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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 48

Verses 1-2

Confession of Israel

This chapter is especially addressed to the prisoners of Judah, “who came forth from the loins of Judah”, that is, those who have their source, their origin, in Judah (Isa 48:1). It indicates their natural ancestry. Judah means ‘praise’ (Gen 49:8), which indicates the purpose of their existence before God: a people who praise God. They have a great confession – they “are named Israel,” which means “warrior of God” (Gen 32:28) – but their ways are not consistent with that. They swear “by the name of the LORD” and call Him “the God of Israel”, but they are untruthful in this.

They boast of being of “the holy city” (Isa 48:2), but they behave unholy. They do not think that they are dealing with “the LORD of hosts”, a Name that demands reverence and submission and not an outward religion. The apostle Paul later writes: “They are not all Israel who are [descended] from Israel” (Rom 9:6b). The same unfortunately also applies to many Christians who have been baptized and attend church meetings, but are not born again and therefore do not have a personal relationship with the living God.

Verses 3-11

Former and New Things

Now follows a renewed explanation of the might God alone has to proclaim future things without failure (Isa 48:3-6). But there is a difference with earlier explanations of this unique feature of God. In earlier statements (Isa 41:22; Isa 42:9; Isa 43:9) that statement is in contrast to the idols and idolaters in Israel (Isa 46:9-10). Here it concerns the prophecy of the LORD in view of the apostacy and hardening of Israel.

He has declared and proclaimed that He will bring salvation (Isa 48:3). But the people did not want to bow their necks to obey Him. There is no place for Him in their minds (Isa 48:4). If He, while the people are in such a state, would accomplish the announced salvation, it could still happen that the people would attribute it to the idols of Babylon (Isa 48:5).

What is an encouragement for the faithful, that He will redeem them, is a warning for the stubborn. God tells the stubborn what He is going to do so that they will not think to attribute the redemption to the idols. He guards for His honor. He wants them to acknowledge that it is He Who does it (Isa 48:6a).

Furthermore, the LORD will show them things He creates new, not things He created a long time ago (Isa 48:6b-8). Man is so evil, that he can misuse the knowledge God gives him of what He is going to do in order to attribute what He does to the idols. These new things relate to the deliverance of Israel from the power of Babylon. He will work this suddenly.

The LORD says all this because He knows the heart of His people. If He had given His people the wages they deserve, He would have destroyed them. But He cannot deny His mercy. For the sake of Himself He has subdued them and has not exterminated them (Isa 48:9). The heavy exile, as well as the still future great tribulation and the present bitter experiences, are a purifying process (Isa 48:10). He has “refined” them, “but not as silver”, for their value far exceeds that of silver.

The exile has purified them of idolatry. But since their hearts were not cleansed, they rejected Christ. The house of Israel is empty and swept and decorated, where the demon of idolatry will return with “seven other spirits more wicked than itself” (Mt 12:43-45). Israel must be cleansed of these too. For this purpose God sends the great tribulation. The price of salvation must also be paid. Paying that price is what the LORD has announced as new things in this section. That will be explained in the next part, Isaiah 49-57.

This merciful goal is the Lord’s goal in the trials that are our part. It will enable us to appreciate and praise His love and grace that we experience in them. We will then be kept from despair. He only wants to remove all the ‘slugs’, the dirt, from our life of faith and make our faith, which is compared to gold, pure gold (1Pet 1:7; Zec 13:9).

This refining process will come to an end and show a blessed result. He will do it “for My own sake, for My own sake”, the repetition underlining the great importance of this fact (Isa 48:11). And what will He do? He will deliver His people. The opponents of the LORD and His people will never find any ground to taunt God and His actions. His ways and His actions constitute His glory which will never be given up. To Him all honor will only belong and be given.

Verses 12-16

The LORD in His Absolute Godhead

A second time the people are called to listen (Isa 48:12; Isa 48:1), and also a third and a fourth time (Isa 48:14; 16). At His second call the LORD introduces Himself in His absolute Godhead. He is “I am”, the Eternal, the Unchanging (Isa 41:4; Isa 44:6). What is said here of the LORD is also said of Christ (Rev 1:8; 17; Rev 22:13) and reaffirms that the Lord Jesus is God. He is “the first”, which means that He is at the beginning of history. He is also “the last”, which means that He is still there at the end of history.

He also points to His impressive power as Creator (Isa 48:13). Christ is the Creator (Col 1:16; Jn 1:3; Heb 1:2). He is the God Who brings about everything. Thus, with His word of power, God is directing all of history and leads it to its consummation in Christ.

His third call to the people to listen is linked to the power with which He controls events (Isa 48:14-15). Who among all the idols is equal to Him in this? They have not been able to predict it and even less to edit it. He loves Cyrus for the work he will do for Him. With this He points again to the Lord Jesus and His work. Cyrus has been called by the LORD as the destroyer of Babylon and He will make his way prosperous.

Here we see Cyrus again as a type of the Lord Jesus. We recognize the love of God for Cyrus in the love of God the Father for His Son, which is clearly described in the Gospel according to John (Jn 3:35; Jn 5:20; Jn 10:17; Jn 15:9; Jn 17:23-26). Just as Cyrus judged Babylon at the time and made Israel return to his own land, so the Lord Jesus Christ will judge Babylon of the end time and save the believing remnant of Israel.

The fourth time He tells the people to listen is because He, as God, has proven His power to predict and fulfill future things (Isa 48:16a). God has always done this in a clear and open way, in contrast to the indistinct mutterings and whispers of the idols.

The “Me” mentioned in Isa 48:16b is different from the “Me” in the first part of the verse. In the first line it is about God and that is always the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The last line of Isa 48:16 suddenly introduces the Servant of the LORD speaking, that is Christ. That Christ is speaking can be concluded from a comparison with the first verse of Isaiah 61 (Isa 61:1).

This conclusion provides another striking proof of the trinity of God (cf. Isa 6:8). There is talk of the LORD, that is God Whom we may know as Father, of “Me”, that is the Servant, and of the Spirit. Also in Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 42 we find the three Persons of the Godhead: the LORD, the Servant, and the Spirit (Isa 11:2; Isa 42:1). The words of the Servant are undoubtedly an introduction to what He will explain about Himself in the next chapter (Isa 49:5-6).

Verses 17-19

Listening to Spirit and Word

The LORD, who prepared everything for the deliverance of his people through Cyrus, sent His Servant (Isa 48:16b), Who acts through the Holy Spirit to effect a great redemption for his people (Isa 48:17). He wants to teach them, to give them insight in the way they are going, that it will go well for them, that they may enter that way with joy and confidence.

It is as if we hear the Lord Jesus say to His disciples “learn from Me” (Mt 11:29), that they will have rest in their hearts in the most difficult circumstances. He who is willing to be taught by Him will do well. That it will go well with them is the purpose of the LORD for His people in all the trials and bitter experiences they will have in exile.

This is the merciful purpose of the chastisements God gives us. He gives them “for [our] good, so that we may share His holiness” (Heb 12:10). This is not just guidance in itself, but disciplinary action that teaches us. Therefore, we will stop doing what is of no use and we will put our wandering feet on the path to the goal: conformity to His Son (Rom 8:28-29).

Therefore, the urgent appeal follows to have a listening and obedient ear (Isa 48:18). The words “if you only” are an emotional utterance of the LORD, a heart cry (cf. Deu 5:28-29), which we also hear from the Savior’s mouth in relation with Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-42). He is so eager to give well-being or peace to His people, a well-being or peace that flows like a river. Well-being or peace and true prosperity depend on a repentant heart and faith that accepts and obeys the Word of God.

Peace is compared with the peaceful flow of a river, righteousness with the mighty waves of the sea, and descendants and offspring with the abundance of sand and grains (Isa 48:19). This will be a reality in the realm of peace. His peace and righteousness are their part there.

What Israel as a nation will experience, we may enjoy spiritually. Spiritual fertility depends on peace and righteousness. If we live by His Word, His peace will fill our hearts and nothing can take away our peace of mind (Phil 4:6-7).

Verses 20-21

Separation From Evil

To live in that peace, separation from evil is an essential condition (Isa 48:20; Isa 52:11). The people must leave Babylon. It is not only a departure, but also a runaway. It is also about an inner detachment from Babylon and not merely an outward departure. All the years in Babylon have tainted them internally in many cases.

We recognize this in the books of Ezra and of Nehemiah. That is why through the prophets Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi sounds the call to inner conversion, to spiritually flee from Babylon. This is also the call to the believers in our time regarding the church as an institution where people dominate over others.

We live in the midst of a Christianity defiled by erroneous doctrine and moral evils that proliferate like a cancerous tumor. Therefore, within the religious confusion, we must separate ourselves from what is not according to the will and honor of the Lord (Rev 18:4). It is also good to remember that deliverance is the result of separation and that that separation is accompanied by the sound of joyful shouting and joyful testimony.

Israel is instructed to let the good news of their deliverance be heard “to the end of the earth”. This the God-fearing remnant will do in the coming day. Until then, the worldwide testimony of the gospel has been entrusted to us. We see the elements of the gospel in the water flow out of the rock for the thirsty (Isa 48:21). This water is made freely available to all (Isa 55:1; Rev 22:17b). It is the water that Christ gives (Jn 4:10; 13-14), while He Himself is also the rock (1Cor 10:4).

Verse 22

No Peace for the Wicked

This part of the prophecy of Isaiah, Isaiah 40-48, ends with the serious declaration of the LORD that the wicked have no peace. The peace of the obedient (Isa 48:18) is unknown to the wicked. Peace is the result of obedience (Jn 14:15; 21; 23; 27). It seems to be an anticlimax, but Isaiah does not lose sight of the reality when speaking about salvation and the glorious things associated with it. He refers to the wicked in Israel. It is the people who are indifferent to the will of God, a condition that prevents them from experiencing peace and receiving the blessings promised to the righteous in Isa 48:18 (cf. Rev 22:14-15).

This statement is repeated, with a small variation, at the end of Isaiah 57 as the conclusion of the next part (Isaiah 49-57). In more detail we find this statement at the end of the book, at the end of Isaiah 66, as a conclusion of the last part (Isaiah 58-66).

Here this statement concludes the testimony concerning Babylon that began in Isaiah 46:1 and more generally the whole part Isaiah 40-48. In the remainder of the book there is no mention of Cyrus or Babylon or of the idolatry that was the subject of the LORD’s protest. In the next part (Isaiah 49-57) it is not about the first great sin of Israel, idolatry, but about the second great sin of Israel, the rejection of Christ, the true Servant of the LORD.

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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 48". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.