In the book that bears his name, Isaiah prophesied of the exile of Israel to Babylon. This was difficult news for God’s old covenant people to receive. God had given them the Promised Land. It was the place where he would live among them; it was the place of blessing and peace. The Lord God had warned them that if they did not obey him fully, he would remove them from the land; in fact, he would scatter them among the nations. Exile would mean separation from all they had known, loss of their property, separation of family and friends, and no way to worship the Lord according to the terms of the law covenant. The prophesied exile to Babylon was a warning shot over the bow, and as we sadly know, they did not listen.
However, Isaiah’s prophecy was more than a gloomy message of punishment for their breaking of the covenant. It was also an encouraging announcement of hope. At all times God wants us to understand our situation in his presence and the better life we can experience when we walk with him in faith. For this reason, the Lord talks to Israel through the prophet about “a new thing” that he will do in what was then their future. In order to give them this word of hope, he reminds them of who he is. It is necessary to know God, so that we might be able to lay hold of what he is able and willing to do for those who trust him. To know him, we need to listen carefully when he reveals himself to us.
First, the Lord (Yahweh) calls himself their Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel (43:14). God joins two names that might seem to pull them in opposite directions emotionally. Redeemer is a joyous name. God proclaims that he cares about them and is willing to do what is necessary to set them free. This would fuel confident expectation in people contemplating the horrors of exile. Though they would be exiled, God promises to free them from captivity. Yet at the same time, he is the Holy One of Israel. He is the One supreme over all things, including the false gods they had been worshiping. He is set apart from the sinfulness of people. A study of the Old Testament Scriptures reveals that idolatry was a constant problem in Israel before the exile. Idolatry in the heart is a very serious spiritual problem (Ezekiel 14:3-5). A life based on idols will breed sinfulness in a person’s way of life. So then, God promised to free them from exile, but the deliverance would be consistent with his holiness.
Second, the Lord repeats the truth of his holiness, and then reminds them that he is their Creator and King (43:15). God is asserting his rights in relation to Israel. The Creator has ownership rights of what he has created. This is one motive for people to deny creation and to prefer evolution. God is telling Israel that they belong to him, and so he has the right to send them into exile and to free them. Since he is their King, he also has the power and authority to do this. The people needed to have a proper view of the dependence on God for their destiny, in order to have a firm basis for confident expectation in God’s plan. Simply put, you cannot deny God’s rule and have real hope. Without hope, you fall into defeatism, depression, dread, and despair. God calls to his people to avoid this dark path.
Third, the Lord reminds them of his glory in the exodus from Egypt (43:16-17). He points them to redemption in their past to lead them to hope in a fuller redemption in their future. Egypt had seemed unbeatable, and they had acted arrogantly toward Israel, oppressing them in terrible ways. However, God had set them free from Egypt through ten mighty signs and wonders. But then, Egypt had decided that they did not want to lose their slave labor and pursued them to the brink of the sea. When all seemed hopeless, the Lord made “a path through the mighty waters” and defeated the enemy army totally. In the same way, we need to remember how God has set free those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. His victory in that redemption provides us a firm basis of hope as we contemplate our future. We can know that followers of Christ are now like “scattered exiles”, and yet God has already given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (cf. 1 Peter 1:1-3). Is your hope and trust in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ? You can have eternal confidence when you turn from your rejection of God as God, your refusal to love him first, and your rebellion against him and his ways to trust in Christ for forgiveness and freedom from sin, guilt, and condemnation. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).
Grace and peace, David