Listen to Me, O Jacob, Isra'el Whom I Have Called, the Sovereign LORD Has Sent Me with His Spirit

48: 12-22

   DIG: Who are the two people God has specifically called in 48:12 and in 48:14b-15? What has each been given to do? What message has God been communicating to the exiles? In what way is Cyrus the LORD’s chosen ally? What has their history of rebellion and ignoring God cost the people? Chapters 40-48 reach their climax here. What about God will this deliverance communicate to all the nations? What was motivating God’s compassion in these chapters? How does His compassion toward believers differ from this?

   REFLECT? In what way is Cyrus’ deliverance of the Jews from Babylon like the deliverance from sin that Messiah has won for His people? How did you first respond to the news that you were free from the enslavement of sin (Romans 8:1-3)? Has there been disobedience in your life that has cost you? How so? Do you feel like you have been forgiven? What have you learned from all of this? From the time Israel returned to the Land, idolatry has never been an issue with them again. Has the issue that resulted in no peace in your life resurfaced?

    This section opens with a call to listen, but then follows a description of a nation that, in fact, had not heard. In a sense, therefore, it is a reprise of 48:1 and signals the beginning of the second half of the poem. ADONAI had declared to them what would happen in the future, but they had credited the fulfilled prophecies to idols. Now God was telling His people the good news of their return from exile. Once again they are called to listen. Not only to listen but to believe and act, even though their deliverance would come through the pagan emperor Cyrus. The inspired prophet Isaiah, offers five reasons why the Israelites should listen:

    First, He is the God of eternity. Listen to Me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called; I Am He; I am He, I am the first and the last (Isaiah 48:12; Revelation 1:17, 2:8, 22:13). This verse, along with the following, is a summary of ADONAI’s claim to be able to deliver the Israelites from Babylon, and to be able to use whoever He wanted to make it happen. The LORD had called Israel because she was part of a larger plan that included the coming Messiah and the redemption of the world. She was not subject to the whims of some god of wood or stone. He was the only God. I Am He is Isaiah’s equivalent of I Am Who I Am (Exodus 3:14). It is the claim of the LORD of heaven’s angelic armies (CJB), and He can use someone like Cyrus because nothing is outside His control. He had no limitations. Should Jacob and Israel not listen to Him? Shouldn’t we?

    Secondly, He is the God of creation. Moreover, My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together (48:13). The opening Moreover shows how the LORD’s creation flows from His being. The entire universe is the servant of God, and when He commands, the entire universe responds. The idea is described beautifully by the Psalmist: Your faithfulness continues through all generations; You established the earth, and it endures. Your rulings endure to this day, for all things serve You (Psalm 119:90-91). The earth and the heavens are used as polar opposites to express the whole: ADONAI created the earth and everything below, the heavens and everything in between. His right hand spread out the heavens. Everything in the universe, including the stars (see my commentary on Genesis Lw – The Witness of the Stars), appear and disappear at His command.

    Thirdly, He is the God of human affairs. The focus moves from creation to history. ADONAI said: Come together, all of you, and listen: Which of the idols has foretold these things? The LORD’s chosen ally will carry out His purpose against Babylon (49:14a). When God’s people would read this prophecy about 200 years from then, it would reassure them that this really was His plan. Yes, Cyrus was a pagan king. Yes, they had misgivings (45:9-10, 46:8 and 12). But ADONAI was, and is, the God of human affairs. They needed to trust Him. God Himself was behind it, and as such, they must be for it. Cyrus was, after all, the LORD’s chosen ally.

    When ADONAI says: I, even I, have spoken: yes, I have called him. The emphasis in the Hebrew is unmistakable. Literally, I, I, I have spoken; moreover, I have called him. I will bring him and he will succeed in his mission, and his arm will be against the Babylonians, He is talking about Cyrus (48:14b-15). The phrase his arm here symbolizes the strength and power of Cyrus and his army. God was declaring to the disbelieving people of Israel in the strongest possible terms that the mission of Cyrus will only succeed as a result of God working in human history. These two verses summarize everything said about Cyrus in Chapters 40 to 47. God said five things: Cyrus will capture Babylon, it was the LORD who called and brought him, ADONAI will help him succeed in his mission, and all of this brings out the truthfulness of God’s claims.

    Fourth, the God of prophecy. This verse sums up the appeal of the four previous verses. Once again the call to hear is repeated. ADONAI commanded, Come near Me and listen, “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I Am there” (48:16a). From the beginning, God has not spoken in secret (45:19). His promises have not been mystical or mysterious. His words to Abraham, and before him, to Adam and Eve, were in plain language. As a result, the truth of the LORD's promises is easily verified. This also means that the LORD has been intimately involved in the affairs of humanity. He has made Himself accessible as He revealed His will and made it happen.

    This is the basis of the incarnation. When Jesus Christ became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14a), it was not some new manner of revelation; it was the logical result of all that God had been doing in and through Israel up to that point. They needed to listen up because two things should have been abundantly clear: ADONAI could be understood and what He said was going to happen. This is no less of a lesson for us today, is it not?

    Fifthly, he is also the God of the Trinity. And now Adonai ELOHIM has sent Me with His Spirit (48:16b). This is the second of four examples of the Trinity in the TaNaKh. We see the Trinity in 42:1, here, 61:1 and 63:7-14. And now Adonai ELOHIM (God the Father) has sent Me (God the Son), with His Spirit (God the Holy Spirit). This is the second example of the Trinity in the TaNaKh. Once again there are only three Persons that are ever called God in the TaNaKh. The context began in 48:12 where One Person was speaking. The personal pronoun I has been used from 48:12 where He says I Am the God of eternity, the God of creation, the God of human affairs, and the God of prophecy. This divine personality, the Me of 48:16b, is God the Son. At this point the Second Person is being introduced because the main topic of the second section of the rest of the book, that her sin has been pardoned, in Chapters 49 to 57, will no longer be Cyrus but Messiah the Servant. The second clearest example of the Trinity in the TaNaKh is also in Isaiah. We see this in 63:7-14, but here in Chapter 48 is by far the clearest. Two other verses where the Trinity is seen is 42:1 and 61:1. However, the rabbis teach that to believe in the Trinity is blasphemy and they bend over backwards to prove it is not so. But 48:16 shows a transition from Cyrus in Chapter 48 to Christ in Chapter 49.

    These verses serve as a conclusion, summarizing Chapter 48. They remind the reader of what might have been if Israel had listened and obeyed God (48:17-19). How bright and prosperous would her condition have been if she had followed the guidance of the LORD, her helpful teacher and trustworthy guide. The political solution of returning home from Babylon did not recover the peace that might have been. It was the sin of disobedience that needed to be dealt with, and until that wickedness had been confronted, their peace would remain an illusion.

    As a result, there was a call to obedience. The LORD is our Redeemer, our Next-of-Kin, the Holy One of Isra'el. He is the One who teaches Isra'el to do what is best for them and teaches them the way they should go (48:17). God did not reveal Himself to them in order to dominate them, nor for them to master Him. Rather, He has shown Himself to have a relationship with us. However, Isra'el’s rejection and disobedience produced four results.

    First, if only Isra'el had paid attention to the LORD’s mitzvoth, or commands, her peace would have been like a river (48:18a). Their Redeemer had constantly been teaching and guiding Israel by means of the Torah, but she didn’t listen. This prepared them to hear again the wonderful promise of redemption. Her future obedience would then promise peace (9:6, 26:3, and 12, 32:17) like a river. And that river would be a constant flooding stream, not a seasonal trickle. For this is what ADONAI says: I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem (66:12-13).

    Secondly, if only the Israelites had paid attention to ADONAI their righteousness would have been like the waves of the sea (48:18b). Righteousness is seen to be the characteristic of the reign of God and waves often picture overwhelming power (Psalm 42:7, 65:7, 107:25). Those who stand on the beach are surely impressed by the constant march of waves onto the shore. There is no stopping them. The implication is that if she would trust in YHVH her righteousness would give her overwhelming power once again.

    Thirdly, if only Isra'el had paid attention to God, her descendants would have been like the sand, her children like its numberless grains (48:19a). But because she did not, there would be no increase in Jewish population. To this day, Jews only number about fourteen million. Jews have been around long enough to number in the hundreds of millions. But the Jewish population has been kept small because of constant disobedience. However, her name would never be cut off nor destroyed from before ADONAI (48:19b), because they were His Covenant people and as the writer to the Hebrews would later write: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5b).

    The fourth result was the Babylonian captivity itself. All four were a result of Isra'el’s refusal to obey. No peace, no righteousness, no increase in population, only captivity.

    Even though they had not done so in the past, the Israelites were challenged to start believing in ADONAI and return home to Judah (48:20-21). But the captivity was over with. Remember, that Chapter 48 is written for the Jewish generation at the end of the captivity. And fulfilled prophecy carries with it specific obligations. What prophecies were fulfilled? Namely two. First, Cyrus has taken over the Babylonian empire and second, Cyrus has issued a decree for the Jews to leave Babylon and return to the Land. But this was a daunting task. By the end of the sixth century BC it was little more than a forsaken ruin, its walls broken down, its temple destroyed, and most of its citizens in exile. But for all that, it would continue to be the place God had chosen as the center of His Kingdom on earth. It would once again be the holy City, not just in the sense that no evil will be found in it (1:21-26; 52:1), but that God Himself would return to it and rule from it (2:1-4).184

    With Cyrus’ edict (Second Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4), the Jews were urged to leave Babylon and return home. Isaiah said: Leave Babylon, flee from the Babylonians! They were to depart with shouts of joy (in other words not turning back) and to declare to the whole Gentile world that the LORD had redeemed His servant Jacob (48:20). They would leave with shouts of joy because being redeemed was like being bought out of slavery. This would remind the exiles of the exodus from Egypt.

    After the Egyptian Exodus God provided water in the desert from the rock (see my commentary on Exodus Cu – Strike the Rock and Water Will Come Out of It): They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; He made water flow for them from the rock. He split the rock and water gushed out (48:21). Here too, it is implied that ADONAI would miraculously provide for them in their second Exodus.

    This section ends with this warning: There is no peace, says the LORD, for the wicked (48:22). To understand what this is referring to, go back to 48:18 where it reads: If only you had paid attention to My commands, your peace would have been like a river. But because Israel disobeyed the earlier prophecies, there was no peace like a river. However, for those Jews who did return in 48:21 they will receive peace like a river on their journey home. But for those who stayed behind and rejected the obligation of fulfilled prophecy, there will be no peace. We know that this was true from historical records. They had continuous strife as anti-Semitism grew and grew in Babylon.

    This verse ends the first of the three-fold message in the second half of the book of Isaiah, that her warfare had been completed. It was completed with the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Now Babylon will be conquered and the Jews will be permitted to go back. Therefore, the basic content of Chapters 40 through 48 has been completed. God has demonstrated His absolute superiority over the idols by doing something never before done in human history: causing a conquered people, His people, to return from exile to their native land (41:1 to 44:22). He will do this by destroying proud Babylon through Cyrus. Not surprisingly then, the primary person Isaiah talks about in this section is Cyrus. But not exclusively, he has also mentioned the Messiah twice. Each of these three-fold messages ends with this phrase: there is no peace for the wicked. We will see it again at the end of Chapter 57.

 

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