As He has done before (Isaiah 41:1), Yahweh again summons the peoples to court to present their cases against Him (43:8-9). In the courtroom of history, Israel is a witness in Yahweh’s favor (43:10, 12; 44:8), proving that Yahweh alone is God (43:10). At the center of His defense is the fulfillment of His promise to bring Israel back from exile (43:14).
“Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, and the deaf, even though they have ears. All the nations have gathered together so that the peoples may be assembled. Who among them can declare this and proclaim to us the former things?. . .” (Isaiah 43:8-44:8).
Israel is the blind and deaf servant of Yahweh (42:18-19), and as the nations gather to Yahweh’s court Israel is front and center (43:8-9). Despise Israel’s impairment, they are still Yahweh’s witnesses and servants (43:10). The issue that needs to be decided is, Who is God? Is Yahweh God, or is there some other savior, some other God, beside him (43:11-12). We can ask the question in other ways too: Is God reliable? Is God just? According to Isaiah, history is the arena for the vindication of God. It is the proof that the God of Israel is the only God.
Yahweh’s defense centers on His faithfulness to His people Israel. He chose Abraham, and declared that Israel was His special, precious people from all the nations of the earth. But Isaiah looks ahead to the time when Israel will be in bondage in Babylon (43:14). What kind of God is it who lets His own chosen people be conquered, captured, and enslaved? Yahweh’s responds by promising a new Exodus. Long before Isaiah’s time, Yahweh made a way through the sea and snuffed out the chariots and horses of Pharaoh (43:16-17). He will do it again, leading Israel through the wilderness from Babylon back to the lad (43:19-20). Great as this was, it is nothing in comparison with what Yahweh plans to do next. The second exodus will be so much greater than the first that Isaiah tells Israel to forget the exodus. It’s like telling Americans to forget the Revolutionary War. The first exodus was marked by awesome miracles – the plagues, the division of the Red Sea, manna, water from the rock. When it happens, the second exodus looks less impressive to us, but it is greater because it advances Yahweh’s purpose to redeem the nations.
Yahweh brings Israel from Babylon, but not because of Israel’s faithfulness. Instead of the fat of ascension offers and sacrifices, Israel has only burdened Yahweh with her sins and iniquities (43:22-24). Yahweh will judge, putting the rebels under the ban (43:26-28). But in bringing Israel from Babylon, He will also do a new thing: He will forget Israel’s sins (43:25), and He will refresh Israel with His Spirit, like water on dry land (44:1-4). He will reclaim Israel as His people, and write His name on them (44:5).
The return from exile is a major event in the history of Israel. It’s also proof of God’s faithfulness to His promises and His people. It’s proof that Yahweh is the God who can declare the things that are to come, and accomplish them (44:7). Before all the nations, Yahweh presents the restored Israel as the witness that there is no Rock but Yahweh (44:8).
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, September 17, 2012 at 3:03 am
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