Reading through the Bible together
In this chapter, along with the others in this section of Isaiah, God reveals both His plans of hope as well as His frustration over Israel. Chapter 42 ends with that sad statement that God would have to deliver Israel to the enemies because of their idolatry (42:23-25). In this chapter, He asserts that Israel was His witness, the servant He had chosen to disclose to the heathen nations the true character and nature of God: that He was the Lord, and there was no savior besides Him! (vv.10-11). But, like the fig tree covered with leaves without fruit, Israel was found to be pretentious foliage. Whereas the heathen hoped to obtain life from the God of Israel, Israel kept Him hidden from the world by their own actions and priorities.
And so, God says, “I will do a new thing” (v.19).
I will make you walk through the waters and through the fire—God’s purifying agents—but you will not drown nor will you be scorched. I imagine a few faithful from Judah remembering these words of Isaiah when, nearly a century later, they were forced to walk through the desert and the great Euphrates river as exiles of the mighty Babylonian empire. You will be “sent to Babylon,” God assures His people, “as fugitives” (v.14). “I act, and who can reverse it?” (v.13).
But in the same breath, the Savior of Israel reminds His wayward child that He is the one “who makes a way in the sea…who brings forth the chariot and horse,” and “they shall not rise;…quenched like a burning wick” (vv.16-17). Just like God defeated the Egypt at the Red Sea, the greatest nation on earth at the time, He can also take care of the Babylonians in due time. In fact, He says, “Do not call to mind the former things” (v.18), the coming deliverance will be “a new thing.”
It is amazing to realize the persistent unfaithfulness of Israel in view of the steady faithfulness of God (see vv.22-25). And to all our selfish and willful ignorance of His will, God insists “I will not remember your sins.” What kind of a God would do that? God is much greater in every way than the greatest of all human beings. He does not think like us, He does not choose like we do, nor does He act according to our tendencies. He is goodness personified, and His love endures forever.
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgression,” He promises. And to what high norm does He appeal to do this? Is it due to our inherent goodness? Is it because we should get a break from the abuse of the enemy? It is done, He says, “for My own sake” (v.25). Forgiveness is granted on the highest of merits—His own merits, the merits of Jesus Christ.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Ron E M Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology
Andrews University Seminary