Isaiah 43 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
In a lengthy book like Isaiah, I like to know where I am in the context of the entire book. I follow the outline of John Oswalt’s commentary. I made copies of that outline (2 sided) and the one-sided copy of E.J. Youngs’ commentary last Sunday night. There might be copies in the office still.
We are in a section, according to Oswalt, from Is. 42:10-44:22 called, ‘Redeemed to be God’s Witnesses. This is under a larger section called ‘Motive for servanthood: Grace’ which extends from 40:1-48:22. God is calling witnesses to His defense. In 42:18-25, God establishes that Israel is blind. Then in 43:10 and 12, God calls His people (yes, the same ones he described as blind in the previous chapter) to be His witnesses. We use the term eyewitnesses for a witness. So why choose a witness who is blind?
Well, who knows better than God’s people what God can do? God calls those who are deaf yet have ears to tell the nations what they have seen and heard. And in summoning His people God is also summoning the idols to gather their witnesses. Isaiah 43:10 is a fantastic verse. This also demonstrates the difference between Is 1-39 and 40-66. God is not dismissing their sin (calling them blind throughout the book) yet also establishing who they are. For all theirs sins, all their rebellion, and all their stubbornness, God’s gracious call on them will be realized. God will make a way for them to realize who they are in Him.
Notice what Isaiah writes, “I have chosen you; you are my witnesses.” This is all from, of and for God. Israel did not volunteer for this, but the initiative comes from God. Why is this done? “That you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.” God considers knowing God as the greatest possible good.
Saturday, I turned on the TV to watch Hall of Fame speeches by former Detroit Tigers. They all mentioned being in the Hall of Fame as the greatest honor they could receive. I heard Al Kaline, George Kell, Ernie Harwell, and Sparky Anderson. I am sure God knows what hard work those men put in over the years. The total dedication to baseball is something many fans value. But God knows that knowing Him, believing Him and understanding that God is the greatest Being in the universe is a higher honor. Consider that next time you are bored with the staggering greatness of God who is the Creator of the universe.
How many people do we know that have heard of God, grew up in the church, were taught the gospel and have now rejected it all as a fable, a mere story, or even harmful? We need to listen to these friends, family members, or anyone who is willing to talk to us. We need to be gentle, humble, and pray for them. But we need to watch over our own hearts. We must not be proud (we were grafted in). We cannot be condescending (such were some of you) and we must never think our salvation was ushered along by the kind of people we are ( we are saved by grace alone).
These words of hope and joy make much more sense if God’s people had returned from exile. You will see this in verses 43:14ff. God has punished His people, as He warned. But now they are returning or have returned from exile. At the end of this section Is 43:8-13, we find this precious jewel, “. . . there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” Who else can say that? What I do, you can never undo. Imagine a superintendent, a boss, a pastor, a parent, or a politician saying that. As soon as the current president leaves, executive orders are signed that change the course of a county. As soon as a leader leaves, others undo their decisions or actions.
The last section we will focus on is Is 43:14-21. God emphasizes that His claims are based not merely on the past; but he offers new forms of deliverance. Let’s look specifically at vs. 19-20. Here are three options as Oswalt describes them. 1. Isaiah expected a literal fulfillment. Since this did not happen, and Jewish scholars recognized the canonicity of Isaiah, this can probably be rejected as a valid option. Second, the prophet knew he was speaking figuratively. He used such extravagant language because he was speaking so far in the future. Third, Isaiah was considering not just return from exile but also the work of Christ and the formation of the church. This work is greater even than the exodus (43:16-18).
We need to be careful of two extremes. One is that we have reached the apex of what God has planned for His kingdom. Because there might be more believers in China many other countries of the world we might think Christianity is doing swimmingly. Africa may be the most Christian continent in the world. Clearly the color of Christians is not white. Most believers are brown, black, or have an Asian hue. Yes, things are about as good as they can be!
On the other hand, we should not be looking for the next miracle God is going to do. It might not be the best to be on the edge of our seats, so to speak, expecting a great work of God that will overwhelm people with power and awe them into the Kingdom. While He does this, sudden works of grace are not normal. Just consider our nation and how long since we have experienced true and lasting renewal.
Yet, we cannot be complacent. As individuals we are not at the top of our game. As a church, we make mistakes due to our lack of spiritual growth and discernment. As a nation, we are lost, stubborn, proud, and haters of God. So, what can we do or what posture should we have?
It seems to be that we must never tire of praying for the prospering and delight of our own souls in Jesus Christ. We absolutely must work at our own level of growth and sanctification. Individually we must strive to grow lower into Christ. Then we must also pray diligently for our church. For all our leaders, our many volunteers, our members and visitors. We have not grown numerically in decades or we have not sustained any significant growth in these years. Pray for us. And finally, I will tell you what Nancy and I do for our country. Someone mentioned that at 9 PM, some of Churchill’s military staff prayed for one minute for England. So I have an alarm on my phone that goes off every day at 9:00 PM. Since Nancy works evening, I pray with or without her. We really don’t pray long but we pray.
Figure out some tricks for you to pray more. Maybe you need to pray through a Psalm or a few verses of the Psalms every day. Maybe you need to keep a list. I use an alarm. Simple but it works for me. I challenge you to find something that will help you pray more.
“Father, we are in such great need of a new work from Your powerful Holy Spirit. We come to you in Jesus’ name asking for our blind eyes to open. We need to see Your power and that “besides Me there is no savior”. Open our deaf ears to hear Your read and preached Word. Help us to hunger for more of Your Word. We pray for those we love who do not know You. We lift them up to you now . . . .
Finally, what can we ask You for our country? We are a modern Sodom and Gomorrah. We have (passively) watched our country reject You and in the place of civility, run headlong into such shocking depravity. Please, for Your sake, forgive this wicked country and forgive us. Bring revival, renewal, and many souls to Christ. For Your eternal glory. Amen.