Tagged: Assyria

Isaiah 61: The Garments of Salvation

LISTEN: Isaiah 61 podcast

READ: Isaiah 61 notes

STUDY: Isaiah 61 worksheet


Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 61 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.

Key verse:

Isa. 61:10 – I greatly rejoice in the Lord, I exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.

Quick summary:

Isaiah 61 reveals that “the Messiah, who ministered salvation at his first coming, will minister comfort for redeemed Israel at his second coming. Jesus read and applied 61:1–2 to his own ministry when he preached in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16–21). Jesus did not quote 61:2–3 in the synagogue at Nazareth because they will be fulfilled at his second coming. In the kingdom, redeemed Israel will realize its destiny to be a priestly nation” (Robert B. Hughes, J. Carl Laney, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, The Tyndale Reference Library, S. 268).

Take note:

In reference to Himself, Jesus quotes verses 1-2a in Luke 4:18-19. The Messiah’s mission is to “bring good news to the poor” … “to heal the brokenhearted” … “to proclaim liberty … and freedom” … and “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He stops in mid-sentence, however, after the word “favor,” showing that His work would be in two advents. In His first advent He does the work laid out in verses 1-2a. In His second advent, He will carry out the work mentioned in verses 2b-3, bringing judgment on unbelievers and great comfort to Israel.

The Trinity (Isa. 61:1-3)

All three persons of the triune Godhead are written of in verse 1: the Spirit, the Lord God, and the Messiah, signified by the personal pronoun “Me.” Three factors indicate that “Me” refers to Messiah, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary. First, the association of the Holy Spirit with the anointing points to Jesus Christ. After being anointed with oil, Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David, are blessed with the Spirit’s ministry (1 Sam. 10:1, 10; 16:13). In a similar fashion, the Holy Spirit anoints Jesus to be Israel’s King (Matt. 3:16-17). The Hebrew word for Messiah means “the Anointed One,” and the Greek word “Christ” comes from the word chrio, to anoint.  Second, part of this passage is read by Jesus (Luke 4:18-19) to refer to Himself. And third, the mission of the Anointed One as spelled out in Isaiah. 61 is the earthly ministry of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1116).

Further, when the Messiah comes, He will transform the Jews’ sadness into joy. From a New Testament perspective, the grief of captivity in Egypt, the defeat of the northern kingdom at the hands of the Assyrians, the destruction and exile of the southern kingdom at the hands of the Babylonians, the Diaspora at the hands of the Romans, the Holocaust, and the yet-future trials of the Great Tribulation will become distant memories as God comforts and blesses the redeemed of Israel. Isaiah reports in advance all that the coming One will do for His people:

  • Comfort all who mourn
  • Provide for them
  • Give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes (a sign of mourning; see 2 Sam. 13:19; Esther 4:1; Dan. 9:3)
  • Give them festive oil (to soothe and brighten the spirits; see Ps. 23:5; 45:7; 104:15; Ecc. 9:8; Matt. 6:17; Heb. 1:9)
  • Give them splendid clothes instead of despair (bright garments are a sign of joy and acceptance)
  • Call them righteous trees planted by the Lord, displaying His splendor (Isa. 60:21)

Yes, days of judgment lie ahead. Yahweh will chasten and rebuke His own, but in so doing He will turn their feet away from idolatry and, in the last days, turn their hearts toward their Creator and King.

Israel Rebuilt (Isa. 61:4-9)

The Jews will return to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity and rebuild the temple and the cities. While these verses in some respects speak to this promise, the greater truth lies further in the future, after Messiah returns and ushers in the Millennial Kingdom. Israel will rebuild her ruined cities, even those buried beneath the rubble of antiquity. The nation will be so revered that “strangers” and “foreigners” will assist with farming and shepherding. Every Jew will know the Lord and, as a nation of priests, will deal personally with Him and even mediate on behalf of others. This was to be one of Israel’s ministries in the world (Ex. 19:6), but unfortunately she fell short and today awaits the empowerment by the Messiah to fulfill this ancient duty – one which the church will share (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6).

The wealth of nations will come to Israel (see also Isa. 60:5, 11). But even more important, the Lord, seeing that Israel’s shame is “double,” will bless the nation will a double portion (v. 7). The “double” refers to the inheritance the first-born son in a family receives from his father’s estate (Deut. 21:17). Just as the eldest son is given special honor, Israel, as the Lord’s firstborn (Ex. 4:22), will be exalted among the nations, resulting in “eternal joy.”

“I will faithfully reward them,” Yahweh promises in verse 8, “and make an everlasting covenant with them.” This is the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah (32:40), Ezekiel (16:60; 37:26) and the writer of Hebrews (13:20). It’s also the covenant Jesus established through His blood (Matt. 26:28). Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22) but offered freely to all (John 3:16; 5:24). In these ways – God’s blessing the nation of Israel and sending His Son, a Jew, to bear the sins of many – “[a]ll who see them [the Jews] will recognize that they are a people the Lord has blessed” (v. 9).

Some may see these verses as relegating the Gentiles to perpetual servility, but such a view mistakes metaphor for fact, according to D.A. Carson, who writes. “Under the figure of a priestly Israel served by foreigners (5–6) and enriched by its former plunderers (7–8), the reality is the people of God (whose status is not national; cf. 1 Pet. 2:10; Rev. 7:9), vindicated and enjoying their full inheritance as kings and priests (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), while the pride of man is humbled and his power harnessed” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 61:5). There is no doubt that Christ’s finished work at Calvary, and the ensuing work of the Holy Spirit,  make Jews and Gentiles alike joint-heirs with Jesus of God’s kingdom (Rom. 8:14-17).

A Remnant Rejoicing (Isa. 61:10-11)

Notice two metaphors for righteousness in these verses. First, “the garments of salvation.” The prophet exults that the Lord “has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness” (v. 10). This image is carried into the New Testament to depict the justification of believing sinners, who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (see, for example, Rev. 3:5; 7:9-17; 19:6-8, 14; and note the parable of the wedding banquet in Matt. 22:1-14, in which a wedding guest is cast out for refusal to put on the appropriate attire provided by the king, symbolic of Christ’s righteousness). Isaiah also makes reference to the turban worn by the high priest and the jewels worn by a bride – garments of special meaning that are worn with great joy. “Such is the beauty of God’s grace in those that are clothed with the robe of righteousness, that by the righteousness of Christ are recommended to God’s favour and by the sanctification of the Spirit have God’s image renewed upon them; they are decked as a bride to be espoused to God, and taken into covenant with him; they are decked as a priest to be employed for God, and taken into communion with him” (Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 61:10).

The second metaphor Isaiah uses for righteousness is growing plant life. “For as the earth brings forth its growth, and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations,” he writes in verse 11. Just as God’s common grace – which includes seed, soil, water and sun – causes crops to spring up and sustain His creatures, so His saving grace will cause the believing Jewish remnant to proclaim righteousness and praise to all the nations. This promise is for the church as well. “Though it may sometimes be winter with the church, when those blessings seem to wither and do not appear, yet the root of them is fixed, a spring-time will come, when through the reviving beams of the approaching Sun of righteousness they shall flourish again” (Matthew Henry, S. Is. 61:10).

Closing Thought

Warren Wiersbe writes: “The background of this passage is the ‘Year of Jubilee’ described in Leviticus 25:7ff. Every seven years, the Jews were to observe a ‘sabbatical year’ and allow the land to rest. After seven sabbaticals, or forty-nine years, they were to celebrate the fiftieth year as the ‘Year of Jubilee.’ During that year, all debts were canceled, all land was returned to the original owners, the slaves were freed, and everybody was given a fresh new beginning. This was the Lord’s way of balancing the economy and keeping the rich from exploiting the poor. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you are living today in a spiritual ‘Year of Jubilee.’ You have been set free from bondage; your spiritual debt to the Lord has been paid; you are living in ‘the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Instead of the ashes of mourning, you have a crown on your head; for He has made you a king (Rev. 1:6). You have been anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and you wear a garment of righteousness (Isa. 61:3, 10)” (Be Comforted [An Old Testament Study], S. Is 61:1).

Isaiah 59: The Redeemer Will Come

READ: Notes for Isaiah 59

STUDY: Worksheet for Isaiah 59


Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 59 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.

Key verses:

Isa. 59:15b-16 – The Lord saw that there was no justice, and He was offended. He saw there was no man – He was amazed that there was no one interceding; so His own arm brought salvation, and His own righteousness supported Him.

Quick summary:

Israel’s sins have separated them from God. Isaiah describes their sins – inequity, injustice, violence, corruption – and, speaking for the people, acknowledges their guilt. Their sins have left them blind and hopeless. The Lord will judge their sins but, as always, offers hope to those who repent. “Indeed, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear,” Isaiah writes in verse 1.

Take note:

Isaiah draws a sharp contrast between the Lord’s faithfulness and Israel’s wickedness:

  • “The Lord’s hand is not too short to save” (v. 1) vs. “your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity” (v. 3).
  • The Lord’s “ear is not too deaf to hear” (v. 1) vs. “your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen” (v. 2).
  • God “put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and He wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak” (v. 17) vs. “They … weave spider’s webs…. Their webs cannot become clothing, and they cannot cover themselves with their works. Their works are sinful …” (vv. 5-6).
  • “He will repay according to their deeds” (v. 18) vs. “they rush to shed innocent blood … ruin and wretchedness are in their paths … there is no justice in their ways” (vv. 7-8).

Ultimately, the Redeemer will come to Zion and set things right. While He tarries, the people are called to repent of their sins and return to the Holy One of Israel.

Israel’s Sin (Isa. 59:1-11)

Isaiah begins by reminding the people that the Lord could save them in spite of their difficult circumstances. He is powerful enough; His “hand” or “arm” is not too short to save. And He is caring enough; His “ear” is not too deaf to hear. The problem is that the people are so entrenched in wicked behavior that the Lord chooses not to rescue them or hear their cries until they have passed under the rod of judgment and turned from their evil ways. Their iniquities have “built barriers” between them and God, and their sins have caused Him to “hide His face” from them so as not to listen to their pleadings (v. 2). Sin always damages our relationship with God, and when we protest that He doesn’t hear our prayers we fail to realize that the problem lies with us, not with Him.

Take note of Isaiah’s listing of the people’s sins:

  • Their hands are defiled with blood, and their fingers with iniquity (v. 3a)
  • They speak lies and mutter injustice (3b)
  • They are dishonest, trusting in empty and worthless words (v. 4a)
  • They conceive trouble and give birth to iniquity (4b)
  • Their feet run after evil and they rush to shed innocent blood (7a)
  • Their thoughts are sinful (7b)
  • Ruin and wretchedness are in their paths (7b)
  • They have not known the path of peace (8a)
  • There is no justice in their ways (8a)
  • They have made their roads crooked so that no one walking on them will know peace (8b)

Warren Wiersbe writes, “The people lifted their hands to worship God, but their hands were stained with blood. God could not answer their prayers because their sins hid His face from them…. Isaiah compared the evil rulers to pregnant women giving birth to sin (59:4; Ps. 7:14; Isa. 33:11), to snakes hatching their eggs, and to spiders weaving their webs (Isa. 59:5–6). What they give birth to will only destroy them (James 1:13–15), and their beautiful webs of lies can never protect them” (Be Comforted [An Old Testament Study], S. Is 56:9).

The reference to vipers’ eggs in verse 5 illustrates the fact that God’s people are entertaining evil, even fostering it, rather than crushing it in gestation. As a result, the evil hatches into a dangerous creature that destroys those who thought they could control it. The New Testament offers similar warnings to Christians about courting temptation and tolerating sin. The apostle Paul urges the church at Corinth to “purge” the “old leaven;” that is, to rid the church of pagan influences and the contamination of those living openly in sin (1 Cor. 5:7 KJV). James writes about the nefarious way sin works its way from our thoughts into our deeds unless we hold it in check: “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15). And the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception” (Heb. 3:13).

Isaiah also compares the people’s works to spiders’ webs (vv. 5-6). This is not a reference to being entrapped by sin, but to the manner in which God sees through their empty worship and vain works like one sees the nakedness of a person clothed only in spiders’ webs. We deceive ourselves when we live the lie of self-righteousness.

In Isa. 59:9-11, the prophet summarizes the consequences of the people sins: “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We hope for light, but there is darkness; for brightness, but we live in the dark. We grope along a wall like the blind; we grope like those without eyes. We stumble at noon as though it were twilight; we are like the dead among those who are healthy. We all growl like bears and moan like doves. We hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.”

Israel’s Supplication (Isa. 59:12-15a)

In these verses the prophet, using first-person plural pronouns, identifies with the people and confesses their sins. “For our transgressions have multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us,” he writes in verse 12. He acknowledges that Judah’s sins cleave to the people, and the people are well aware of them. This admission proves a deeper level of guilt because the people, who know how to live justly, are engaged in willful rebellion against God. Isaiah goes so far as to spell out the types of sins his fellow countrymen embrace: transgression and deception against the Lord; turning away from following God; speaking oppression and revolt; conceiving and uttering lying words from the heart; turning back justice; keeping righteousness at arm’s length; and keeping truth and honesty from the public square.

Isaiah laments in verse 15a, “Truth is missing, and whoever turns from evil is plundered.” D.A. Carson comments, “Perhaps the most revealing touch is the victimizing of the decent man, the only one out of step … not only public justice has warped, but public opinion with it” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed., S. Is 59:1).

Israel’s Savior (Isa. 59:15b-21)

Because of the people’s depraved condition, no one but Yahweh is able to save. The Lord sees injustice and takes it personally – He is “offended” (v. 15b). He sees there is no one interceding on the people’s behalf, so “His own arm” brings salvation (v. 16). It is good for us to be reminded that salvation is of the Lord. Men and women are incapable of pulling themselves up by the boot straps, making themselves acceptable to God, paying their own sin debt and securing a place in His kingdom. It is only when they cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” as the tax collector does in Luke 18:13, that the Lord reaches down and delivers them from wrath. Those who bring anything of their own to the foot of the cross, and declare their works worthy of eternal life, trample on the blood of Jesus, which alone can save.

God goes forth like a warrior to fight for His people. He puts on righteousness like a breastplate and a helmet of salvation on His head (v. 17a). His other garments are vengeance and zeal, and He repays His enemies with fury and retribution. In the immediate context, God is standing up for His righteous remnant, punishing even those, like the Assyrians and Babylonians, He has used as instruments of judgment against Judah. In the broader context, the Lord assures us that He fights for us in the unseen realm and will come one day to establish His justice throughout the whole earth. The New Testament personalizes this concept by telling us how Christ equips us to fight spiritual battles. The apostle Paul notes in Eph. 6:13-17: “This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.”

In every case, the Lord is in control. He wins battles for us, or through us. And the result is that people will acknowledge Him: “They will fear the name of the Lord in the west, and His glory in the east; for He will come like a rushing stream driven by the wind of the Lord. The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those in Jacob who turn from transgression” (Isa. 59:19-20). When Messiah returns in judgment, He will pour His Spirit on believing Israelites and instill His words within them. With this promise of future hope, the nation is called to repentance.

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes: “There shall be a present temporal salvation wrought out for the Jews in Babylon, or elsewhere in distress and captivity. This is promised as a type of something further. … There shall be a more glorious salvation wrought out by the Messiah in the fullness of time, which salvation all the prophets, upon all occasions, had in view. We have here the two great promises relating to that salvation: (1) That the Son of God shall come to us to be our Redeemer … (2) That the Spirit of God shall come to us to be our sanctifier” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 59:16).

Isaiah 49: A Light for the Nations

Isaiah 49: A Light for the Nations (audio / mp3)

Isaiah 49: A Light for the Nations (study notes and worksheet / pdf)


Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 49 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.

Key verse:

Isa. 49:6 – He [the Lord] says, “It is not enough for you to be My servant raising up the tribes of Jacob and restoring the protected ones of Israel. I will also make you a light for the nations, to be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Quick summary:

In this chapter and the next, Isaiah prophesies about the Servant of the Lord (the Messiah), His mission, and His obedience to God (the Father). Rejected by His own people (v. 4; John 1:11), the Messiah will restore Israel to the Lord and bring salvation to the Gentiles (vv. 5-6). His mouth is likened to a sharpened sword, a reference to His speaking ministry (v. 2; Rev. 1:16). The name Israel is applied here to the Messiah as the One who fulfills Yahweh’s expectations for His people (v. 3). Verses 15-16 feature one of the strongest statements in Scripture of God’s faithfulness to His people.

Take note:

In verse 1 the Servant declares, “The Lord called me before I was born. He named me while I was in my mother’s womb.” This Messianic passage speaks both to the deity and humanity of God’s Servant and strikes a common chord between Jesus and others who have been sent to proclaim salvation to mankind. Jeremiah is chosen of God in his mother’s womb (Jer. 1:5), as is John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) and the apostle Paul (Gal. 1:15). The key difference here, as we learn from other Old Testament and New Testament passages, is that Messiah is the eternal Son of God, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). He existed long before John the Baptist, Jeremiah or even Abraham (John 8:58). Still, He added to his deity sinless humanity so that He would be “a merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb. 2:17).

The Second “Servant Song” (Isa. 49:1-13)

God’s Servant, the Messiah, is the speaker in verses 1-5. He calls not only Israel to hear His voice, but the coastlands (islands) and distant peoples because His message is for all mankind. His words are like a sharpened sword – truth that defends the righteous and destroys the rebellious. Often in Scripture God’s words are likened to a sword (Isa. 1:20; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16, 19:15). They pierce to the very heart, discerning our thoughts and intents, bringing conviction and judgment. For those who repent, God’s word is a comfort and a mighty protector, but to those who rebel, His word is the ultimate destroyer.

Why is the Servant called “Israel” is verse 3? “This cannot refer to the nation because the Servant is to draw that nation back to God. The Messiah is called Israel because He fulfills what Israel should have done. In His person and work He epitomizes the nation” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1103).

In verse 6 Yahweh tells the Servant that He will do more than restore the nation of Israel; He will be “a light for the nations” and “My salvation to the ends of the earth.” The Servant will be “despised” and “abhorred” by people, but ultimately “[k]ings will see and stand up, and princes will bow down” to Him (verse 7). This prophecy is expanded in Isa. 53 where, in verse 6, Isaiah writes, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like one people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.” The Messiah will be rejected by His own people in His first coming (John 1:10-11), but one day all people will acknowledge Him (Phil. 2:10-11). This does not imply that all people will be saved, for the Scripture is clear that those who go to their graves rejecting Christ have chosen to spend eternity apart from Him (Rev. 20:11-15).

Warren Wiersbe adds this observation: “Our Lord could not minister to the Gentiles until first He ministered to the Jews (vv. 5–6). Read carefully Matthew 10:5–6; 15:24; Luke 24:44–49; Acts 3:25–26; 13:46–47; and Romans 1:16. When our Lord returned to heaven, He left behind a believing remnant of Jews that carried on His work. We must never forget that ‘salvation is of the Jews’ (John 4:22). The Bible is a Jewish book, the first believers and missionaries were Jews, and the Gentiles would not have heard the Gospel had it not been brought to them by Jews. Messiah was despised by both Jews and Gentiles (Isa. 49:7), but He did God’s work and was glorified” (Be Comforted, S. Is 49:1).

In verse 8 the terms “time of favor” and “day of salvation” may be a reference to the Millennium, when Messiah sits on the throne of David and fulfills all remaining covenant promises to Israel. Prisoners are told to “come out” and those in darkness are commanded to “[s]how yourselves” (v. 9). The release of Judah from Babylonian captivity will foreshadow that day when God’s kingdom comes in fullness and God’s people are freed from physical suffering and their struggle with sin. The apostle John’s allusion to verse 10 in Rev. 7:17 – “He will guide them to springs of living waters” – may indicate that many Gentiles will join their Jewish brothers and sisters in making Israel their homeland. In fact, the rest of this section tells us that “many will come from far away, from the north and from the west, and from the land of Sinim,” which, according to some scholars, could be a reference to Persia or China (v. 12).

It’s important to remember that the extension of God’s grace to the Gentiles requires the fulfillment of His promises to the Jews. If the Jews are not returned to their homeland, how will Messiah be born in Bethlehem? How will the temple, with its sacrifices that foreshadow the Christ, be built? How will Nazareth be the place He grows up, or Jerusalem be the scene of His teaching, trials, crucifixion and resurrection? All that Yahweh does for the Jews He does with an eye toward all humanity.

Comfort for Jerusalem (Isa. 49:14-23)

This section begins with Zion lamenting, “The Lord has abandoned me” (v. 14). It continues with some of Yahweh’s most tender assurances that He will rescue and exalt His people (vv. 14-23a). And it concludes with God stating His purpose: “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who put their hope in Me will not be put to shame” (v. 23b). The Lord compares His love for Israel to a mother’s love for her children. Isaiah depicts Israel as a nursing child, completely dependent on the Lord who will never forsake or forget them. “Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands,” the Lord says in verse 16. Warren Wiersbe comments: “The high priest bore the names of the tribes of Israel on his shoulders and over his heart (Ex. 28:6–9), engraved on jewels; but God has engraved His children’s names on His hands. The word ‘engraved’ means ‘to cut into,’ signifying its permanence. God can never forget Zion or Zion’s children” (Be Comforted, S. Is 49:1).

Although dark days loom on the horizon for Jerusalem, the Lord assures the people that the best days are yet to come. “As I live,” the Lord declares, “you will wear all your children as jewelry, and put them on as a bride does” (v. 18). Zion may seem like a forgotten mother, but one day her children – the returning inhabitants of Israel – will adorn her like bridal ornaments. In fact, the land will not be large enough to hold them. We know that the exiles who return from Babylon after King Cyrus’ decree are relatively small in number, so the return mentioned in verses 19-21 probably is a reference to Israel’s return at the beginning of the millennium.

In the future, when Israel returns to the land, the Gentiles will worship God, honor the Jews and even help transport them to their homeland. What a startling turn of events from the anti-Semitism that has marred so much of human history. The Lord says the Gentiles “will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders” (v. 22). Even more amazing, the world’s leaders will pay homage to God’s people: “Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down to you with their faces to the ground, and lick the dust at your feet” (v. 23). What is the purpose of all this? So the Jews “will know that I am the Lord” (v. 23).

Comfort for the Captives (Isa. 49:24-26)

Isaiah closes the chapter with two poignant questions for the citizens of Judah: Can the prey be taken from the mighty? Can the captives of the tyrant be delivered? After all that Isaiah has said and all that the Lord has declared and done, some of the Jews still lament that their situation is hopeless and their future is bleak. But the Lord clearly is in command, even of the world’s most powerful rulers. Notice how the Lord responds:

  • “Even the captives of a mighty man will be taken, and the prey of a tyrant will be delivered” (v. 25). No power on earth will thwart God’s plan for Israel. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes it clear that no power in the heavens will stop Him, either. He comes into the world to invade Satan’s kingdom and to bind the strong man (Satan), thus plundering his goods by leading lost sinners into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 12:25-29).
  • “I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your children” (v. 25). The Assyrians will be defeated on the hills surrounding Jerusalem – 185,000 in a single night. What’s more, the emerging Babylonians will only succeed for a while in conquering God’s people and then will be brought low. In the last days, the antichrist and his followers who oppose Israel will be cut down by the returning King of kings and Lord of Lords. The best allies of God are allies of God’s people, and the worst enemies of God are the enemies of the Jews.
  • “I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they will be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine” (v. 26). The reference to eating their own flesh could be symbolic of internal strife among the enemies of God’s people (see Isa. 9:20). Drinking their own blood is just retribution for shedding the blood of God’s servants. Sweet wine is fresh and new; a great deal is required to intoxicate someone. Therefore it is an appropriate image of the large quantities of blood that would be required of God’s enemies (see Rev. 14:10, 20; 16:6).
  • Finally, Yahweh reminds the people they should be confident in their future deliverance: “Then all flesh will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (v. 26).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry comments: “See what will be the effect of Babylon’s ruin: All flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour. God will make it to appear, to the conviction of all the world, that, though Israel seem lost and cast off, they have a Redeemer, and, though they are made a prey to the mighty, Jacob has a mighty One, who is able to deal with all his enemies. God intends, by the deliverances of his church, both to notify and to magnify his own name” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 49:24).

 Copyright 2010 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 43: Walk Through the Fire

Isaiah 43: Walk Through the Fire (audio file / mp3)

Isaiah 43: Walk Through the Fire (study notes and work sheet / pdf)


Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 43 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance and the worldwide impact of the coming of Messiah.

Key verse:

Isa. 43:2 – I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and [when you pass] through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.

Quick summary:

Despite Judah’s unfaithfulness, God promises to restore the nation after the Babylonian captivity.  The people are not to fear because the Lord created them, loves them and will carry out His promises to them. Just as God led the Israelites out of Egypt through the Red Sea, He will bring them out of Babylon, across the desert and safely back into their homeland. As a result, the people will witness to the world that He is the one true God and only Savior.

Take note:

The Lord repeatedly rehearses His uniqueness as the only true God. For the Jews, this is both a reminder and a prophetic prompt. The Babylonian captivity will finally cure the people of their idolatry, although it will take a spiritual revival in the last days to fully draw the redeemed of Israel into declaring worldwide the wonder of the Holy One of Israel and the salvation of the Messiah. Note how the Lord describes Himself to the people in this chapter:

  • “I [am] the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior” (v. 3).
  • “I am He. No god was formed before Me, and there will be none after Me” (v. 10).
  • “I, I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior but Me” (v. 11).
  • “I alone declared, saved, and proclaimed … I am God” (v. 12).
  • “I am He [alone] … I act, and who can reverse it?” (v. 13).
  • “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, Your King” (v. 15).
  • “It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more” (v. 25).

The Restoration of Israel (Isa. 43:1-7)

“These verses give Israel in eloquent detail the assurance Christ gives to his church, that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it,” writes D.A. Carson (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 43:1). Raging waters, scorching fires, brutal enemies and great distances will not prevent the Lord’s people from obtaining their inheritance. For the Jews in Isaiah’s day, this means a return to Israel and a rebuilding of the temple following the Babylonian captivity, and ultimately the coming of the Messiah. For the church, it means an irrevocable citizenship in the kingdom of heaven based on the finished work of Christ and the promise of His glorious return one day. All of this is assured, not because of human righteousness, but because of the faithfulness of the covenant-keeping Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah reminds the Jews of some of the strands that bind them to God: creation, redemption and calling (verse 1); the Lord’s omnipresence (verse 2); love (verse 4); adoption (verse 6); and the honor of His name (verse 7). This unique relationship between God and His people is pictured in the bold image of a human ransom. Nations fall and people are displaced to make way for Israel (verses 3-4, 14). God is not unjust to act this way for all the world’s people have rejected Him and gone their own way. In choosing Israel, the Lord demonstrates His sovereignty and grace. Even more important, whatever the nations lose to Israel is more than compensated in the ransom Israel’s Messiah would pay for the sins of the world, bringing into the kingdom people of every “tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

The Response of Israel (Isa. 43:8-13)

The Lord invites Israel, still spiritually blind and deaf, to stand before the nations as a witness of His uniqueness as the one true and living God. He challenges the nations to present witnesses. Can they point to past prophecies, made by their seers, which came true? Can they predict the

future? Of course not (see Isa. 41:21-23). In contrast, Israel, as God’s chosen servant, takes the stand and testifies that no god was formed before the Holy One of Israel, and there will be none after Him (v. 10). The Lord reminds His people, “‘I, I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior but Me. I alone declared, saved, and proclaimed – and not some foreign god among you. So you are My witnesses’ – the Lord’s declaration – ‘and I am God’” (Isa. 43:11-12). The Lord’s deliverance of Israel shows He is the true God. No one can successfully oppose Him or thwart His plans.

The name “Savior” is one God gives Himself in this passage and Isaiah uses frequently throughout his writings. For example, the Lord is “the God of your salvation” in Isa. 17:10; “God of Israel, Savior” in 45:15; “a righteous God and Savior” in 45:21; “Savior and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” in 60:16; and “your salvation” in 62:11. No foreign god can duplicate His wondrous works. No deity fashioned out of metal, wood or stone is able to save the people God created for His pleasure, purpose and glory.

Twice in this section the Lord calls the citizens of Judah “My witnesses.” Warren Wiersbe writes, “[I]t is in the history of Israel that God has revealed Himself to the world. Frederick the Great asked the Marquis D’Argens, ‘Can you give me one single irrefutable proof of God?’ The Marquis replied, ‘Yes, your majesty, the Jews’” (Be Comforted, S. Is 41:1). Matthew Henry notes that the Lord shows Himself as God by two proofs in this passage: “[1.] He has infinite and infallible knowledge, as is evident from the predictions of his word (v. 12) … [2.] He has an infinite and irresistible power, as is evident from the performances of his providence…. The cause of God is not afraid to stand a fair trial; but it may reasonably be expected that those who cannot justify themselves in their irreligion should submit to the power of the truth and true religion” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 43:8).

The Routing of Babylon (Isa. 43:14-21)

By God’s grace and for Israel’s sake, the Lord promises to destroy Babylon and deliver the Jews from captivity. Even though Assyria is the threat in Isaiah’s day, and Babylon is pursued as an ally, this powerful kingdom to the east will rise up and do to Judah what the Assyrians could not – conquer Jerusalem and destroy the temple. Even so, once God’s use of the Babylonians as His rod of punishment is completed, He will defeat Judah’s foes and bring His people home. This deliverance is the backdrop against which a greater work of God will be accomplished in the sending of Messiah and His redemption on the cross. As D.A. Carson writes, “For its real fulfillment we must look beyond the modest homecomings from Babylon of the sixth and fifth centuries bc, although these are certainly in view, to the exodus which the Son of God accomplished at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31; cf. 1 Cor. 10:4, 11), which alone justifies the language of this and kindred passages” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 43:1).

In verses 16-17, Isaiah alludes to God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian captivity and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. The exodus is a standing illustration of God’s unchanging character toward His people and a reminder to the church today that the Lord is directing human history to its ultimate conclusion in the destruction of His enemies and the deliverance of His people into “new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell” (2 Peter 3:13). The works that God will yet do for His people are so wonderful, they will not remember the sins God already has forgotten or “the past events” such as the defeat of Sennacherib or the return from exile in Babylon (v. 18). The apostle Paul, quoting Isaiah 52 and 64, gives Christians a similar glimpse of the future when he writes, “What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man’s heart, is what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

The Rebellion of Israel (Isa. 43:22-28)

With the temple destroyed and the nation exiled under Babylonian rule, the Jews in the coming days will not be able to offer atoning sacrifices. Nevertheless, their gracious God promises to forgive their mounting sins. “It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more,” the Lord says in verse 25. At the same time, the people should not lose sight of why they’re going into captivity in the first place: “Jacob, you have not called on Me … Israel, you have become weary of Me … you have burdened Me with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities” (vv. 22, 24).

Matthew Henry takes note of five sins of omission in this passage. The people have 1) “cast off prayer;” 2) “grown weary of their religion;” 3) “grudged the expense of their devotion;” 4) not honored God with their sacrifices, “and so they were, in effect, as no sacrifices;” and 5) “aggravated their neglect of sacrificing” because God had not made it a burden for them  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 43:22).

Even though the Lord will forgive Judah, He must discipline them. He invites the people to court and urges them to state their case. He then offers His evidence against them. Their “first father” sinned and their “mediators” rebelled against God. The “first father” is Adam (see Hosea 6:7), Abraham, or possibly Jacob. If Adam, then the point is that his sin nature was passed to all people (Rom. 5:12). If Abraham, then even the father of the Jewish race was in need of a Redeemer. If Jacob, then God is reminding the people that even their ancestors were sinful and fallen men. In addition, the “mediators” – the priests and prophets – have rebelled against God and failed to lead the people to live in a manner pleasing to Him. Therefore, God is going to punish the nation at the hands of Babylon.

Closing Thought

God’s chosen people should never presume upon His grace. While we are the recipients of the “richness of His grace” (Eph. 1:7), we also are the receivers of the full weight of His divine discipline when we fail to “walk worthy of God” (1 Thess. 2:12). D.A. Carson comments: “Israel’s devastating response to divine ardor is a yawn of apathy. No rebuff could be worse … The final thrust [v. 28] is deadly, for destruction is the Hebrew term herem, reserved for such objects of judgment as Jericho or the Amalekites, with whom no compromise was to be endured. It is the strongest term in the language” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 43:22).

Copyright 2010 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 39: Nothing Left

Isaiah 39: Nothing Left (audio)

Isaiah 39: Nothing Left (pdf)


Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment Part 2: Historical Interlude Part 3: Salvation
Chapters 1-35 Chapters 36-39 Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

It appears the visit from Merodach-baladan of Babylon occurs in 701 B.C., after Hezekiah’s illness and recovery but before the siege of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem.

Key verse:

Isa. 39:6 – “The time will certainly come when everything in your palace and all that your fathers have stored up until this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will be left,” says the Lord.

Quick summary:

The news of Hezekiah’s illness and recovery has spread as far as distant Babylon, whose king sends congratulatory letters and a gift to Jerusalem, followed by a visit. While on the surface it appears that Merodach-baladan has come to rejoice with Hezekiah over his restored health, the real reason is to learn about Judah’s economic resources, which may be needed to combat the Assyrians. No doubt Hezekiah is exploring an alliance with Babylon as well. But Hezekiah’s disregard of God’s promise to save Jerusalem will prove costly to the king’s family and nation.

Take note:

This event also is recorded in 2 Kings 20:12-19 and a revealing commentary is placed at the end of a summary of Hezekiah’s wealth and works in 2 Chron. 32:27-31: “When the ambassadors of Babylon’s rulers were sent to him to inquire about the miraculous sign that happened in the land, God left him to test him and discover what was in his heart” (v. 31). The Lord already knows what’s in Hezekiah’s heart, principally pride, but He allows the king to discover this for himself.

Hezekiah’s Folly (Isa. 39:1-8)

In all likelihood there is more than good will on the mind of Merodach-baladan, who is known as Marduk-apal-idinna, the invader. Twice he has tried to shake off the yoke of Assyria, succeeding for a time in taking the city of Babylon. After his second reign, in 703-702 B.C., he is deposed by Assyria’s King Sennacherib and flees to Elam, where he tries to form alliances with other nations to fight against the Assyrians. “Undoubtedly his friendly visit after Hezekiah’s illness was intended to persuade the king of Judah to join the rebel alliance in the fight against Assyria. This made Hezekiah’s indiscretion all the worse in view of Isaiah’s words that God was using Assyria to punish the whole region (chap.  10). The visit was also God’s test of Hezekiah’s heart (2 Chron. 32:31)” (John Fr. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, 1:1090).

Matthew Henry notes that there may have been a noble element to the Babylonian king’s visit besides seeking a military alliance: “It becomes us to give honour to those whom our God puts honour upon. The sun was the Babylonians’ god; and when they understood that it was with a respect to Hezekiah that the sun, to their great surprise, went back ten degrees, on such a day, they thought themselves obliged to do Hezekiah all the honour they could. Will all people thus walk in the name of their God, and shall not we?” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 39:1).

Flattered by his Babylonian visitors, Hezekiah shows them “all his armory” and “everything … in his treasuries.” No doubt the king wants to impress the emissaries, but they are more interested in his ability to support a sustained military uprising against Assyria. When Isaiah gets wind of Hezekiah’s hospitality, he asks the king several questions and discovers that Hezekiah has shown the Babylonians “everything in my palace” (v. 4).

Isaiah’s response is prophetic. First, he tells the king that one day his family’s immense wealth will be carried off to Babylon. This is astounding because the Assyrians, not the Babylonians, are threatening the region. The Babylonians are rebels on the run, and they have experienced numerous defeats at the hands of the Assyrians. Second, Isaiah tells Hezekiah that some of his descendents will be carried away into Babylon as captives and made eunuchs. This is fulfilled beginning in 605 B.C. when Daniel and other Hebrews are taken from Judah and pressed into service in Babylon. Hezekiah is not the lone cause of this judgment, or even a major cause of it, for subsequent rulers, priests and false prophets heaped up the nation’s sins until God could take it no longer (2 Chron. 36:13-16).

Warren W. Wiersbe remarks: “It was certainly a mistake for Hezekiah to show his visitors all his wealth, but pride made him do it. After a time of severe suffering, sometimes it feels so good just to feel good that we get off guard and fail to watch and pray. The king was basking in fame and wealth and apparently neglecting his spiritual life. Hezekiah was safer as a sick man in bed than as a healthy man on the throne. Had he consulted first with Isaiah, the king would have avoided blundering as he did” (Be Comforted, S. Is 39:1). D.A. Carson adds, “The faith of Hezekiah, proof against the heaviest blows, melts at the touch of flattery … and the world claims another victim by its friendship” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 39:1).

The Lord’s punishment will not come in Hezekiah’s lifetime, as it did in the days of King David for his sin of numbering the troops (see 2 Sam. 24:13-15). Hezekiah’s response at first glance seems self centered. “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good,” he says in verse 8. “There will be peace and security during my lifetime.” How cold hearted to rejoice in the escape from punishment that will be imposed on future generations. But on closer examination, the king’s reaction is more likely a humble acceptance of God’s decree, as 2 Chron. 32:26 bears out. The king repents and God forgives him. Still, the consequences of his foolish deeds are not removed; the Babylonians will return a century later – not as allies but as conquering foes.

Closing Thought

Wiersbe comments: “When Satan cannot defeat us as the ‘roaring lion’ (1 Peter 5:8–9), he comes as the deceiving serpent (2 Cor. 11:3). What Assyria could not do with weapons, Babylon did with gifts. God permitted the enemy to test Hezekiah so that the proud king might learn what was really in his heart (2 Chron. 32:31)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 39:1).

 Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips