The prelude to the proclamation of Immanuel, Isaiah’s words in this chapters are direct, yet filled with hope and promise for a new day. It’s remarkable that he includes the Gentiles as part of the great commission in Chapter 49. Chapter 50 winds up like the strong words of a street preacher shouting, “Repent!” Enjoy the words today, but start with Psalm 104.
This is one of the many psalms that are all about praising the Lord. I think this is how I should begin my prayer time with Jesus, thirty-five verses of praise for the wonderful things God has done for us.
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Praise the Lord.
Psalm 104:14-15, 33-35
Isaiah 48:1-11: Stubborn Israel
At the very least, I hope I can learn to appreciate my own children when these words enter my mind:
For I knew how stubborn you were;
your neck muscles were iron,
your forehead was bronze.
God still loves his children, though we are hard-headed and stubborn. (Funny, the first time I typed that I used the word “they” instead of “we”)
See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
Not as silver, but more like iron…not so pretty. MacArthur explains:
unlike silver purged in the furnace, the purging of Israel is not complete, and they are not refined. But God keeps up the afflictions until they are, so His name is not defamed through the destruction of Israel. The nation will be purged (cf. Zech. 13:1). God’s plan is such that He alone, not man or man-made idols, will receive credit for Israel’s salvation (Isaiah 42:8; cf. Rom. 11:25–27, 33–36). The adversaries of God are never to be given legitimate reasons for scoffing at God and His work.
MacArthur’s last comment is most significant, our adversaries like to claim credit for winning the day, for removing the Ten Commandments from courthouses or eliminating prayer in schools, but God’s hand is at work to refine us, to strengthen us and stir us to action. Satan loves to take credit, but God remains in control.
Isaiah 48:12-22: Israel Freed
flee from the Babylonians!
Announce this with shouts of joy
and proclaim it.
John saw much in his vision of Babylon as recorded in Revelation 18. Yes, the Lord will redeem his own!
The great commission from the Old Testament, Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:46-49) lived for this:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Yes, Jesus Christ is the light of the world even for the Gentiles (Luke 2:32). Though he will be despised by the nation, the Redeemer will come for his people, a prophecy that took literally hundreds of years to fulfill.
He who has compassion on them will guide them
and lead them beside springs of water.
Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
Isaiah 49:10, 13
The promise of better days yet to come is appealing. In many ways it seems we are being swept away into Babylonian exile in subtle ways as alluded to before. Isaiah is just getting started as he paints the picture of great encouragement — God will destroy the oppressors and return all that belongs to his people in mighty ways.
Isaiah the evangelist calls out with a passionate plea:
Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
Quite the follow-up from the previous chapter! Isaiah proclaims, “This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.” (Isaiah 50:11) Ouch!
I hope these words remind us of how great and wonderful our God truly is; his promise to never leave nor forsake us, even though we act like idiots at times. Thank you Lord!