THE BOOK OF ISAIAH

Heed the Call of God

Isaiah 47-48 SCC 11/17/13 

Too many who claim to be the people of God do not act in faith on the promises to fulfill His plan for their lives; comfortable just being numbered with the saints they do not want to leave their comfort zone. They hear the word of God, what it promises, what it calls for them to do, but they stubbornly resist, concluding it is for someone else. And sadly, they will live out their lives not fulfilling Godís plan for their lives; they will never realize what it is like to be actively involved in the work of God. Isaiah 48 deals with just such a problem with stubborn Israel. 

1. The Lord uses His Word to rebuke our disbelief and idolatry 48:1-11

Verse 1: The Lord called on His people to pay attention to what He had to say to them and to respond appropriately. The many descriptions of the Israelites in these verses reminded them of their origins and their identity, their commitments to and their appreciation for the Lord, and their present relationship with Him. In view of all this, they needed to heed what He said. They had not done that, as they should have in the past in truth or righteousness; their lives not corresponding with the standard of the covenant. So itís possible to be skeptical of the Word and hesitant to respond.

Verse 2: They call themselves citizens of the holy city and claim to rely on the God of Israel. This is what they would protest in response to the charge of the prophet.  So affiliation to the faith does not always translate into living by faith. 

Verse 3: God had predicted the former things and they happened as He said they would. The former things refer to that which the Lord had already predicted correctly, including for the audience who ended up in Babylon. He had predicted many things and then He brought them to pass just as He said He would.  So the Word of God we have today can be counted upon as true and reliable.

Verse 4: explain that it was necessary to use prophecy because the people were stubborn.  The previous chapter branded them as obstinate; but now their neck is iron and their brow brass.  The implied comparisons are intended to show how hardened they were, how slow to believe.  They would not bend or yield; they refused to be controlled by the Lord. So rebellion against the word is possible for us.

Verse 5: explains that their hesitancy to believe in the Lord had the danger of opening the way for them to idolatry, crediting an idol that they made, with the acts of God.  God had to convince them through such supernatural ways as predictive prophecy because they were wayward. Israel's history was foretold, from beginning to end. So hesitating to rely in the Word can tempt us to rely elsewhere.

Verse 6: is the rebuke itself appealing to look at the facts and admit the truth. They had heard all this, all the prophecy that the Lord had given; all the claims to His sovereignty; even new revelation. Why would they not declare it? No they did nothing with it. So itís possible to ignore the Word of God.

Verse 7: So now there was to be a new thing.  It is new so that they cannot say they heard of it elsewhere, or did it themselves. This new thing that they never imagined would probably refer to the bringing in of Cyrus as the deliverer to set them free from captivity.  Who could have imagined that? This was a new prophecy because they might have claimed they knew it.  God is always one step ahead of people.  And these people took some convincing. So we also can say Ďwho could imagine.í

Verse 8: The Israelites had not listened to the message that predictive prophecy was to teach them. They did not welcome the idea that God could surprise them and so keep them trusting Him. Instead they wanted to know the future so they would not have to trust Him. Rebellion against God is part of human nature. They did not know what He was going to do, but He knew their hearts. They were transgressors from the womb requiring convincing proof, because of slowness to believe. So we are guilty of rebellion when we want to avoid living by faith.

Verse 9: Nevertheless, the Lord continues to be patient with these people, so that they might benefit from His intervention. God cut that period of exile short or they would have been cut off.  And if they had been cut off completely, there would be no praise offered to God for the deliverance from bondage. It is because of God's reputation that Israel was not destroyed. So His plan is formed, not only for the exile, but the number of years in the exile, the time and circumstances of the return--all of it. So too he plans for us.

Verse 10: uses the language of refining to describe the captivity in exile.  I have and in the furnace are both comparisons of the exile. The expression but not as silver means that the refining was not as severe as would be needed to refine silver. Israel's sin was not completely purged, for the Lord here was still rebuking unbelief and disobedience. So we can expect God to discipline our unbelief.

Verse 11: Thus, the purpose of delivering Israel from bondage was for the Lordís sake.  He would prevent His reputation as the powerful Lord God from being disparaged among the nations.  So we too pray that God will fulfill His promises and thereby rescue His name, His reputation from the world.
 

2. God claims Absolute Sovereignty to do what He determines 48:12-16

Verse 12-13: The Lord claims absolute sovereignty. The Lord renews His claim of absolute sovereignty and His purpose to destroy Babylon through Cyrus. These claims are familiar in Isaiah: I am He; I am the first, I also am the last.  But here it includes a graphic description of the Lord as the Creator. The terms earth and heaven are both literal and figurative of the whole universe. The whole of creation and everything in it is here because God commanded it to come into existence, and now, as servants, they are at His command.  So here is true sovereignty, that all creation obeys the Lord's call. 

Verse 14: The Lord will destroy Babylon through Cyrus. The challenge is simple: who ever foretold these things?  The question is rhetorical; no one other than God foretold this. In this announcement the one that the Lord loves is Cyrus, for he will do God's will by destroying the Chaldeans. Cyrus was chosen; but it is also true that if Cyrus will do this work of God he will be pleasing to God. The power is from God the arm indicating the power to chasten and punish. So God directs the events of history for His purposes.

Verse 15: The force of predictive prophecy affirms that He Himself has called Cyrus and will make sure that his mission succeeds.  Such promises were not made in secret, but from antiquity. So God has nothing to hide since He can do what he predicts.

Verse 16: God again urged His people to listen carefully. From the beginning Godís promises concerning the future had not been vague and ambiguous. They could be verified easily, and they evidenced the Lordís nearness in human life. God was there when He made those predictions. Has sent Me is the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, the pre-incarnate Christ; and here the affirmation that the Lord God sent Him, with the Spirit, would provide a glimpse into the eternal plan. So Godís plan is moving toward eternity!

3. The Lord laments our indifference and our resultant loss of blessing 48:17-19

Verse 17: The titles of God give the reasons the Israelites should listen to Him. They should listen because of who He is and what He had done for them. God is essentially one who teaches His people how to make a net gain of their lives. He is also the one who guides His people through dangers to safety and fulfillment. So God is actively involved in our lives guiding and charting our course.

Verse 18: Failure to listen and hear the Lordís instruction in the past had limited Israelís peace and her right conduct. Things could have been far better if she had only listened and obeyed. She could have experienced a ceaseless, powerful flow of His blessingsólike a river and a sea! So Godís favor is tied to our reception of the word.

Verse 19: sand and grains indicates if they had obeyed, there would have been innumerable descendants, because there would have been no captivity, only divine blessing.  The text indicates that the captivity almost annihilated the population, and with that the name of Israel came precariously close to extinction. So God is committed to abundant favor in our lives as we obey His word.

4. The people exhorted to depart from their captivity with singing 48:20-22

Verse 20: The prophet implores the people to go forth in the name of the Lord.  They cannot go until Cyrus sets them free, but they can know that God will make the way clear. It was wrong for the Israelites to remain in Babylonia after Cyrus permitted them to return to the Promised Land. Yet many did remain. So we must be decisive and comprehensive with our obedience.

Verse 21: Their singing thanksgiving to God for the deliverance from bondage includes allusions to the Israelites' deliverance out of Egypt--they did not thirst when He led them through the desert, He caused water to flow from the rock for them--he split the rocks and water gushed. So too were these Israelites to be miraculously refreshed in their journey. So God fully supplies our needs as we move in obedience.

Verse 22: The promise of deliverance was no guarantee that Israel would enjoy Godís richest blessing if she continued to practice wickedness. The wicked Babylonians would not enjoy His peace: neither would they. So just because we are secure in Christ is no excuse to disregard obedience.

Conclusion 

1. Even though His people should prove unfaithful, God will remain faithful, for He cannot deny Himself based on the character of God, who by His mighty arm will do what His Word proclaimed He would do.

2. Predictions of the far off future--judgment, exile, restoration, the coming of the Messiah is all meant to call us to faith and obedience so when it came we would know that it was the Lord. 

3. We are in need of the constant exhortations to stir up our faith and live obediently to avoid divine discipline, for if God did not preserve the natural branches, Paul says, He could also lop of the ones that were grafted in (Rom. 11).  Or as John says, He could remove the LampstandóHis ministry from our midst (Rev. 2,3).

4. But also, we are looking forward to the Day of the Lord when He delivers us from the bondage of this world, and fulfills the promises He has made to us. Those are guaranteed, because His Word is dependable. We are not to get too enamored with this world because it is passing away.  A great day of Judgment and Redemption is coming.