Isaiah 43:14-28 ESV
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.”
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.
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.
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.
You probably have had this experience. Perhaps you did something that was exciting, or saw something wonderful, or received good news, or finally figured out how to do something. You rushed to tell your family or friends about it! I mean, you were ready to pop with excitement! However, when you told this incredibly magnificent information, your family or friends seemed disinterested or even bored. And the more you tried to share how fantastic it was, the more they seemed determined to show no concern. It’s like you felt like they were using a big needle to pop your balloon.
God has the greatest news to tell us—the story of his glory in the Lord Jesus Christ and how he deeply desires to share eternal glory with us. But people can show no more interest in God’s story than an old dog on a hot day cares about a child wanting it to fetch a ball. Clearly, something must be wrong in those hearing the story.
We encounter this situation in our text. God is telling good news to his people. He is seeking their comfort and encouragement (cf. 40:1-5; 42:1-9; 43:1-7). But they are far more interested in their sinful ways than in God’s good news. All of this presents a situation in which we learn the reason that God forgives people. It is a lesson that we must learn fully, absolutely, and experientially.
I. God provides encouragement (43:14-19)
A. The Lord encourages his people by revealing his name.
1. Creator – God made them his people. God did this because he loved them (Deut 7). Every benefit and privilege they had could be traced back to God’s sovereign grace. And so the Lord was their King by his choice.
2. Holy One – This is important; notice how the Holy Spirit twice makes this point (43:14-15). God had shown them in many ways that he was the Set Apart One. He is the only true and living God. He is absolutely pure, set apart from evil, and passionate for his glory. He is to be worshiped with purity and reverence (cf. Is 6).
3. Redeemer – God wants them to focus on this truth (43:14, 16-17). He wants the people to know him as the God who can set people free. To do this, God again tells them part of his story. He reminds them that when all seemed hopeless, he had rescued them from Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea.
Apply: In this new covenant age, we have the greatest rescue to remember. It wasn’t a rescue from Egyptian armies, but it is the rescue from the law, sin, condemnation, and death when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. Are you part of this greatest rescue through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
B. The Lord encourages his people by revealing his plan.
1. Babylon, their oppressor, would be completely defeated (43:14). The mighty empire would flee like fugitives in the ships that were once their pride. God has brought down many strong nations over the years. Think of the dreaded Xerxes, Alexander, the Caesars, the Khans, Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin to mention only a few.
2. But God points them to something much greater. He is doing a “new thing”. God will bring a new age, a new covenant, a new creation, and will make a new man. As God says throughout the prophetic writings, it would come from a remnant chosen by grace (cf. Rm 11:5). God’s way would come to the wilderness and there would be streams in the wasteland. Think of John the Baptist and Jesus preaching God’s word in the desolate places. Think also of the church springing up in places that for countless generations had no gospel message.
Apply: As the apostle Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians, today you may be part of this new creation. Today is the day of salvation (5:17-6:2).
II. Israel resists God (43:20-24)
A. God formed his covenant people for his purpose.
1. The Lord provides an example of how his creatures ought to honor him for his goodness (44:20).
2. Here we hear a key concept about God’s people. We are to declare his praise because of salvation (1 Pt 2:9; cf. Is 43:7). We are to live for God’s glory (1 Cor 10:31).
Apply: Do we live our lives according to what God has called us to do? Do we worship the Lord? Do we sense the importance of exalting the Lord together and among the peoples of the nations?
B. Yet Israel, God’s old covenant people, failed to worship him properly.
1. Lack of prayer (43:22a)
2. Lack of pursuit of God (43:22b)
3. Lack of proper worship under the law (44:23)
4. Lack of love (43:24a)
5. Many acts of sin (43:24b)
Apply: We ought to review our lives in a similar way. In how many ways are we failing to live wholeheartedly for the Lord? Which of our actions are burdensome to the Lord?
III. God presents two alternatives (43:25-28)
A. Their sin was bringing their nation to judgment.
1. God “hauls them into court” and demands an explanation, but he says that this was their long history, starting from their first father. (This could mean Adam, or Abraham, or Jacob. All were known sinners.) Their leaders were marked by rebellion (cf. 1:28).
2. Since Israel had rebelled against the Lord and his ways, refused to love him, and indeed had rejected him as their God (see the next chapter about the foolishness of idolatry), they were headed for scorn and destruction. The last mentioned is especially chilling, since the same term is used in reference to Jericho and other places that God gave over to total destruction.
Point: Clearly, there was no hope for Israel under the law. It could never make them righteous and pleasing to the Lord. The law can never do this for any sinner. Instead, sin takes advantage of the law and uses it to stir up more sin (Rm 7:8-11).
B. Their only hope was in God’s forgiveness.
1. The Lord God forgives sins for his name’s sake. “Listen. God does not forgive you based on the quality of your confession or your resolve to be a better person. But you keep thinking otherwise. Your standard is what you would do to someone like yourself, and chances are that you would not let the incident pass quickly. God, however, forgives sin for his own name’s sake… There may be no finer words in Scripture. God bases his forgiveness on himself and his forgiving character, not on the quality of your confession” (Welch, Running Scared, pp; 226-227, his emphasis). From the New Testament Scriptures, we know that God forgives for his own name’s sake because Jesus Christ died and rose again.
2. How should we respond to God’s gracious forgiveness? “So confess your sin to God in faith. By that I mean you confess sin, believing that God is exactly who he says he is. You confess while you give God all authority to interpret reality, instead of giving your personal feelings authority. Your feelings will say ‘condemnation,’ but God says he doesn’t treat you as your sins deserve. God must win in this interpretative battle” (Ibid, p. 227). Here is one of the great blessings of the new covenant (Heb 8:12). In Christ, God promises to never remember our sins. It was a promise of hope to Israel. It is a blood-bought promise for all who will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The NTS declare that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rm 8:1).
Apply: Seek forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ today!
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.