Wednesday, February 21, 2024

2024.02.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 43:22–44:23

Read Isaiah 43:22–44:23

Questions from the Scripture text: Despite God having saved them so marvelously before (Isaiah 43:16–17), what hasn’t Jacob done (Isaiah 43:22a)? And how has Israel treated the Lord (verse 22b)? How have they not related to the Lord (Isaiah 43:23-24b)? How have they related to Him instead (Isaiah 43:24c–d)? But what does the Lord do for Israel (Isaiah 43:25)? What does He command them to do in Isaiah 43:26? Who did what in Isaiah 43:27a? And who else did what (verse 27b)? What will happen to which people in Isaiah 43:28a? And to what [corporate] people in verse 28b–c? To whom does YHWH now speak in Isaiah 44:1? What does He call them in verse 1a, Isaiah 44:2c? What has He done for them (Isaiah 44:1b, Isaiah 44:2d)? And what else (Isaiah 44:2a)? And how does He describe it in verse 2b? What will He do for them? What does He call them in verse 2c? What does He say that He will pour in Isaiah 44:3a–b? And what in verse 3c–d (cf. Ezekiel 36:24–28)? Upon whom, specifically? With what effect (Isaiah 44:4)? For what sort of life is this a metaphor (Isaiah 44:5)? What is YHWH to Israel in Isaiah 44:6a? And what in verse 6b? What does He display about Himself in this way (verse 6b–d, Isaiah 44:8d–f; cf. Isaiah 41:4; Revelation 1:8, Revelation 1:17, Revelation 22:13)? What can no one else do (Isaiah 44:7)? What must Israel not do (Isaiah 44:8a)? Because of what (verse 8b–c)? But what have some done instead (Isaiah 44:9-11)? To what effect? By what strength are idols made (Isaiah 44:12a–c)? What happens to that strength (verse 12d–e)? What does the craftsman have to do to it (Isaiah 44:13a–d)? To fit what pattern (verse 13e–f)? Where does he have to go to get the material (Isaiah 44:14a–c)? But even then what does it need (verse 14d)? But what will the rest of it be used for (Isaiah 44:15a)? To do what (verse 15b)? And what else (verse 15c)? So, what is some of it used for (verse 15d–e, Isaiah 44:17)? And how does the rest of the use in Isaiah 44:16 show the ridiculousness of this? How could they do something so foolish (Isaiah 44:18)? What can’t they even see or think (Isaiah 44:19-20)? What does the Lord command them in Isaiah 44:21a? Who are they (verse 21b)? What has He done for them (verse 21c)? What does He refuse to do (verse 21d)? What has He done (Isaiah 44:22a)? How many were there (verse 22a–b)? What does He now tell them to do (verse 22c)? Why? Now who receive commands in Isaiah 44:23a–d? What are they to do? Why? To what does all the creation respond in this way (verse 23e–f)? 

From what do we most need to be redeemed? Isaiah 43:22–44:23 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that it is from our sin that we most need redemption. 

In last week’s portion (Isaiah 42:18–43:21), the Lord declared Himself as Redeemer (next of kin who saves us because we have no hope in ourselves or otherwise) from Babylon (Isaiah 43:14), Who is doing a new and greater work (Isaiah 43:18–19) than He had done even in the Exodus (Isaiah 43:16–17). But now this section describes an even greater redemption: redemption from their sin!

Helpless religiosity, Isaiah 43:22–24. In the original of Isaiah 43:22-23b, the emphasis repeatedly lies upon “Me.” It wasn’t genuinely unto the Lord that they were offering all of their worship. They viewed His worship as slavery (Isaiah 43:23c, ironically, since He literally brought them out of slavery) and wearisome (verse 23d). But the reality is that they have treated the Lord as a slave (Isaiah 43:24c uses the same verb as Isaiah 43:23c). They heap their sins and iniquities upon Him, Who has attached Himself to them. 

Surprising, sure help, Isaiah 43:25–44:5Isaiah 43:25 is very abrupt in the original. There is no logical connection given in the text. The Lord saves according to His own pleasure (“for My own sake”), and here He interrupts their continual stream of sin to blot it out. Their case (Isaiah 43:26) is dire. From their first father (Isaiah 43:27a), through everyone in between (verse 27b), they have been sinners. And even now, those who are in leadership among the holy people (Isaiah 43:28a) have brought themselves—and the nation, together with them (verse 28)—under guilt and curse. 

So, Israel needs to be able to trace a line of help and hope back to someone other than their ancestors or up to someone other than their leaders. That someone is the Lord! He brought Jacob into that greatest freedom: slavery to God (Isaiah 44:1a, Isaiah 44:2c). He chose Israel for Himself (Isaiah 44:1b, Isaiah 44:2d). He has given them a new ancestry, not fathering them in the way from Isaiah 43:27, but making and forming them as the people of His help (Isaiah 44:2a–b). 

Best of all is this name “Jeshurun” (Isaiah 44:2d), which means something like “beloved little righteous one.” They have received no righteousness from their human fathers, but the Lord has committed Himself to making them His righteous darlings! This He does by pouring Himself out, His Spirit giving them a nature that is directly contrary to their own (Isaiah 44:3a–b, cf. Ezekiel 36:24–28) and initiating a new covenant line of hope for the same pouring of the same Spirit (Isaiah 44:3c–d) like the pouring of the water in the metaphor in verse 3a–b.

The spring shoots and flowers that the poured-out Spirit produces (Isaiah 44:4) is a spiritual life and love unto God that is described here in rich, romantic poetry (Isaiah 44:5). May His Spirit cause such knowledge of belonging to Him and being loved by Him to bloom in your own heart, dear reader!

No other help, Isaiah 44:6-8. Our affection for the Lord should foster a jealous exclusivity for knowing Him alone as God, loving Him alone as God. The gushing affection of Isaiah 44:5 flows into His identifying Himself as our Redeemer in Isaiah 44:6, our kinsman who saves us because we have no hope in ourselves or otherwise. He shows Himself YHWH, the First and the Last, by saving us when no one else could. Idols cannot predict history (Isaiah 44:7), because history has been planned for the display of the Lord as this Redeemer. 

Therefore, one great object of His saving us is that we would testify (Isaiah 44:8c) to what He has declared to us (verse 8b) by saving us (verse 8e): that He alone is God (verse 8d, f). If we are going to testify to our hope (verse 8c, cf. 1 Peter 3:15), then that must begin by living in that hope (Isaiah 44:8a). Dear Christian, live in hope, not fear. Living in fear forgets that one of God’s great purposes in saving you has been that you would be able to testify that the reason for your hope is the Lord Who saved you to display Himself as the only true God!

The folly of any other help, Isaiah 44:9-20. Resting our hope upon anything other than the Lord isn’t just treachery against the Lord Who has so loved us (cf. Isaiah 44:1-8); it is folly that can do nothing to save us (Isaiah 44:9-10). Manmade hope is crippled by being limited to man’s own knowledge and ability (Isaiah 44:11-13). And manmade hope is further crippled by being limited to being made out of created things (Isaiah 44:14-17). The ridiculousness of resting our hope upon anything other than YHWH is brutally satirized here, climaxing with Isaiah 44:17: a man pleading for salvation from the leftovers of his cooking fuel and heating fuel! 

If we can come up with it or make it, we must not put our hope in it. If anything has increased by an “evolution” into modern man, it is this very idolatry. Never has man placed more of his confidence in what he thinks he knows or what he thinks he can do. This spurns the love of God from earlier in the chapter, and makes us into the worst butts yet of the Isaiah 44:9-17 joke.

Why can’t men see the folly of this (Isaiah 44:18a, Isaiah 44:19-20)? Because God has righteously given them over to a dysfunctional mind for disregarding their Creator (Isaiah 44:18b–c, cf. Romans 1:18–28). 

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, Isaiah 44:21-23. So, how does the Lord’s Spirit deliver us from this treachery and folly? By making us to “remember” (Isaiah 44:21). The way that He addresses them again, in verse 21, directs their remembrance back to Isaiah 44:1-5. And the language of Isaiah 44:22 directs their remembrance back to Isaiah 43:25 (and Isaiah 43:18–28 as a whole). The Lord is His people’s Redeemer! So, let them turn to Him as Redeemer (Isaiah 44:22c), for the time is coming when the whole creation will praise the Redeemer of Jacob and Israel (Isaiah 44:23). Remember your Redeemer, and return to Him with rejoicing!

How do you seek to avoid worshiping God thoughtlessly or heartlessly? But what is your hope for this? In what situations are you tempted to fear? How does remembering how and why you were saved combat the fear? When do you have opportunity to bear witness of your Hope?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for how often we have been in the middle of worship actions, but we have not been mindful of You. Truly, You have loved us and saved us in sovereign grace. But we have been forgetful of how we belong to You and are beloved by You. In Your mercy, forgive our treacherous hearts. We often find ourselves resting our hope upon things that we have come up or that we have done. At those times, we are fools like those who ask their remaining heating fuel to deliver them. In Your mercy, forgive our foolish hearts. Grant that Your Spirit, Whom You have poured like water on thirsty ground, would make our hearts to blossom with love and praise that remembers You, our Redeemer in Jesus Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song” or TPH190 “Thus Saith the Mercy of the Lord”

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