Notes on Isaiah 43:22 – 44:23
43:22-24 It seems when
reading these verses that
43:25 Isaiah moves from speaking of sin to blotting it out. He could have said that He would blot them out. The Lord does not merely say He will blot out sin; He describes Himself as the forgiving God. “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression…?” (Micah 7:18; Mark 2:7). God forgives for His sake. This means the reason He forgives is not in the sinner. If forgiveness is deserved, it is not a gracious gift. When this verse speaks of God remembering sin no more, it is new covenant language as in Jeremiah 31:31-37. This is seen as well in the next paragraph when we read of the Lord pouring out His Spirit.
43:26 There can be no forgiveness
unless there is sin. There can be no accepting a pardon unless sin is
recognized and admitted by the sinner. The Lord challenges
43:27-28 So the Lord speaks to show they are and have been sinners in all their history. Their first father is not named; it may well be Adam in whom all sinned (Romans 5:12). Their leaders ever since have also been sinners, even the religious leaders in God’s holy temple! The appropriate penalty for guilt is announced.
44:1,2 The word of forgiveness in 43:25 was sincere.
They are now told to listen. Even though they are without any defence for their
sin, the Lord has gospel for His undeserving people. He still considers them
His servant and His chosen, because the Lord has not abandoned His plan. He
looks past what is, to what He shall accomplish. He is determined to do them
good (Jeremiah 29:11). He formed them and does not give up until He has
finished His creative work (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). Election
precedes God’s commitment to deliver on His own intention. Jeshurun means
‘upright’, an odd thing to call a sinful people, but God is confident of His
ability to make
44:3-4 This is an Old Testament passage (see Ezekiel 36:24-32; Joel 2:28) which pictures the work of the Holy Spirit using the metaphor of water. Life depends on water and so this is a very fitting analogy for the work of the Spirit. That the water is poured enforces the imagery that it comes down from above. This fits the later description of Pentecost when the Lord Jesus returned to heaven and poured out His Spirit (Acts 2:33). Isaiah speaks of a future day when their descendents would come to spiritual life – life like a lush well-watered garden (58:11), the opposite of the parched garden of 1:30.
44:5 Earlier there was no response when called on to state their innocence (43:26). They could not. Now they speak, cheerfully and explicitly confessing the Lord as theirs. Gone is calling on false gods. Note that the confession is individual. Each of us is called upon to confess the Lord as ours in a clear profession of faith. When one calls himself by the name of Jacob, this shows that the joining is in two directions: it is to the Lord and also to His people. When the Spirit of God produces spiritual life, those who are merely Israelites by heritage and birth become Israelites in heart (John 1:47). Note that it will be their offspring, a word of encouragement concerning our children, and in the context of Isaiah 44, a prediction of future salvation with a huge response when the Spirit will be poured out at Pentecost.
44:6-8 Here the Lord reveals Himself by descriptive names: King, Redeemer, Lord Almighty. This is the first use of LORD Almighty in the major section of Isaiah 38-55, a name emphasizing His power. It could be translated ‘LORD of armies’. These verses show He is the Lord of all their history.
“I am the first and the last” shows God is unlike idols. He does not derive His existence from others. He is self-sufficient; He always has been and always will be. When history is over, He will still be God; what He says He will do. He alone prevails as Lord over all. It is very fitting that the Lord Jesus reveals Himself this way in Revelation 1:8,17,18 & 2:8. When Christ alone can open seals (Revelation 5,6), it shows that He alone has control of the design and events of history. If any idol is a living god, he must be able to declare an event into reality (v.7). Since idols cannot, they must not be feared. They must be rejected. There is no Rock but God, the stable, trustworthy Shelter. (Note in 1 Corinthians 10:4 Christ is called that Rock.)
Idols have been challenged before to reply to some specific challenge. In v.8 the Lord refers to what He proclaims and they cannot, but it does not say exactly what He proclaims. From the preceding context we conclude that it is the blotting out of sin (43:25) and the life the Spirit will give (vv.3-5). Later words speak of the removal of sin (v.22). In short, the Lord is boasting of what He does in salvation to change those who are His. The alternative is tragic – those who worship false gods become slaves of falsehood (vv.20). God takes “things that are not”, and makes something of them, so they boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Idols can neither proclaim benefits to their worshippers, nor make their word come true.
44:9-20 This section opens and closes with the ignorance of idol worshippers (vv.9 & 18-20). The idol is worthless and those who worship them become like them (Psalm 135:18). There is no profit in them (v.10). They are a human production (vv. 9-14), made of physical things (vv. 14-17). It takes human strength to make them, yet such strength fades (v.12).
It appears to be ridicule, but Isaiah just reports the facts of how an idol is made with detail on how the wood is used. From the same tree some is used for heating and cooking, and another piece to make a god to whom the maker bows and says, “Save me!” He may use leftover wood that chances to be available. God forms His people by sovereign intent and choice (v.2).
44:18-20 Idol makers do not grasp how foolish it is to make idols. Everyone needs a god; without the real One, men can do nothing else but devise a substitute to replace the One rejected in their hearts. A false god does not need to be physical; in modern society it may not be. Human reason is corrupted when the truth of God is suppressed (Romans 1:18). Men’s minds are then closed to truth, so they wilfully exchange the glory of God for whatever images they prefer (Romans 1:23). The delusion of a false god is an enslaving domination, just like any other sin (Romans 6:15-23). The deluded heart of v.20 misleads so effectively that men cannot break out of bondage to error. The natural man cannot (is unable to) understand (1 Corinthians 2:14). Salvation can come only by the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit in a man (44:3-5), God acting to save (44:21-23).
In Isaiah 43:14-21 the return
home is from
44:21-22 As in
Psalm 78, and so often in
44:23 The earth is the
Lord’s, so His salvation reaches beyond humans to all the universe – all heaven
and earth. The old creation benefits from the new, especially as God will
display His glory in