From Isaiah 42-44
Israel has sinned against the LORD and is now conquered by her enemies. Yet the LORD still has concern for his people. Recalling their past history together and relationship. The LORD steps in to redeem and save her. Finally he himself becomes their sin bearer. The one who will take away her sin and restore their relationship.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Today’s passage begins describing how the LORD has brought Israel back into relationship with himself. The day of atonement forms the background to this passage.
43 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.
5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isa 43.1-7)
‘But now’ the passage begins. Describing a new state of affairs. The LORD has punished his people and sent them into exile. ‘But now’ indicates a dramatic change will happen. Using imagery reminiscent of Israel deliverance from Egypt (Isa 43.2,6) the LORD says he will restore their relationship.
The LORD has created and formed Israel. He has redeemed and called Israel. He has saved Israel. The LORD promises to return Israel to the promised land.
The LORD says all this because Israel is precious in his eyes and honoured. The LORD will do these things because he loves Israel.
The LORD promises to bring back his people. Their sin will be atoned for. They will be bought back and thus become his possession.
8 Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!
9 All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true.
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.
11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.
12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God.
13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (Isa 43.8-13)
Israel is reminded again of her sin against the LORD. Despite this they are still the LORD’s people. His chosen servants. He is the one who saved Israel.
Besides the LORD there is no savior. He declares, saves and proclaims (cf. Acts 4.12).
The people of the LORD are his witnesses. They are witnesses to his saving acts and his word. They are witnesses to themselves and the nations around them.
14 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I send to Babylon and bring them all down as fugitives, even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice. 15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” (Isa 43.14-15)
In order to rescue Israel, the LORD promises to defeat the Babylonians. They will be conquered.
The LORD affirms this invoking his name and honour.
He is the Holy One of Israel, their creator and true King.
16 Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17 who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. (Isa 43.16-21)
“Having been introduced as the Holy One and King, the LORD is then identified with the God of the exodus, the one who brought Israel from Egypt. He exhorts his people to forget the former things and gives a whole new picture of the LORD. He has become, for the first time in Isaiah, the God of the exodus.” (Barker, M., 2003. Isaiah. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson, eds. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 529.)
22 “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel!
23 You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense. 24 You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.
25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isa 43.22-25)
Israel has not brought the LORD burnt offerings. This was one of the levitical sacrifices which atoned for sin and brought about forgiveness (Lev 1). They have instead burdened the LORD with their sins. Since they are not offering sacrifices to the LORD for their sins, the LORD must take action on his own.
The LORD will take the role of the sin bearer. He will perform the great atonement on behalf of his people.
26 Put me in remembrance; let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right.
27 Your first father sinned, and your mediators transgressed against me.
28 Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary, and deliver Jacob to utter destruction and Israel to reviling. (Isa 43.26-28)
There is nothing Israel can argue that can put her in the right before God. Their first father is probably Jacob in this context considering the repeated references to him in the passage. He sinned against the LORD. So too have their mediators (the priests) transgressed the LORD’s commands. This does not suggest Israel will be good stead before God.
As a consequence the LORD will deliver Jacob up to utter destruction.
The passage has a strong element of hope for Israel. The LORD will buy them back, atone for their sins. Israel still has to be disciplined however. She will be sent into exile and punished for her sins. The prophecies we read in this chapter anticipate Babylon’s defeat by the Persians and Israel’s return to the promised land.
The passage also looks forward to the time when the LORD himself will come and bear the sin of his people. It looks forward to God coming in the flesh, in the person of the promised Christ. It looks forward to his death on the cross, when he pays the debt for sin.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (Jn 1.29-34)
Jesus is our sin bearer. Besides him there is no Saviour. The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
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