples may be assembled.
Who among them can declare this
And proclaim to us the former things?
Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified,
Or let them hear and say, "It is true."
The answer is obvious, but the delivered must not set their own eyes only on the ones who cannot see. It is easy to focus on the ignorance and sin of those who reject God, and marvel at them while we judge them. But more so, we must see the work of our Sovereign Lord who will accomplish all His good will. What, in fact, may be implied in vs. 8, is that the blind and the deaf brought forth will see and hear by God’s doing. Jesus illustrated this literally, most especially in the man born blind. “I was blind, but now I see!” God tells blind Israel, “Look! I can and will do it all.” It would be foolish to tell a blind man to “look,” unless you healed him.
"You are My witnesses," declares the Lord,
"And My servant whom I have chosen,
In order that you may know and believe Me,
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
11 "I, even I, am the Lord;
And there is no savior besides Me.
12 "It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed,
And there was no strange god among you;
So you are My witnesses," declares the Lord,
"And I am God.
13 "Even from eternity I am He;
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it?"
Then God proves His ability with something that they who read Isaiah’s oracle will see. Babylon the great will be torn down. Following this, God promises that He is going to make something new. God’s “new” is always something unusual, here depicted by rivers in the desert.
Thus says the Lord your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
"For your sake I have sent to Babylon,
And will bring them all down as fugitives,
Even the Chaldeans, into the ships in which they rejoice.
15 "I am the Lord, your Holy One,
The Creator of Israel, your King."
“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.”
Still, in this hearing there are many in Israel who do not believe, despite all they have seen and known of the past glories of Yavah. This indictment against the unbelieving is at the same time a call unto them to believe.
“Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob;
But you have become weary of Me, O Israel.”
So many in Israel didn’t love Him, and God longed for it so that their hearts would be made full in a love relationship with Him, but instead they burdened God.
“You have bought Me no sweet cane with money,
Neither have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices;
Rather you have burdened Me with your sins,
You have wearied Me with your iniquities.”
Yet, even after this heartbreaking rejection, God will still redeem them. He will still offer salvation to the obstinate and stiff-necked. While they have time, they still can believe and join the future nation established in God’s New Covenant.
“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.”
Chapter 44 continues to proclaim the great salvation that God will bring to the people and the land, making all things new - a New Covenant that they will not be able to break, the spiritual aspects of which the church now enjoys.
'For I will pour out water on the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring,
And My blessing on your descendants;
And, coming full circle, God again proclaims His sovereign power. He will bring the world to His desired end, a glorious kingdom of righteous men. It is His purpose to do it and He will do it. Who is going to stop Him. “I know of none.”
"Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
'I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me.
7 'And who is like Me?
Let him proclaim and declare it;
Yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
From the time that I established the ancient nation.
And let them declare to them the things that are coming
And the events that are going to take place.
8 'Do not tremble and do not be afraid;
Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?
And you are My witnesses.
Is there any God besides Me,
Or is there any other Rock?
I know of none.'"
Following this, God presents the folly of man to man. God uses a simple reasoning or proof. It is as sure as a mathematical certainty. The man who refuses to worship Him cuts down a tree and out of the same trunk he sets aside half to construct an idol to which he bows down and worships, and uses the other half for firewood to heat his home and cook his food. To the same piece of wood he serves worship and also uses it in the service of his basic needs. He fails to see the irony and illogic; neither does he see that he worships something that he himself has constructed.
And no one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, "I have burned half of it in the fire, and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!"
Still God appeals to their conscience and reason. God has made them and the earth from which the trees and their own bodies came. God’s creation is ex nihilo (out of nothing), not like the idol they spent days crafting, for they didn’t make the tree, nor the iron for the tool that cuts it down, nor the bones and muscles within themselves that swings the axe.
The prophecies, the warnings, the admonishments, the proofs and declarations are all important. God pleads with them to remember it all.
“Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.”
And then to know that He has redeemed them. God repeats this like a Father begging a wayward son to come home. “Believe all that I have said to you. Believe in Me and come home.”
“I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud,
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."
23 Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it!
Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth;
Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it;
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob
And in Israel He shows forth His glory.”
In 43:1 God uses the word formed (yasar), which is an intimate word (GEN 2:7). As we said, God is going to bring Israel and the whole world to His desired end. “Thus says the Lord … Who formed you, O Israel,” (43:1; 44:24) indicates painstaking care whereby every circumstance of life is weighed and measured to give exactly the right pressure of the potter’s hand so that the finished vessel will match His specifications. And, as God has said so many times, He is holy (43:14-15), making certain that there must be a spiritual renewal if a national renewal is to stand before the Holy One.
To Him be all praise and glory,
Pastor Joe Sugrue