Isaiah 43

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2007 James Melough

43:1.  “But now saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”


Jacob is the name that is associated with the flesh; and Israel, with what is of the Spirit, and it is instructive to note that “created” relates here to bringing into existence, but “formed” is associated with instructing, shaping, molding what has been created, something that God does only with the new creature in Christ, never with the natural man, for the simple reason that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Corinthians 2:14.


Relative to a new name, see also what is written concerning redeemed Israel, “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name,” Isaiah 62:2.  Only of the redeemed does God say “thou art mine.”


The “fear not” applies to the redeemed of every age, for they belong to God, and have His assurance that “All things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28.


43:2.  “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”


Part of this promise was fulfilled when Israel passed through the divided waters of the Red Sea as they left Egypt, and again when they entered Canaan through a miraculously divided Jordan.  The third part was fulfilled typologically when Israel, represented by the three young Hebrews of Daniel 3, were preserved alive in the fiery furnace; and it will be fulfilled literally in a day now imminent when God will bring the believing remnant through the fiery trial of the Great Tribulation into the enjoyment of millennial Canaan.


Believers of this present age have the same assurance of preservation.  No matter what trial we may have to endure, we will all stand safe and secure in heaven at last.


43:3.  “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.”


The term “the Lord thy God” speaks of His universal dominion as the Creator of all things; “the Holy One of Israel” presents Him as the One Who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and (Who) canst not look on iniquity ....” Habakkuk 1:13; but “thy Savior” declares Him to be the One Who saved Israel from death by means of the Passover lamb when He slew all the firstborn of the Egyptians, and delivered from bondage those He had redeemed by the blood of that lamb which is a type of Christ the true Passover Lamb, as it is written, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,” 1 Corinthians 5:7. 


His having given “Egypt for thy ransom” is understood by some to have reference to His deliverance of the firstborn Israelites on the night of the Passover, and His slaying the firstborn of the Egyptians.  By others however, it is taken to mean that “As a ransom or reward for releasing the Jewish captives, Persia was enabled by God to conquer Egypt... Cush (modern-day southern Egypt, all of Sudan, and northern Ethiopia), and Seba, possibly the same as Sheba in southern Arabia ... where the Sabeans lived .... In contrast with non-Israelites (represented by these three nations), Israel is precious and honored because of God’s love,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary.


43:4.  “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”


Two things that should never be confused are God’s foreknowledge and His predestination, see Romans 8:28-30 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”  God foreknows who will accept, and also who will reject Christ as Savior, but He does not predestinate that choice.  Notice that the predestination has to do not with salvation, but with conformity of believers to Christlikeness. 


Clearly therefore those mentioned in this verse are the foreknown Jewish believers who will constitute the converted Israel that will emerge from the Great Tribulation into the blessings of the Millennium, their blessedness continuing into the eternal state.


His giving “men ... and people for thy life” means simply that while He would permit rebel nations to be destroyed, He would preserve Israel.


43:5.  “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;”


This is God’s assurance that though Israel will be scattered to the four corners of the earth as a result of the Great Tribulation judgments, He will gather the believing remnant of them back to enjoy His blessing in the Millennium. 


The reference to the east is the reminder that it is the direction which is invariably scripturally synonymous with sin and departure from God, see, for example, Genesis 3:24 and 4:16, relative to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, and the departure of Cain from God’s presence, “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life,” “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.”  In all of Scripture there is not one good reference to the east.  Note for example, that the wise men came from the east into the presence of Christ around the time of His birth,” Matthew 2:1-2; and relative to their return it is not said that they went back eastward (which of course they did), but that “they departed into their own country another way,” Matthew 2:12.  (Note also that the bringing of “thy seed” i.e., descendants, implies a then distant future regathering, which is now imminent).


43:6.  “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;


This continues to portray God’s call to Israel in the Tribulation era, to return to Canaan from her world-wide scattering; and as noted already, the return of the Jews to Palestine since 1938 is the assurance that the terrible Tribulation judgments are not far off.


43:7.  “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”


“... called by my name” implies that these called ones are converted Jews, who, like all other believers, have been created for God’s special glory, His having “formed” them implying that He has instructed or molded them in the way of righteousness, which goes beyond His merely having “created” them, for it is to be remembered that He will be glorified by the destruction of the unrepentant rebel, just as He will be by the salvation of the believer, see Ezekiel 28:22, “... Behold I am against thee, O Zidon; and I will be glorified in the midst of thee: and they shall know that I am the Lord when I shall have executed judgments in her, and shall be sanctified in her,”


43:8.  “Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.”


The reference is to disobedient Israel, for though they had eyes and ears, they refused to see or hear what God had written, or what He said to them through His servants the prophets.  He is equally blind and deaf who fails to understand that apostate Christianity merits the same condemnation.


43:9.  “Let the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things?”


Other translations of this verse are, “... who among them could foretell this?” AAT; “Who among the idolaters could predict this [that Cyrus will be the deliverer of Israel] and show us the former things?” Amp; “Where are the witnesses of anything they said? If there are no witnesses, then they must confess that only God can prophesy,” Taylor.


As has been noted already, fulfilled prophecy attests the Divine Authorship of the Bible.


43:10.  “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”


God here calls upon Israel to testify that He, Jehovah, is the only eternally existing God, all others being but the figments of disordered imaginations; fulfilled prophecy being competent testimony not only to the veracity of His spoken and written Word, but to His omniscience.


43:11.  “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior.”


His being “the Lord” speaks of omnipotence, an essential attribute of anyone who would save men from hell, and fit them for heaven, for that miracle required that the deliverer die as man’s representative in order to expiate man’s sin, and then rise from the dead to continue living eternally as evidence that He had power even over death, as it is written, He “was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification,” Romans 4:25.  Christ’s resurrection is the proof that God has accepted His vicarious sacrifice, and imputes it to every born-again believer.


43:12.  “I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.”


When Israel had abandoned idolatry, and turned again to Jehovah, He had proved that He, and He alone, was God.  He had foretold the future; He had delivered them from their enemies, and demonstrated His omnipotence, as they themselves must testify.


43:13.  “Yea, before the day was, I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let (hinder) it?”


“... before the day was” is another way of declaring God’s eternality; and the impossibility of opposing Him declares his omnipotence.


43:14.  “Thus saith the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships.”


The Amplified rendering of this verse is, “For your sake I have sent one to Babylon, and I will bring down all of them as fugitives, and all their nobles, even the Chaldeans into the ships over which they rejoiced.”


Most historians agree that the one whom God used to destroy Babylon was Cambyses, the son of Cyrus.


“... whose cry is in the ships” means that the Babylonians, who had found inordinate pleasure in their ships, would now fly in panic to those same vessels in an effort escape the invader, and save their lives.


Revelation chapters 17 and 18 make it clear that Babylon is the great apostate religious system Roman Catholicism headquartered in Rome, and extending her evil tentacles into every corner of the earth.


43:15.  “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.”


Here God emphasized His special relationship with Israel.  He Who had created them, as He has all things, was absolutely holy, and their unique privilege was that He was their King.  They therefore, should also have been holy, as it is written, “For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth ... ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy,” Leviticus 11:44-45.


43:16.  “Thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;”


There is general agreement that the reference here is not to creation, but to God’s having brought Israel out of Egypt through the divided waters of the Red Sea.


43:17.  “Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.”


This describes God’s destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea after the night of the Passover, when they followed the escaping Israelites, for whom He had divided the sea.  Those waters, rolling back in the wake of the fleeing Israelites, engulfed the pursuing Egyptians, snuffing out their lives like candlewicks.


43:18.  “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.”


Taylor’s translation of this verse reads, “But forget all that - it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do.”  We too should realize that in this, and in every past deliverance of Israel, God wants us to see a typological picture of what is yet to be.  Following the rapture of the Church, a believing remnant of Israel will be brought through the terrible judgments of the Great Tribulation, into the blessings of the Millennium.


43:19.  “Behold I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” 


This describes millennial conditions on the earth, see, e.g., Isaiah 35:1, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”


43:20.  “The beast of the field shall honor me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.”


“... dragons and owls” is better translated “jackals and ostriches,” or “wolves and ostriches.”


In that coming glorious era the behavior of the animals will also be changed: those that are now carnivorous will become herbivorous, and there will be fulfilled what is written in Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”


Their honoring God seems to be related to their becoming herbivorous, so that they will no longer kill one another, the abundance of grass for food being related to the plentiful supply of water even in places that are now desert.


“ people, my chosen” will be the millennial-age believers, both Jews and gentiles.”


43:21.  “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.”


The people here are generally understood to be the believing Jews in the Millennium; and whereas they have for so long dishonored God by their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ, they will in that impending age honor Him by believing in the One their ancestors rejected and crucified.


43:22.  “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.”


As noted already, Jacob relates to the flesh; Israel, to the spirit, so that the message here is of God’s condemnation of the people’s complete disregard of Him, for even their outward ritual of worship was a mere formality.  Nor is that of today’s professing but unbelieving Christendom any less repugnant to Him. An obedient life is the truest form of worship as it is written, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” 1 Samuel 15:22, a truth emphasized by the Lord Himself when He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” John 14:15.


43:23.  “Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt-offerings; neither hast thou honored me with thy sacrifices.  I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.”


“... small cattle” was the general term for the smaller animals such as sheep and goats, as distinct from the larger bulls and heifers; and while God had prescribed what animals He would accept, He had not compelled Israel to bring any of them: they were to offer voluntarily.   The spirit of true worship is nowhere more beautifully described than in the words of David in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”  All the sacrifices offered in the OT dispensation were merely types of the one perfect Sacrifice that alone could put away the believer’s sins for ever, i.e., the offering of the Lord Jesus Christ, see Hebrews 10:1-14.


43:24.  “Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.”


The ambiguity of the KJ translation here is clarified by other renderings, e.g., “Thou hast not bought for me with silver fragrant calamus, nor with the fat of thy sacrifices hast thou sated me ... but thou hast burdened me with thy sins ... thou hast done nothing but oppress me with thy sins ... you have made me a servant to your sins, and you have made me tired with your evil doings.”


43:25.  “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”


God’s paramount desire was to provide a way whereby He, on a perfectly just basis, could pardon Israel’s sins, and bless her; and in the OT era that method was by the shedding of the blood of an innocent unblemished animal, its physical perfection adumbrating the moral perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ.


43:26.  “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.”


God graciously invited Israel to produce any proof that would justify her claim to righteousness, for she in her blind complacency failed to see that the countless thousands of animals she offered for the expiation of her sin were instead the very evidence of her guilt.


43:27.  “Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.”


Some take “thy first father” to have been Jacob, but clearly the first father here was Adam, for it was he, not Jacob, who brought sin into the world.


And the transgression of the teachers was their failure to recognize that it was impossible for man’s sin to be atoned for by the blood of mere animals.  Nothing but the precious blood of Christ can expiate men’s sins, as it is written, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter 1:18-19.


43:28.  “Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.”


The NEB translation of this verse reads, “Your princes profaned my sanctuary; so I sent Jacob to his doom, and left Israel to execration (shame, reviling).”


It is to be noted again that relative to Jacob, who represents the flesh, he is said to have been sent “to his doom,” i.e., he was destroyed; but Israel, who represents what is of the Spirit suffered shame and reviling, but not destruction.  This is the typological announcement of the truth that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption,” 1 Corinthians 15:50.

[Isaiah 44]

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