God Glorifies Himself by Working a New Salvation (Isaiah Sermon 51 of 81)
October 05, 2014 | Andrew Davis
Glory of God
How awesome was the Red Sea crossing!
I've said before a number of times that, for me, as I look across redemptive history, I look across all the incredible actions and works of God in history, the most visually spectacular for me is the Red Sea crossing, the idea that the Lord could open a way through the Red Sea, a corridor through the darkened sea, open up a way and two to three million Jews could pass across on dry ground while their enemies, held at bay, could not pursue until the right time. And then their enemies followed and they were destroyed by the same waters. The most visually spectacular, that I've said. I don't think I'm going to say that again, because this week, as I looked again at Exodus 14, I saw something there that I hadn't properly noticed before. I'd never seen it before, but it's emphasized in four different verses in Exodus 14. And that is, that they made that crossing at night, so I'm not sure what kind of visual spectacle there would have been. And I thought, huh, I'm disappointed. And the Lord immediately convicted me: You're disappointed at what I did? Don't be disappointed. You haven't yet seen fully the implications of their crossing at night.
Full implication's that this is a spectacular picture of our battle with our final enemy, death, and that we will come through it on the other side at the dawn of the new day. It's dawn when at last, the waters come crashing down on Pharaoh and his chariots and horses, and they are destroyed, never to be seen again. That we will come through on the other side, our final test, death, we will be resurrected and all of our enemies will be gone forever. And that, that crossing, it makes perfect sense that it would be at night because it's a picture of how we should feel and do feel at that battle, that journey that's still ahead of us, that none of us that's sitting here now has faced. That I believe all of the trials that you are going through now, and they are many, are mere dress rehearsals for the final great trial you have yet to face, and that is your own journey through death into eternal life is yet to come.
And I wondered to myself, how did they see? Are you wondering that? Well, the text makes it very clear... And believe me, I know, I'm preaching on Isaiah 43, not Exodus 14, but still. We have plenty of time, don't we? How did they see? Well, the pillar of cloud and fire moved from ahead of them, the angel of the Lord moving in a pillar, to behind them, separating out the Jews from the Egyptians. And it says very clearly that all that night, he gave light to the one side and darkness to the other. And so, you could imagine the light radiating down through a dark corridor through to the other side.
Now, why are we even talking about this? Well, because in Isaiah 43 the Lord does something amazing through the prophet. He calls to their remembrance the Red Sea crossing in verses 16 and following, and then tells them to forget about it. And we're going to talk about that, but it's a very interesting two-step that he does. Remember, now forget it. Why would you ever forget the Red Sea crossing? "Well, because," the Lord says, "I am doing something greater, something better. I am working a deliverance so great that it will just dwarf what happened at the Red Sea crossing." Now, for me, this is the interpretive key to the whole chapter. Home base for most commentators in Isaiah 43 is to go to verse 14 and see there the reference to Babylon, and there the clear prediction that the Babylonians would be destroyed. And then also see the way through the desert and all that, and so they generally go this path. They say that here the Lord, is predicting in very poetic terms, the restoration of the Jews from exile to Babylon back to Jerusalem to rebuild and resume their time in the Promised Land.
Restoration for Israel…and More!
Friends, let me tell you something. I think it is predicting that. But I think that that's not all that this chapter is about, because honestly, if you look at it, if you look at what happened at the restoration, you're talking about 42,000 Jews that came back under Ezra and began to rebuild in that destroyed city of Jerusalem, began to clear away the rubble and hack out a very, very difficult life there in the Promised Land, still under Gentile domination. And as a matter of fact, that work was so slow and difficult that sometime later, Nehemiah's brother wrote him saying how terrible it was for the remnant that was living there in Jerusalem, and how downtrodden they were, and how weak and vulnerable because the wall was nothing but rubble. And he... Nehemiah wept at the condition of the remnant that was there in Jerusalem, and he went back, and the great work of his life is to see the wall built out of rubble, an incredible work in such a remarkably short time. And then they would lay the foundation of a temple and build it, but it was nothing in glory compared to Solomon's temple. And as a matter of fact, the old-timers that remembered how glorious was Solomon's temple wept, not out of joy but out of sadness, at what they had been brought down to.
In Zechariah chapter 4, the prophet has to say not to despise the day of small things, something bigger is coming. So it can't just be the restoration. I would ask, in redemptive history, why did the restoration even happen? What was God doing? And so here is the interpretation key to the whole chapter. God was working a salvation far greater than the Red Sea crossing, and it can't just be the restoration of the Jews to Israel. Two to three million Jews were saved through the Red Sea crossing; 42,000 went back under Ezra and were there under Nehemiah. And so God is doing something greater. What is it? What could it be but the salvation offered for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And how is that greater? I'll tell you how it's greater. The Jews that went through as on dry ground, Paul tells us in Corinthians, most of them never made it to the Promised Land, their bodies were scattered throughout the desert.
But those that go through the true Exodus that Jesus is doing, the true spiritual Exodus, and that's the word used in Luke's Gospel, the true Exodus that He is working will never die, and they will never see their enemies again. Hallelujah. And so therefore this whole chapter is ultimately about God's saving purpose through Christ, and specifically giving you the strength so that you do not fear when you go through lesser rivers and lesser fires until you get to the final test of your life, and it's coming. I don't know when, none of you does.
But all of you are dying and I'm dying too. And if the Lord doesn't return in our lifetime, you will die, and that is the great trial of your life. Nothing that you face in life compares to that, not even the death of a loved one compares to that. This time, it'll be you. And you'll be in some bed perhaps, if God gives you grace to realize your day is coming, or is it even has come and that there's nothing more than medical science can do and maybe God will give you an insight and you will know that you are going to die from this, you will not recover. And then your faith will be put at its greatest test and you'll look ahead to a corridor, a dark corridor, and from behind you will shine the light of something that happened 2000 years ago, and it's going to shine through a dark quarter that you have never traveled before. And you will make it through, and the resurrection glory of Jesus will shine through that path you have never traveled before. And you will make it in Christ, by faith in Christ, you'll make it to the other side.
Now, I think the reason the chapter was given is so that we go through that journey well. Amen? We go through it not fearing. We go through it filled with hope and confidence in what Jesus is doing in us and through us. Does that matter? Does it matter that we die well? Does it matter that we live well? It does. And so God is speaking through Isaiah 43 words of hope, and promise, and strength to you. Some of the most beautiful there are in all the Bible, and we've already sung them. And Daniel, thank you for singing that, I love that song. That was just beautiful.
A number of weeks ago, I said, "Daniel, there are some great songs coming up that really line up with the text," and he's like, "I know, I'm on it, I got it." We got some great songs and they are magnificent, aren't they? And they're beautiful. And so, you look at verse 1 and 2, and you say, "Wow, what comfort there is for us, what encouragement." And so we're going to make our way through this whole chapter. How in the world? I haven't even began the sermon yet. This is all intro. How in the world are we going to do this? Do you know what this is? This is a clock, I get to look at it every week and lament over it. It's a weird clock too, because it runs differently than any other clock I look at the rest of the week, it runs at double time. So, it's a strange thing.
But we're going to get through this whole chapter, and if you may ask, Why are you hurrying? Well, here's the thing, I understand that there's only so much that one can hear, even from a certain genre of Scripture and I'm hurrying so to speak, because I want you to get to Isaiah 50s and the Isaiah 60s. I want you to get to all of it. And so, if what I do frustrates you, and you're like, "Man, there was more there," there is definitely more there. So go back and read Isaiah 43 and do a better job. You have all week. Preach lots of sermons to yourself from Isaiah 43, amen? Alright, let's move on.
II. God Glorified by Rescuing His Children through Fire and Water (vs. 1-7)
Alright, we begin in verse 1-7 with this section, God glorified by rescuing his children through fire and through water. In verse 1, God claims his children as his own. Just a marvelous, marvelous statement. He says, "This is what the Lord says, He created you O Jacob, he formed you Israel, 'Fear not, I am with you. I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the fire, they will not set you ablaze." God is giving us amazing promises here and he begins by claiming his children as his own. He says, "Fear not for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name, you are mine." And he gives three reasons why he can say that to us. First, he created us. Second, he redeemed us. And third, he summons us by name. Do you see that?
So first, he has created us, God has created us. Now you could say this is talking about the Jewish nation. Of course. We see the words Israel and Jacob, and we know that God created, out of a barren couple, a whole nation, Abraham and Sarah had no children, they couldn't have children. And God works sovereignly and supernaturally in Sarah's womb and through a man whose body was as good as dead, and they had a miracle baby, Isaac. And in the course of time, God incredibly blessed that nation so they became as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as countless as the sand by the seashore. And so God created them. But even more individually and particularly, we know that God knit each one of us together in our mother's wombs. And so, as he speaks to us individually as believers in Christ, he says very plainly, he says very clearly, "I knit you together in your mother's womb. You are mine because I created you." And then he goes beyond that, "I have redeemed you."
And for me as a Christian, I know I can't see this, I can't understand it any other way than by the blood of Jesus Christ. There is no other redeeming sacrifice, there is no other way that sins like mine can be addressed. And so, he has redeemed us by the blood of Christ. And then thirdly, he has called us or summoned us by name. We know in John 10, Jesus, the good shepherd says that he calls his own sheep by name and they follow him. How does he do that? Well, by the sovereign Spirit. That the Sovereign Spirit takes the finished work of Jesus Christ, and the cross, and the empty tomb, and applies it to you, he brings it right to you. If you are today a child of God, it's because the Sovereign Spirit of God brought the finished work of Christ to you and applied it to you, he summoned you by name. And so then the Lord makes this incredible statement, "You are mine." And that's a beautiful and a powerful thing, he is saying, "I will protect you, I will care for you."
God Promises Protection for His Children through the Fire and Water
Look at verse 2, he says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned and the flames will not set you ablaze." Now, these words must be metaphorical. In any case, no matter how you interpret them, he's not saying literally. Now I would not deny that there are some people who physically go through floods, physically go through fires, maybe they escape from a house fire, something like that. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego certainly this was directly and physically fulfilled for them. But I think we all know our instinct as we read this, this is this metaphorical language. But what then are these rivers? What then are these waters? What is the fire? I think we all know they are adverse circumstances, trials, and afflictions, and difficulties that the people of God are called to go through. Now, the immediate context of course, and then rightly so, we would consider it to be the exile to Babylon. In effect, he is saying, before it ever even happened, the prophet, God is speaking through the prophet, saying to his remnant that will be there in Babylon, "You are going through an extreme time of testing, extreme time of trial. You will not be wiped out, you'll still be a nation. You'll pass through the fires. You'll pass through the waters, and you'll survive." He is saying that.
But I think we can go beyond that, can't we? Can't we go beyond that? Can we take these promises personally as speaking to us? You may say, on what basis can we do that, we 21st century Christians? How can we read this? But now this is what the Lord says, "He who created you O Jacob, he who formed you O Israel," how can I take these for myself? How can I write Isaiah 43:2 on a card and put it up on a mirror somewhere or put it somewhere and just take personal solace that when I go through my trials, when I go through my cancer diagnosis, or when I go through the death of a spouse or a loved one, when I go through the trials I'm facing, that God will be with me? How do I know Isaiah 43:2 is speaking to me?
Well, praise God. We have just finished going through the Book of Galatians and we know from Galatians 3:29 that all of us who are in Christ Jesus, we are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise. Amen? So that means all of the promises made to Abraham and to his seed come to us through Christ. Furthermore, it says in Romans 11, doesn't it that we are wild olive shoots cut off of a wild olive tree somewhere and grafted in to a cultivated olive tree? And this cultivated olive tree is the Jewish nation with its heritage of promises made and encouraging words and warning spoken through the prophets, this nourishing root system and we're grafted in and we receive life-giving sap from the promises of God. Amen? And so, we can drink in that sap and say, "That's speaking to me."
So, so much for hermeneutics now, interpretation. We are able to read these promises and say, "I belong here as a spiritual son or daughter of Abraham, I can read these promises." And so, what is it speaking of? It says that God is going to bring you through trials. Notice, it does not say, "If you should happen to pass through the rivers." It doesn't say, "If per chance, you might go through the waters. Maybe you might have to go through the fire." He doesn't say that at all, he says you're going to go through them. As a matter of fact, we learned from 1 Peter that you must go through these fiery trials, it says in 1 Peter 4:12. These fiery trials have come like in 1 Peter 1:6 and 7, "so that your faith, of greater worth than gold which perishes, even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." You must be refined.
Now, isn't it amazing, fire and water, fire and water, those two things are used for two different purposes in the Bible, spiritually, as we look at it spiritually, both fire and water are symbolic of God's wrath and just judgment against the wicked to the end of their total destruction. You say, "How is that?" Well, think of the waters of Noah's flood. The flood waters are pictures of God's just wrath against the wicked to the end of their total destruction. And what about fire? Well, think of the fire of Sodom and Gomorrah, how God poured down fire from heaven on that wicked city, or even more clearly, of course, the fire of hell itself.
And Peter says in 2 Peter 3 that just as the original world was deluged and destroyed by the flood, waters of Noah's flood, so the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire and for the judgment of ungodly men. And so, both fire and water have, first, a picture of total destruction under the sovereign just justice of God for the wicked to the end of their total destruction. But God has delivered his elect people, his chosen people, from his own sovereign wrath. Jesus Christ died in our place under the wrath of God so that we would not suffer the fire of God's wrath to the end of our total destruction. So then, water and fire have a different image or use in the Bible as well, and that's the image of purification.
It says in the Book of Numbers, speaking to the Israelites, when you win a battle, a victory battle, and all of these articles of gold and silver, and copper, and bronze, and different other things and other things you win in that battle, they can be yours but you have to clean them first. Whatever can stand the fire, put it through the fire, and everything must be put through the waters so that they may be cleansed.
I was excited that there was one verse that had both fire and water as cleansing agent. Ain't that cool? But then, over and over, we have the same image: Water as cleanser or fire as cleanser. That's what's going on here in Isaiah 43:2, he's bringing his people through the fire and through the water to purify us and to cleanse us from all of our sins. And so God has said He will do this, He is glorified greatly by the salvation of His people through various trials into final salvation.
God Gives Up the Non-Elect for the Sake of His Elect
Now, when we get to verses three and four, we have some of the more challenging and surprising verses here. He says in verses 3-4, "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead since you are precious in my sight and since you are honored. I give men exchange for you and people in exchange for your life." Now, what is this talking about? Well, again, notice as I mentioned in Exodus 14, we have the Jewish nation as a picture of the children of God being saved out of bondage and into the Promised Land, a picture of it. And then you have the Egyptians, the most powerful military nation on earth, chasing them down. Now this is after the 10 plagues, this is after the plague on the firstborn. God hardened Pharaoh's heart and the hearts of all of his officials and they pursued them one last time so as to wipe them out entirely. They found themselves trapped up against the Red Sea.
Why didn't Pharaoh's army finished them off? Well, they couldn't get to them because the pillar, the angel of the Lord came and stood between the Egyptians and the Jews and would not let them get close. And as I said, this one verse, it's so fascinating. The same pillar, pillar of cloud, pillar of fire, the same pillar gave darkness to the one side and light to the other. And at the end of the day, the Israelite sinners were saved and the Egyptian sinners were destroyed. Now, I put it that way. The whole final section of this chapter is how Israel has wearied God with their sins. We should not imagine that God saved the Israelites because they were more righteous than the Egyptians. The Bible consistently closes that out as an option, that is not true. Why then did he save the Israelites and not the Egyptians? Well, these verses, if you look at them, verse three and four, He gives the one in exchange for the other. He said, "I'm going to trade, I'm going to give... In exchange for your life, I'm going to give the Egyptians. I'm going to give Cush and Seba in your stead."
Now obviously the only full final exchange that saves our souls is that of Jesus Christ taking our sins on him and dying on the cross, that exchange, that transfer. That's the exchange that saves our souls, but this is talking horizontal, this is talking human to human now. Why does He do that? Why does He give one nation or one group of people in exchange for the other? Here friends, we get to some of the meatiest meat there is in the Bible. Not easy to understand these things, but these verses are talking about how God makes a distinction between His people and those that are not His people. Now, we already saw that if you know anything about the 10 plagues. God openly says it through Moses, "I want you to know that in the land of Goshen, there's going to be this and it's going to be different than it is in your land so you will know I am making a distinction between my people and you." He says this again and again.
But now if we're talking about the metaphor, the ultimate picture of salvation that this chapter is talking about, which I would say the pathway through the water, and this is a picture of death and as we go through and some make it through and live forever, but then others, the water crashes down and God does it all, it's not an accident, it's not like the water accidentally was walled up and then at a certain accidental time, it just couldn't hold anymore and then fell back down. That's not what's going on. So in order to fully understand this, you have to read Romans 9, and there in Romans 9, he makes it very plain what he's doing.
Speaking about God's sovereign purpose, He says this in Romans 9:22-24, "What if God choosing to show His wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction? What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory, even us whom He saved not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?" So, we are every bit as sinful as the Egyptians that died that day. You understand that, I hope you know that. But God gave them up to show what we deserved, that we deserved condemnation, we deserved wrath, we deserved to suffer, but we got mercy instead.
Now, I believe you're going to spend eternity reasoning through that and trying to understand that, but this is the clear teaching that we have here in verse three and four. "I'm going to give this nation in exchange for you and these people in exchange for your life."
God Glorified by Calling His Children from the Ends of the Earth
In verses five through seven, He says that He is plainly glorified by calling His children from the ends of the earth. Verse five through seven, "Do not be afraid for I am with you, I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give them up,' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back. Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.'" So God has already said, "I have summoned you by name, you're mine." Now He speaks about the assembling of these people together in one place. He wants them all together. He wants them to gather around and praise His glory.
So He's going to assemble His chosen people from the ends of the earth. He's going to gather them up. He's going to say to the north, "Give them up," and to the south, "Do not hold them back." He's going to bring them from the east and the west, His sons and daughters. Now, of course, immediate context, it's right for us to see the assembling of the Jews from the diaspora of two exiles: The Assyrian exile first, the northern kingdom, they're scattered throughout the area of the Assyrian empire, and then number of years later, the southern kingdom, Judah, Jerusalem exile to Babylon. After the fall of Babylon, he's going to be assembling together and bringing together Jews back to the Promised Land. And I think we should see that. But again, I think it's right for us to say, "Look, that's too small a thing. There's more here going on than that."
How do I know that? Well, Jesus uses gathering, scattering language when He comes, right? He's come down from heaven to Earth for what purpose? The number of purpose times, purpose statements He makes, but listen to this, Matthew 12:30, He says, "He who is not with me is against me," and listen, "whoever does not gather with me, scatters." Jesus came from heaven to earth to gather, to gather the children of God. Listen to this, this is even clear in John 11:51 and 52, it says there that "Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not for that nation only, but for the scattered children of God to bring them together and make them one." Wow, is that powerful. That's like a Blue Ribbon verse, by the way. [chuckle] He has come to gather the chosen people from every tribe, language, people, and nation; gather them together from the Jews too, but also from the Gentiles and make them one.
So friends, what could this be talking about except evangelism and missions, Amen? That God is going to send out messages to the ends of the earth and gather His people and saying, "Don't hold them back," four ends of the compass, four points of the compass: North, south, east, and west. Let them all come and let them make what I would call a spiritual pilgrimage, a spiritual journey to faith in Christ into heaven ultimately.
Created For His Glory
Now we get to verse seven where it says plainly that we were created for His glory. Now, I already mentioned that but Isaiah 43:7 is a unique verse in all the Bible. Perhaps you didn't realize that, but this is the only verse that I can find, and I've studied this, I've asked for others to help me with this. I've done work on Bible works and all that, I've tried to find... This is the only verse I can find in the entire Bible that says that we were originally created by God for His glory. Now, how important a theme is that? Any thoughts on that? Is that an important idea that we were created for the glory of God? It's so important that the Westminster Shorter Catechism said that's the reason why you were made, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. You were created for that. So if you were going to ask the question, "Why am I even here? Why do I exist?" Isaiah 43:7 answers your question. You were created for the glory of God. I just think it's interesting. I think a theme that big, you would think would have 47 verses that support it. But this is the only one I could find that just clearly teaches it all the way across, and yet the themes are there again and again. What does it mean that we were created for His glory? To enjoy it, to bask in it, to drink it in, to live for the glory of God? That's why we were made. But we sinned, we fell into wickedness, we became idolaters. And so we also had to be not only created for his glory, but what? Redeemed for His glory as well.
And so by the blood of Jesus, we were saved. And there are many verses that teach that. For example, in Isaiah 1:4-6, it says, "In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will, to the praise of the glory of His grace." So, we were redeemed, we were saved to praise His glory. But this verse, Isaiah 43:7 says we are created for it as well.
II. God’s People Are His Witnesses That There Is No Other God (vs. 8-15)
Now the next section, verses eight through 15, it says that God's people are His witnesses that there is no other God. Look at verses 8-9. first, God puts the other gods and goddesses on trial. All the little G gods and goddesses are put on trial here as God has already done a number of times in Isaiah. Isaiah 43:8-9, "Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of them foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, 'It is true.'"
So God summons the spiritually blind, they have eyes but they can't see, they have ears but they cannot hear, spiritually blind and deaf, the idolaters to assemble and say, "Okay, bring in your witnesses, bring in your case, and tell us which of your gods predicted these things that are happening now. Tell us. Any of you knew the future? Any of you spoke through prophets like I have done?" And he's challenging them. None of them has done that. So then God turns the tables and speaks to us. We are his chosen people and he tells us what we are. You are my witnesses. In this godless, idolatrous, wicked age, you are the light shining in the dark place. You are my witnesses. Look at verses 10 through 13, "'You are my witnesses,' declares the Lord, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me, no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.'"
By the way, and I say this tenderly, I think Isaiah 43:10 is one of the greatest anti-Jehovah's Witnesses verses there is in the Bible, because it's even got Jehovah and witness right in the same verse and said "There was no God formed after me." So, so much for that. There is one God and there is only one God, there's only ever been one God, and we are, let's put it this way, the Lord's witnesses, let's just call it that because the other name has already been taken, but we are the Lord's witnesses in this world to proclaim that there is no God but the God of the Bible.
And he's the only one he says that revealed and saved and proclaimed, those three things. He revealed through the prophets. He's the only one that's done it. He saved by His providential control of history. He's acted in history and done it, and then He proclaimed it through evangelists and missionaries, saying what God has already done. We are His witnesses, that's what we're called to do.
God Will Redeem Israel by Destroying Babylon
Then God says in verse 14 and 15, He will redeem Israel by destroying Babylon. "This is what the Lord says, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, 'For your sake, I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians and the ships in which they took pride. I am the Lord, your Holy One Israel's creator, your king.'"
So that verse definitely tells us that we have to stay kind of nailed in the historical context and still give it honor. It was a great thing to bring down Babylon, not a small thing, it was a great achievement to crush the Babylonian empire, and then to sovereignly orchestrate through Cyrus the Great the release for Jews to go back and resume Jewish history. That was a great thing. And He says here, the Babylonians are going to be fleeing in the same ships that enriched them, the ones that went up from the Persian Gulf, through the Euphrates River and brought gold and silver and spices and all trade stuff, they're going to turn around and go fast down the river as these fugitives run for their lives. So that's just a poetical way of saying Babylon is going to be destroyed, and these refugees will be all that's left of the Babylonian empire. So Babylon is going to be destroyed.
III. God Works a New Salvation Greater Than the Old (vs. 16-21)
Now, in verse 16 through 21, we get what I've called the interpretive key to the whole chapter; God working a new salvation greater than the old. How can I know as a 21st century Christian that Isaiah 43 is speaking to me? How can I know that these promises are bigger than just the restoration of the Jews to Israel? These verses tell us how. Now as I said, God does a fascinating two-step; first he says, "Remember the past," in effect, then He says secondly, "Forget the past." How does he do that? Well, first, remember the past; God saved Israel at the Red Sea, verses 16 and 17. This is what the Lord says, "He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there never to rise again extinguished, snuffed out like a wick."
This is a clear reference to the Red Sea crossing. Now last week, you remember we spoke of a savior so gentle that remember what we said about Him, a bruised reed, He will what? Not break. What's the second part? The smoldering wick He will not snuff out. Well, apparently, according to this verse, there are some wicks He does snuff out. There are some wicks He will snuff out. It's the exact same verb here. And again, that goes back to the earlier teaching that God makes a distinction, He doesn't do the same with everyone. And so these are Israel's enemies and they lay along the shore of the Red Sea, extinguished, dead, never to rise again. Well, anyway, He says, by just going over those details, chariots horsemen, Red Sea, all that, He's saying in effect, "Remember the past, remember it." Now, what does He say? "Forget it. Forget it."
Look at the verse 18 and 19, "Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it?" So, how do we understand that? Remember the past, now forget the past? Well, this is the way I understand it. The past of what God has done in history will always shine. We should always celebrate the Red Sea crossing. We should always celebrate the lesser things that God's done. We should think about them and marvel about them. How then do we forget the past? Because something bigger, something greater has come along, and it just so dwarfs that, that it's in effect, forget it, something bigger is happening. You know what? I think this is exactly how the omniscient God forgets your sin and mine.
He doesn't forget anything. Then he would no longer be omniscient. Why then does he say that he forgets our sins? Like in verse 25, He cancels out our sins, He makes them go away. Look at verse 25, very plainly and encouragingly, He says, "I even I am He who blots out your transgressions." Did you see that? How does He forget our sins and still be omniscient? Well, this is how it works, something bigger, something greater, has eclipsed His remembrance of our sins. What is that? You know what it is. It's the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, it's the sacrifice of His only begotten son, is so much greater that His eyes will see that and your sin covered. That's how the omniscient God forgets your sin and mine. So in the same way, by comparison, we're going to forget the Red Sea crossing because the work of what God is doing now is so much greater. Well, what could that be but salvation in Christ. Now He uses this language here, verses 19 through 21. "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise."
Now here, the image shifts a bit to the crossing of the desert toward the Promised Land, the moving of the desert. Again, we can see the streaming of exiles coming from Babylon, going back to the Promised Land, and he is going to cause that dry place to spring up and be fresh and beautiful again. That idea of the new heavens and the new earth and the enriching of the earth, he's going to make it beautiful. But ultimately, this is that journey that we travel from dead in our transgressions and sins to heaven. There's a journey that we're traveling here. Yes, there was a physical journey the exiles traveled, that's a picture of the real journey that we are making from dead in transgressions and sins to heaven.
IV. God’s People Weary Him with their Sins (vs. 22-28)
Now, final section here. God's people weary him with their sins. We must know... And I've already said this, we could not imagine the sins of the Egyptians were greater than the sins of the Israelites. I mean, take a common foot soldier or chariot driver in Pharaoh's army, what did he do? Probably already buried his first born. But he was in Pharaoh's army, he was in Pharaoh's service, and so, you say in your heart, "Well, he got what he deserved." Friends, we were in Satan's service. We were serving a wicked king, all of us were. The whole human race fell in Adam, we were born in Satan's kingdom. And we are not getting what we deserve for that service, isn't that amazing? It's not going to be said to us, depart from me you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for, who? The devil and his angels. But we joined the devil and his angels in rebellion against God. Yes, but he has saved us.
So this section reminds us that God's people are sinners too. Look at Verse 22 and 23, "Yet you have not called upon me O Jacob. You have not wearied yourselves for me O Israel. You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings nor honored me with your sacrifices. I haven't burdened you with grain offerings or wearied you with demands for incense." I didn't ask fragrant calamus of you, something expensive that you couldn't afford. I didn't ask that of you." Now, literally, you could say that that was during their exile in Babylon, they couldn't offer animal sacrifices, so God didn't lay that burden on them. But just in generally saying, look at the principle of sacrifice in your life, you're not calling on me in righteousness, you're not bringing me anything, you're not putting yourselves out for me in any way, God is saying. You're not sacrificing much for me at all, you don't seem to love me, and you don't seem to be living for me O Israel.
I haven't wearied you, but you have wearied me with your sins. That's what God is saying through the prophet here. You have wearied me with your sins. Now, that's amazing, because in Isaiah 40, we're told that he doesn't grow weary or get tired. So this is that human type language ascribed to God where He says, "If anything could weary me, it would be your sins." And so, he uses that language, "You have wearied me with your sins. Burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses." But God has covered his people's many sins for his own name's sake. Verse 25-28, "I, even I am He, who blots out your transgressions for my own sake and remembers your sins no more." How sweet is that Verse to you today? How sweet is that, that God has blotted out your sins for his own name sake, and remembers them no more? And then he says in Verse 26 and following, "Review the past for me, let's argue the matter together, state the case for your innocence." Go ahead, tell me. Tell me how innocent you are. Let's go over your history O Israel, O Jacob. How innocent are you? Well, you're not. Your first father sinned."
Now, I don't know who that is, it might be Adam, it might be Abraham, those are the two options, it doesn't matter. Whoever the originator of your race is, he's sinned. And even your best people, your spokesman, your prophets, your best people rebelled against me. All of you have sinned. Verse 28, "So I'll disgrace the dignitaries of your temple and consign Jacob to destruction and Israel to scorn." Now why does he say that? Well, keep in mind when Isaiah said these words. During the days of Hezekiah, Assyria gone, everything's looking good and he, Isaiah, is predicting the restoration of the remnant of Jews back to destroyed Jerusalem. So he has to explain why is that even going to happen, why is the exile even going to happen? Why does the city of Jerusalem even going to be destroyed? Because of this. You have wearied me, and you don't love me, and you don't sacrifice for me, and so I'm going to destroy this city and reduce you down to a remnant chosen by grace.
Alright, so what applications can we take from this, this incredible chapter? Well, go to Verse 25 and ask yourself, "Has this happened for me? Has God blotted out my transgressions? Am I forgiven?" It says in this chapter, "When I act, who can reverse it? Who can deliver out of my hand?" Who can deliver out of my hand? Christ alone can deliver you out of the hand of God's justice. So, I have prayed already and I will continue to pray in my heart for any of you that are here in a lost state, in an unregenerate state. Flee to Christ. Christ is the fulfillment of the images of this chapter. Trust in him. Lay hold of him by faith. Don't let him go until he gives you assurance that your sins are forgiven through faith in his death and resurrection. And then he... Even he is the one who will blot out your transgressions and will remember them no more because of the work of Christ.
Secondly, dear saints, brothers and sisters, get ready to pass through the fire and the water. Get ready for it. And when it starts to happen, don't act like you had no idea this was going to come. He said in Isaiah 43:2, when you pass through the waters, when you pass through the rivers. You will. So get ready for it, and understand all of the lesser trials that you're going through could be the trial of caring for a very sick relative. It could be the trial of a burial, a funeral, someone has died and you're... It could be the trial of a suicide of a good friend or a relative. It could be the trial of ongoing financial burdens and unemployment. It could be the trial of just crushing loneliness and a sense of people not caring. It could be the trial, the extreme trial of knowing that your grown son or daughter is not walking with Jesus, they're outside of grace. All of these trials and many others are going on to members of our church right now. All of them for you personally are going through it are like dress rehearsals for the final trial you're going to face when you are dying.
Look down that dark corridor, and get ready for resurrection. And go through the fire and the water well, go through it well, trusting in the promises of God, knowing He will never leave you or forsake you, He will be with you right through. So prepare for the fire and the water, and when you go through lesser trials, getting ready for the final one, which is death, just see it by the light of Christ and by the light of these promises.
Thirdly, Verse 7 says you were created for the glory of God. Live for the glory of God. Just every day be God-centered. Say, "God show me who you are, show me your glory in a sunrise, in a sunset. Show me your glory in every bite of food I eat. Show me your glory in everything that I experience. I want to know you." And just live for the glory of God and then reveal the glory of God, live in such a way that people can see the greatness of God in you.