ISAIAH 47-48

 

Tonight, we will complete our study on the section of Isaiah that is found in Chapters 40 Ė 48. These Chapters deal with Godís rebuke and challenge to false idols, the downfall of Babylon through the hands of the future king Cyrus, restoration of the Jews, and some prophecies that point to the time of Christ.

 

Last week in Chapter 46, we learned how useless the Babylonians gods were and how they would be brought into captivity as well. In Chapter 47, we are given more details about the destruction of Babylon.

 

Isaiah 47:1 "Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no more be called Tender and delicate.2 Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, Take off the skirt, Uncover the thigh, Pass through the rivers.3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered, Yes, your shame will be seen; I will take vengeance, And I will not arbitrate with a man."4 As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, The Holy One of Israel.5 " Sit in silence, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans; For you shall no longer be called The Lady of Kingdoms.

 

These are very strong words that only God could say and make happen. Babylon is pictured as a virgin daughter who would be broken and no longer clean. She would be brought down into the dust with her throne stripped away forever. She would no longer have a position of power among the nations, she would no longer be sought after or upheld with honor.

 

Instead of being someone great, she would be stripped of her fancy clothes and given a lowly position carried out by slaves. She would be grinding meal and exposed for all the nations to see her nakedness. They would see just how vulnerable she is once God breaks her pride through King Cyrus.

 

In verse 4, we see praise for God our great Redeemer. His people would burst out in praise for God redeeming them from this mighty nation Babylon. Verse 5, shows that Babylon would no longer rise to power, and she never did. Babylon would not be forgotten, but the memory of her was not used in a good way. Instead, Babylon is used to remind people of her wickedness and her great downfall. This term Babylon is used to symbolically describe a wicked nation in Rev. 18.

 

Babylon is a great example of how a powerful nation can be brought to nothing when they do not serve God and continue to live wicked lives. Our nation needs to learn from the Babylonians or be doomed to suffer the same fate. God will only put up with a wicked nation so long.

Hailey stressed the fact that such terrible punishments upon Babylon were deserved. "The very foundation upon which the throne of God rests demands an avenging of all unrighteousness, a vindication of His righteous and holy Godhead, and of his sacred laws. God will neither withdraw the declaration of his judgments nor make exceptions to them" (Coffman).

Isaiah 47:6 I was angry with My people; I have profaned My inheritance, And given them into your hand. You showed them no mercy; On the elderly you laid your yoke very heavily.7 And you said, 'I shall be a lady forever,' So that you did not take these things to heart, Nor remember the latter end of them.

God was angry with His people because of their rebellion against the commandments of God. As you read through the Scriptures, you will find God using an opposing nation to punish His people. In this case, God would use Babylon to punish them for awhile. However, this does not mean that God overlooks the opposing nationís sins and lack of mercy. Though they thought they would thrive forever, God proclaims they will not. Again, I say our nation needs to learn from the mistakes of the Babylonians. God is in control of history just as Daniel proclaims in:

Daniel 4:25 They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.

Next, the various sins of Babylon are listed.

Isaiah 47:8 " Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, Who dwell securely, Who say in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, Nor shall I know the loss of children';9 But these two things shall come to you In a moment, in one day: The loss of children, and widowhood. They shall come upon you in their fullness Because of the multitude of your sorceries, For the great abundance of your enchantments.10 "For you have trusted in your wickedness; You have said, 'No one sees me'; Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; And you have said in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one else besides me.'11 Therefore evil shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And desolation shall come upon you suddenly, Which you shall not know.

Notice what they were guilty of:

 

  1. Indulging in sinful pleasures
  2. Putting their trust in the black arts of sorcery and enchantments
  3. Trusting in their wickedness
  4. Being overconfident in their security, knowledge, and wisdom
  5. Egotistical boasting of how great they were and how there was no one else beside them.

 

Their brazen arrogance that they would not be a widow or lose any children would be proven wrong. They thought they could stand against any god or nation because they had not learned what the Psalmist wrote in:

 

Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.

 

God indeed caused them to lose children and become widows when they were conquered and wiped out by the Medo-Persian Empire.

Isaiah 47:12 " Stand now with your enchantments And the multitude of your sorceries, In which you have labored from your youth -- Perhaps you will be able to profit, Perhaps you will prevail.13 You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, And the monthly prognosticators Stand up and save you From what shall come upon you.

Once again, God challenges these supposed people of power. He calls on their magicians and their sorceries to stand with them. He even tells them to use their people who supposedly predict the future to stand with them as well. The astrologers were those that looked at the stars and made predictions similar to the horoscopes we have today. The stargazers were seers and had supposed visions about the future. The prognosticators were ones who used the moon for omens. Though the Babylonians relied on these people, they would soon find out that they had no power against God Almighty.†††

14 Behold, they shall be as stubble, The fire shall burn them; They shall not deliver themselves From the power of the flame; It shall not be a coal to be warmed by, Nor a fire to sit before!15 Thus shall they be to you With whom you have labored, Your merchants from your youth; They shall wander each one to his quarter. No one shall save you.

God makes it clear that no one is going to be able to save Babylon from the punishment of God. No one today can keep God from carrying out His will. So, we are either with God or against Him. If we are against Him, we will fall because no one can stand against Him.

In Chapter 48, Isaiah looks at the reasons the Jews will be in Babylonian captivity and he talks about their deliverance. Isaiah calls on the people to listen carefully to the Word of God. As Edward Young said:

An obedient nation is hearing nation, and a disobedient nation is one that does not hear.

Isaiah 48:1 "Hear this, O house of Jacob, Who are called by the name of Israel, And have come forth from the wellsprings of Judah; Who swear by the name of the LORD, And make mention of the God of Israel, But not in truth or in righteousness;2 For they call themselves after the holy city, And lean on the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is His name:

These Jews thought they were all that and then some because they were descendants of Jacob, but what we have here is a bunch of hypocrites. Yes, they would speak of God, but their hearts were far from Him. They did not live their lives as if they were children of God.

There are many today that are just like these Jews. They like to say they are Christians and they will make mention of His name, but they do not live according to His Word. They live how they want to. They create their own brand of religion and follow it faithfully, but the problem is that is not according to Godís way. As Jesus said:

Matthew 15:8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "

To simply swear by God and mention His name will not get you anywhere. Again, Jesus said:

Matthew 7:21 " Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

Isaiah 48:3 " I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.4 Because I knew that you were obstinate, And your neck was an iron sinew, And your brow bronze,5 Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; Before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, Lest you should say, 'My idol has done them, And my carved image and my molded image Have commanded them.'

God had proven Himself over and over again since the beginning of time. He would foretell of an event and make it known to His people and it would happen. Godís predictions never fail. He made these many predictions beforehand, so they could not contribute it to one of their useless idols.

Notice that Isaiah did not hold back the truth when it came to talking about the condition of the heart of his fellow people. He said they were obstinate, which means hard hearted and they were stiff-necked. Yes, there are many different ways you can tell people this, but sometimes the direct statement is the best because there will be no misunderstanding.

We too must be careful today to not lose sight of what God had done for us and how His Word always comes to pass. Let us not rely on man or His wisdom because only God can save us.

Isaiah 48:6 "You have heard; See all this. And will you not declare it? I have made you hear new things from this time, Even hidden things, and you did not know them.7 They are created now and not from the beginning; And before this day you have not heard them, Lest you should say, 'Of course I knew them.'8 Surely you did not hear, Surely you did not know; Surely from long ago your ear was not opened. For I knew that you would deal very treacherously, And were called a transgressor from the womb.

Godís people heard the prophecies of God and they had seen them come to pass. So, the question is, ďwill you not declare it?Ē It is one thing to know something and another to declare it. I am reminded of some the Jews that believed that Jesus was the Son of God in the first century, but they would not acknowledge it because of their fear of being kicked out the synagogue (Jn. 12:42). However, Jesus clearly states that if we will not confess Him before men that He will not confess before the Father (Mt. 10:32-33).

We should not be like the Jews who knew what God had done, yet would not declare His great works. Instead, we should be willing to tell others about the great love of God and what He has made possible for us all.

God was revealing new things to His people; things they did not know. One reason He did not tell them everything at one time in the past was so they could not say they already knew it. These new things He was revealing could have included these new predictions of their delivery by Cyrus, but they would also include the prophecies about the coming Messiah. When they honestly considered the works of God and what He was sharing with them, it should be enough to get them to open their ears to the truth and turn away from their wickedness.

Isaiah 48:9 "For My name's sake I will defer My anger, And for My praise I will restrain it from you, So that I do not cut you off.10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.

Godís plan for man was to save them through His Son. In order for that promise to be kept, Israel could not be completely destroyed though they deserved it. In fact, Ezekiel said that they had become worse than Sodom and Gomorrah (Ezek. 16). We should be thankful for Godís mercy and His grace because without it we would not have a Messiah. Basically, God had to endure the wickedness of His people to bring about Jesus and all that we read about in our N.T.

Another reason He did not destroy His people was because the pagan people would have proclaimed that God could not save His people and they would no doubt say that their destruction came about because of their false gods.

Isaiah 48:12 " Listen to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.14 "All of you, assemble yourselves, and hear! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; He shall do His pleasure on Babylon, And His arm shall be against the Chaldeans.15 I, even I, have spoken; Yes, I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper.

Once again, God declares His Deity and how has always existed and created everything. We also see Him talking about King Cyrus again and how he was the chosen one who would prosper and defeat Babylon.

As Barnes declared:

"None of the astrologers, soothsayers, or diviners of Babylon had been able to foretell the expedition of Cyrus and his capture of Babylon; for, if they had been able to foresee the danger, they might have guarded against it, and the city might have been saved. But God had predicted it a hundred fifty years before it happened, thus demonstrating that he alone is God."

 

Isaiah 48:16 "Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me."

I have used this verse by itself because there are different opinions of whether or not this ends or begins a new section. Also, there are different thoughts on who this talking about. Some believe it is a confirmation that Isaiah has been sent by the Father and the Spirit. Others believe this is the preincarnate Jesus speaking through Isaiah, which would mean this passage is referring to when Jesus would be sent to the earth. Either of the views are possible, but it is hard to say which is correct because the verse is too ambiguous to know for sure in my opinion, so you decide.

Isaiah 48:17 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.18 Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.19 Your descendants also would have been like the sand, And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; His name would not have been cut off Nor destroyed from before Me."

Things would have turned out differently if Godís people had listened to Him and followed His ways. They would have been blessed and flourished, but because of their rebellion they were cut off. Jesus says something similar about them in:

Matthew 23:37 " O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

God wants the best for His people, but He will not bless those who curse Him or rebel against Him. We can learn from this that if we want to be blessed by God then we need to follow His ways and not manís way. God will only bless those the follow after Him.

Isaiah 48:20 Go forth from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldeans! With a voice of singing, Declare, proclaim this, Utter it to the end of the earth; Say, "The LORD has redeemed His servant Jacob!"21 And they did not thirst When He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out.22 "There is no peace," says the LORD, "for the wicked."

Archer's sums it up this way:

"This prophecy was written 150 years beforehand to Jews who would be captives in the year 539 B.C. not to tarry on the pagan soil of Babylon, but to take advantage of Cyrus' permissive edict to return to Jerusalem. They were to bear triumphant testimony before the Gentiles as they celebrated deliverance and recalled Jehovah's mercies to their fathers."

Those who would not flee the defilements of Babylon would never know the peace of God.

Those who would obey God and flee from Babylon and return to Jerusalem would be blessed, but those who would stay would never see peace again. As verse 22 puts it 22 "There is no peace," says the LORD, "for the wicked."

As Christian we have also been called to come out from the ways of the world. If we stay in them, we will not have peace with God either. Let us learn from Isaiah to never forget what God has done for us and how He is our only Savior and Redeemer. When we make Him and His kingdom our priority everything else will fall into place.