Isaiah 48


‘Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and come from the line of Judah, you who take oaths in the name of the LORD and invoke the God of Israel—but not in truth or righteousness—you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city and claim to rely on the God of Israel—the LORD Almighty is his name: I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. For I knew how stubborn you were; your neck muscles were iron, your forehead was bronze. Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’ You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them? “From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, ‘Yes, I knew of them.’ You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.’ Isaiah 48:1-11

Stubborn Israel

God now turns to the captives with an admonition to hear, and He reproves their hypocritical lives. God pleads with them, that is, Israel, to open their eyes to the destiny which He had planned for them, to recognise His hand in their history, and to believe that He had great blessings in store for them in the future.

God summons them to hear and reminds them that he had foretold their captivity because he knew the condition of their hearts that they would bring it to pass. God made this matter known so that they would not say that their idols had done it.

Israel must acknowledge that God foretold and that His prophecy was now fulfilled, Joshua 21:45. Isaiah had given predictions which could only come from God, yet Israel had refused to obey. The object of these predictions was to guard Israel against giving credit to idols.

It is only by God’s grace that He had saved Israel from complete destruction, it was for His sake and not theirs, Romans 15:4 / 1 Corinthians 10:11. God didn’t give Israel the punishment which she deserved. He tempered justice with mercy and waited patiently for the people to repent.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

1. God acts with reference to his own glory, in order to manifest his own perfections and to secure his praise.

2. The reason why the wicked are not cut off sooner in their transgressions is, that He may show his forbearance and secure praise by long-suffering.

3. The reason why the righteous are kept amidst their frequent failures in duty, their unfaithfulness, and their many imperfections, is, that God may get glory by showing his covenant fidelity.

4. It is one evidence of piety, and one that is indispensable, that there should be a willingness that God should secure his own glory in his own way, and that there should be a constant desire that his praise should be promoted, whatever may befall his creatures.

Israel Freed

‘Listen to me, Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together. “Come together, all of you, and listen: Which of the idols has foretold these things? The LORD’s chosen ally will carry out his purpose against Babylon; his arm will be against the Babylonians. I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him. I will bring him, and he will succeed in his mission. “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me, endowed with his Spirit.’ Isaiah 48:12-16

God alone is God, He is the Creator, shaper of history, He is the God of prophecy and the God of its fulfilment.

Gill, in his commentary, says the following.

‘I am he, I am the first, and I also am the last, the everlasting I AM, the immutable Jehovah, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first cause and last end of all things, phrases expressive of the self-existence, supremacy, eternity, and immutability of Christ, Revelation 1:8, and what is it that such a sovereign, eternal and unchangeable Being cannot do?’

Israel was obligated to hear God for the following reasons.

1. She was called to be His servant.

2. God is the absolute, unchangeable, eternal one.

3. God is the creator of all.

4. God is unique because of His prophecy.

God had raised up Cyprus and His Spirit had sent him, that is, Cyrus, upon Babylon.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘God’s designation of Cyrus in these chapters is amazing. He is referred to as God’s ‘called’, as God’s ‘anointed’, as God’s ‘arm’ upon Babylon, and as God’s ‘beloved’, Isaiah 48:14. Note the promise that Cyrus’ way shall be ‘prosperous’, Isaiah 48:15.’

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘None of the astrologers, soothsayers, or diviners of Babylon had been able to foretell the expedition of Cyrus and his capture of Babylon, for, if they had been able to foresee the danger, they might have guarded against it, and the city might have been saved. But God had predicted it a hundred fifty years before it happened, thus demonstrating that he alone is God.’

The Pulpit Commentary, says the following.

‘God, ‘from the beginning’, i.e. from his first dealings with Israel, had raised up a succession of prophets, who had declared his will, not ‘in secret’, or ambiguously, but openly and plainly, so that all who heard might understand, Isaiah 45:19. From the time that it was, there am I, i.e. ‘from the time that the earth was, there, in the succession of my prophetic messengers, was I.’

‘The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, like most of the other great and mysterious doctrines of true religion, was gradually revealed to mankind. In one sense we may call it an exclusively Christian doctrine, but in another, we must assign it an antiquity far higher than that of the Christian era. God, in his several revelations to mankind, gradually paved the way for its acceptance. In the revelations which he made to Noah and Abraham, Genesis 9:6 / Genesis 9:16 / Genesis 17:7 / Genesis 17:8, God announced himself as Elohim, a word of plural form. In the revelation which he caused to be put forth by his servant Moses, he distinguished between ‘God’, Elohim, and ‘the Spirit of God’, ruwach Elohim, which moved, or brooded, upon the face of the primeval chaos, Genesis 1:2. Isaiah, in the present passage, proclaims that he is sent ‘by the Lord Jehovah’.’

‘This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed from before me.” Isaiah 48:17-19

Here we read that the future of Israel, depends upon her attitude toward God’s commandments. If they had been obedient, they would have had peace throughout their history. They would have been helped by His precepts.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘God taught them, as he does his people now, by his Providence, his revealed word, and his Spirit, the way in which they ought to go. It is one of his characteristics that he is the guide and director of his people.’

‘Leave Babylon, flee from the Babylonians! Announce this with shouts of joy and proclaim it. Send it out to the ends of the earth; say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob.” They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and water gushed out. “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.” Isaiah 48:20-22

Loyalty and faith are demanded of Israel if she is to be restored. The promise to those who believe and were true to God is held out for redemption, but to the unbelievers, there was no peace or escape, Isaiah 57:21 / Isaiah 57:20. The mention of Cyrus by name does not occur from now on to the end of Isaiah, nor does the name Babylon.

Archer, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This prophecy was written 150 years beforehand to Jews who would be captives in the year 539 B.C. not to tarry on the pagan soil of Babylon, but to take advantage of Cyrus’ permissive edict to return to Jerusalem. They were to bear triumphant testimony before the Gentiles as they celebrated deliverance and recalled Jehovah’s mercies to their fathers.’

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