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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 43

Verses 1-7

The Loving God

With the words “but now” the LORD suddenly passes from judgment to comfort (Isaiah 43:1). This expression is typical for Isaiah, he uses it fifteen times, and also for Jeremiah, who uses it twelve times. The LORD leaves his complaint about the blinded, hardened and unrepentant state of Israel to unfold His actions in connection with His covenant in the past, present and future. In this and the following verses, the Divine “I” appears about thirty-five times, which places a strong emphasis on the personal actions of God.

These actions are all based on His creative power and His redeeming grace. For us who stand in the fulfillment of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and ministry to us through His Holy Spirit, God’s irrevocable certainties and promises in this section are doubly precious.

The action of God is represented in Isaiah 43:1-Judges : in a chiastic way. Chiasm is a Hebrew poetic form that gives a symmetrical mirror picture with emphasis on the middle part. The chiastic structure in these verses is as follows:

a. Isaiah 43:1
---b. Isaiah 43:2
------c. Isaiah 43:3
------c. Isaiah 43:4
---b. Isaiah 43:5-Joshua :
a. Isaiah 43:7

a. The first and the last part of this poem, Isaiah 43:1 and Isaiah 43:7 (2 x a.), make it clear that Israel will experience His grace because of His special bond with God. He is their Creator and will therefore never leave them.
b. Isaiah 43:2 and the parallel Isaiah 43:5-Joshua : (2 x b.) give the encouragement to know that no power will ever be able to destroy the chosen people.
c. Finally, Isaiah 43:3 and Isaiah 43:4 (2 x c.) make it clear as a center point how precious Israel is to God. God will always pay the ransom necessary to redeem His people. What an encouragement!

The change from just indignation to loving comfort and comforting promises and assurances is extraordinarily meaningful. It shows that restoration cannot be achieved by any meritorious effort on the part of the wandering people. Their terrible need can only be met by Divine grace.

The love of God is not sentimental. His love is never exercised at the expense of His holiness and never compromises His righteousness. The love that chastens is of earlier date than the chastening. He loves His people before they go astray, making His chastening necessary.

In His love the LORD created them. The expressions used here take us back to creation (Genesis 1:1; Genesis 2:4-Judges :). This makes it clear that the same God Who created heaven and earth also formed the people of Israel. That same God now wants to show His mercy. The creation of Israel is a supernatural act in response to an intended council. He also formed them in His love.

This is a supernatural process which He had also intended and of which He testifies in His actions with the patriarchs and the descendants of Jacob. In His love He also redeemed them. Again and again He has reminded the people that nothing but His direct power has redeemed them from Egypt. Finally, in His love He called them by their name.

The calling by name has in Scripture the thought of tenderness rejoicing in the possession of the called one. Thus He has called and led His own sheep by their names (John 10:3). Creation, redemption and calling are also our part. We are created in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10), redeemed by His blood (Ephesians 1:7) and called by His grace (Galatians 1:15). The encouragement “do not fear” is based on the evidence of God’s mercy in the past.

The LORD promises them His presence as they pass through the waters and rivers, reminding them of their going through the waters of the Red Sea and through the river Jordan (Isaiah 43:2). He then assures them that He will be with them as they walk through the fire of the exile (Isaiah 42:25) and the great tribulation (cf. Daniel 3:25; Psalms 66:12).

In this context, water speaks for us of dangers arising from circumstances of daily life, trials of faith in the ordinary things of life. Fire speaks of persecution. Both forms can occur in the life of the believer. They are obstacles we encounter on our path to block our way, but through which the Lord helps us.

It is God’s intention to banish fear from our hearts and to strengthen our faith through all that is contained in the assurance: “For I am the LORD your God” (Isaiah 43:3). These names speak of His majesty and the greatness of His infinite Being and His omnipotent power. He is their Savior. But when He saves them, He also does so as “the Holy One of Israel”. He never acts contrary to His holiness and righteousness; on the contrary, His actions result from it.

For the redemption of His people He pays with other nations. When Cyrus lets His people go, He gives him other nations in his place. “The wicked is a ransom for the righteous” (Proverbs 21:18). For this Israel must first stand righteously before God. How God works that, we see in the following chapters. He will never owe anyone anything. He acts in this way for the benefit of His people because these people are precious in His eyes (Isaiah 43:4). He holds it in high esteem and loves it above other nations. The language used here is that of a bridegroom to his bride.

What the LORD does is an act of pure grace, for the people have not earned it. It is no better in itself than other nations. We may think of ourselves in the same way. We are “justified” and “made pleasant” before God. We are not in ourselves, but “in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). The Father loves us as He loves the Son (John 17:23).

Isaiah 43:5-Joshua : indicate that the LORD will gather His people from all over the world and bring them into His land. This will happen in the end time. He commands the nations north and south of Israel to bring them, whom He calls “My sons” and “My daughters”, back to His land from the outermost places. As a reason for this action, He repeats the comforting message of Isaiah 43:1.

He identifies Himself with them by speaking of them as “everyone who is called by My name” (Isaiah 43:7). It refers both to identification in character with Him Himself and to possession of Him in order to show His glory and grace. They constitute His possession to radiate His honor.

He “created” them in an act of power by which He originated them as a people. That He has “formed” them, refers to the process of His grace to change what He has created so that it reflects His glory. He has also “made” them into what they are, which indicates the completion of His divine work. In these three acts there is a climax: creating, forming, completing.

These three aspects also apply to us Christians. They express the wonders of God’s counsel and power and the riches of His grace. He created us in Christ, He changes us through the active power of the Holy Spirit and will perfect us at the coming of the Lord.

Verses 8-13

No One Can Be Compared to God

The order in Isaiah 43:8 is not given to bring Israel back from exile. This is the case in Isaiah 43:5. Here it is a general command to the nations to let His people go. The people are then no longer blind and deaf (cf. Isaiah 42:18).

The nations have gathered together in a court session (Isaiah 43:9). Before they can enjoy the riches of the realm of peace, they must be brought to the recognition of the facts concerning the true God, in contrast to their idols and superstition. The challenge is for the nations to bring their witnesses forward, so that they may be justified. Of course there are no such witnesses. The only alternative is the acknowledgment, “it is true”, that there is only one true and living God.

In Isaiah 43:10 the LORD declares that the people of Israel are His “witnesses” (cf. Isaiah 44:8). The people have always been His witnesses concerning the existence of the LORD, but when they are restored, they will be both witnesses and servants. They testify of the uninitiated and independently existing nature of His Being. “That I am He” is the declaration that He is God exclusive and eternal in the past and the future.

We also see here the wonder that a blind and deaf servant can be called as a witness in this heavenly courtroom. This is an indication that God is going to perform a wonder on this servant. This wonder has happened on us through which the Lord says to us, “you shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

Because His Being has no beginning and no end, the thought of another being separate from Him with characteristics of a deity is a contradiction in itself. However empty and useless are the attempts of the nations to show that the objects of their worship are true gods. And not only that, but how utterly doomed to failure will be the attempt of the man of sin to force the nations under him to worship him as God (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The judgment on this blasphemous arrogance will be executed by the Son of God Himself (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

The second statement that His earthly people are His witnesses is connected with the facts that He alone is the Savior and that no one can save from His hand (Isaiah 43:11-1 Chronicles :). The fact of the creation of Israel and that Israel still exists is the proof and testimony of the fact that the God of Israel is the only God.

He is not only the Eternal One, but He is also the Almighty. Not only can no one prevent Him from establishing anything, but neither can anyone change what He has established. If this is true with respect to His earthly, national witnesses, let us draw courage and new strength from this as those He has called to be His witnesses through the gospel.

Verses 14-15

The Instrument of Redemption

With Isaiah 43:14 begins a new section that extends to Isaiah 44:5. In this section the LORD shows the nations that He is the Redeemer of Israel. This not only refers to His work of redemption in the past (Isaiah 43:18), but He also announces a new work of redemption (Isaiah 43:19). The subjects in this new section are judgment (Isaiah 43:14-Ecclesiastes :), salvation (Isaiah 43:22-Hosea :) and the outpouring of the Spirit (Isaiah 44:1-Deuteronomy :).

The first part is about the exercise of the anger of God over the Chaldeans they have deserved because of their mistreatment of God’s people. “For your sake”, that is, for the purpose of redeeming His people, He has sent someone to Babylon as the executor of His judgment. That turns out to be Cyrus. The action of this Cyrus will have the consequence that their war fleet of which they cheer and of which they are proud, will be relegated to an escape fleet.

In view of their deliverance, God gives a fourfold remembrance of His people of Who He is (Isaiah 43:15):
1. As the “LORD” He is the God of the covenant.
2. As “your Holy One” He contrasts with their unholy abandonment of Him and the unholy character of their heathen rulers. His Name is desecrated through exile, but that Name will be sanctified again through the redemption of Israel (Ezekiel 36:20-Jeremiah :).
3. As “the Creator of Israel,” He created them for His glory and will never allow them to be definitively rejected.
4. As “your King”, He will reign as a blessing for His people, unlike the always failing kings of Israel and Judah and the peoples of whom they have become slaves, and especially unlike the antichrist, the false king of Israel.

Verses 16-21

A Way for God’s People

He will make for them a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters (Isaiah 43:16). This is how He did it before, when He made a path for them through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-Song of Solomon :). This is also the experience of all saints. The waters of the nations rage and go wild, enmity and persecution increase, but God has a path for His people. This path does not only relate to salvation from trouble, but also to the proclamation of the gospel that goes His way to the appointed end.

Isaiah 43:17 gives a reminder, also valid for the present time, of the all overthrowing power of God with regard to the armies of the nations. Whatever the rulers may think, it is the LORD “Who brings forth the chariot and the horse”. The calamities of war are His judgments. By this He wants to bring the hearts of the people to repentance. He will also fulfill His national intentions and extinguish the fire of the battle of the enemies of His earthly people. This is how it happened with Pharaoh and his horsemen (Exodus 14:23-Obadiah :).

Then they may forget the sad time of unfaithfulness and oppression (Isaiah 43:18). It may also mean that they should no longer think of the past as if God acted for His people only in that time. They may focus on the new that He is going to give (Isaiah 43:19). He is not only the God of the past, but He is also the God of the present and of the future.

Let us apply these promises to our own experiences and take together the four sentences that are meant to comfort us in times of trial and tribulation:
1. through the waters (Isaiah 43:2) – they are in themselves a means of giving us the experience of the presence of the Lord;
2. through the fire (Isaiah 43:2) – we are assured that He preserves us;
3. through the sea and through the mighty waters (Isaiah 43:16) – here God provides a way; difficult circumstances are a means to give us the awareness of His guidance;
4. in the wilderness and in the desert (Isaiah 43:19) – guidance and refreshment are our part here.

The waters speak of overwhelming trials; the wilderness and the desert speak of the state of the world around us which, if we concern ourselves with it uninvitedly, will cause us spiritual suffering and depression. But God has a way in the midst of such circumstances, a path of fellowship with Him, a path of joy and fertility.

In the past, God made a way through the sea during the exodus and He gave a stream, a river of water, from the rock in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4). In the future He will give something new. He will make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers (plural) in the desert. The new will be a blessing for the whole earth when God’s earthly people enjoy the blessings of His work of salvation.

When the suffering of Israel has come to an end, the suffering of creation has also comes to an end (Romans 8:21). Because God gives water in the wilderness, the beasts of the field will honor Him (Isaiah 43:20; Isaiah 35:1-Judges :). Blessings are not only granted for the welfare of people and animals. The main purpose is the honor of God Himself (Isaiah 43:21).

Verses 22-25

Israel and His Iniquities

The difference between the accusations in Isaiah 43:22-Jeremiah : and the grace and mercy in Isaiah 43:25 is great and striking. The first part recounts the iniquities of Israel consisting of five things they did not do and three things they did do. It shows that the coming salvation is not the merit of Israel, neither because of their loyalty nor because of their dignity. Spiritually, they are at a nadir. Instead of calling upon Him they have grown weary of Him (Isaiah 43:22). Instead of bringing offerings to Him, they have burdened Him with their sins and wearied Him with their iniquities.

Isaiah 43:23 says that God did not impose a burden on them, but in Isaiah 43:24 He says that their sins weigh heavily on Him, like the burden on a servant. Here we involuntarily think of the cross. At the cost of how much the Lord Jesus took the burden of people’s sins upon Himself. We will never be able to realize how great the weight has been for God not to spare His Son, but to deliver Him over for us (Romans 8:32).

In light of this we can better understand the contrast with Isaiah 43:25. The love revealed herein is not at the expense of Divine holiness and righteousness, but they are the very basis of it. “For My own sake” expresses the free grace by which our sins have been removed, for there is nothing in the sinner that deserves it. Through the sovereign act of God’s grace in Christ’s death, His righteousness has dealt with sin. His grace and love have wiped out sin.

Therefore, Isaiah 43:25 is not just a simple promise, but part of an argument. The salvation of Israel is not only a salvation from the oppression of other nations, but is also and above all a salvation through forgiveness of their sins and transgressions.

It looks forward to what is brought forward in the letter to the Romans as the gospel. In it we learn that there is no merit on the part of man, that justification by grace takes place and that the conditions are repentance and faith. Through these Old Testament examples we get a deeper insight into the ways of God with man.

Verses 26-28

Why the Verdict Should Come

With his call in Isaiah 43:26, the LORD commands his people to see if they can remember if there is any merit on their part by which He could justify them. He has just stated that He, and He alone, can and will wipe out their transgressions and purify them from their guilt. And furthermore, where this is their fault, He will do so not for their sake, but for His own sake.

Settlement of debt can only be on the basis of grace. The offer of grace is humiliating to man’s pride. It presupposes the total inability of man to save himself. If they think otherwise, let them bring their case, as in a court of law, against His case. But Israel cannot answer and remains silent.

Immediately afterwards, the LORD shows the impossibility of their success. Their first forefather has sinned, reminding us of Jacob as the ancestor of the people (Isaiah 43:22; Isaiah 43:28). Their spokesmen, intermediaries between the people and the LORD, have transgressed against Him (Isaiah 43:27). We can think of kings, priests and prophets. The people and also their leaders are sinners from the beginning and throughout their history. In view of their persistent unrepentance, especially of the superiors of the sanctuary, the priests, judgment is inevitable (Isaiah 43:28).

The expression “consign … to the ban” means the destruction of a people sunk so deep in sin that they no longer have a right to exist (cf. Joshua 6:17-Job :; Joshua 6:21; 1 Samuel 15:3). The holy place has become unholy and Israel has become like Canaan and Amalek. Sin means missing the goal or not achieving God’s glory. Instead of being the glory of God, the people have become to the total dishonor of God. Only grace is their hope.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 43". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.